Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Origins of Friday the 13th


Ready the rabbit’s feet and four-leaf clovers,
Friday the 13th is on the horizon.

In the western world, the number 13 has so long been associate with bad luck and negativity that it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly when these superstitions arose. Many possibilities have been theorized, but none of them have ever been proven or even accepted as all that likely.

Some attribute the superstitions to the Middle Ages, assuming that it relates to the story of the last supper. When Jesus and his apostles gathered at the table in the Upper Room of King David’s Tomb, Judas, the betrayer of Jesus Christ, was the 13th and last to sit.  The number has been related to wretched luck ever since.


However, it can also be traced back to Norse Mythology in more than one tale. For instance, Loki was believed to have engineered the murder of Balder and was the 13th guest to arrive at the funeral. The superstition presents itself again in the myth of Norna-Gest. At his birth celebration, three uninvited nonrs arrived bringing the number of guests from 10 to 13. They then cursed the infant by binding his lifespan to the life of a nearby candle, which was immediately extinguished and presented to the child.


There is even a myth that attributes the earliest fears of the number 13 to the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi. Although Hammurabi’s code has no official numbering system, the 13th law is said to be omitted in a certain translations, making it seem somehow more ominous in nature than the rest (which seems difficult considering just how ominous some of the punishments already are.)


Now, Friday is certainly less universally feared. In the mind of sailors, Friday is a particularly unlucky day to begin a voyage. And part of Friday’s bad wrap can again be attributed to Jesus, as it was Good Friday, when he was crucified.

When the two are combined, they create a dark, creepy shadow of credulous superstition that our modern culture still can’t shake. According to one specific study by the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina, anywhere from 17 to 21 million people are affected by parakevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th.   That fear runs so deep, in fact, that some people refuse to even get out of bed when Friday the 13th occurs.

So do you number among the tens of millions who might be staying home this Friday? Or will you brazenly disregard the history of ill omens and face this Friday like any other? Either way, we hope you’re ready! In the words of Jack Youngblood, “Good luck is a residue of preparation.” 

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