Friday the Thirteenth

February 12, 2009

Friday the thirteenth makes three appearances in 2009 (in February, March, and November), no doubt each being an anxiety-filled day for   friggatriskaidekaphobes . The label, with its origins in Nordic mythology and ancient Greek, identifies those with a fear of Friday the thirteenth. But where does this unnatural trepidation originate?

As any reputable scientist or mathematician will confirm, “luck” does not exist. Good fortune is randomly distributed and not dependent on the day. The superstitious, however, will cite a long history of misfortune associated with the number thirteen. As the story goes, in order to understand thirteen, one has to understand the history of twelve. The number twelve has traditionally represented completeness. There are twelve months of the year, twelve gods of Olympus, twelve signs of the zodiac and twelve apostles of Jesus.

Thirteen exists just one digit beyond twelve, and is symbolic of the first departure from completeness or the initial step towards evil. Thus Jesus was the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper (to cite a silly if oft-mentioned example) with tragic consequences.

As to Friday, it also has an unfortunate past, according to Biblical legends. Supposedly, the great flood began on a Friday, the temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday, and Good Friday exists because it is the reported day of Jesus’ crucifixion.

But for all the infamy and credence given to bad luck on Friday the thirteenth, there are many less publicized examples of good fortune. In pagan times, Friday was the day of the love goddess, and today, fittingly enough, Friday is the end of the work week. Many actors insist on signing contracts only on Friday because it brings good luck. As well, at the birth of our nation, thirteen colonies formed the Union, a baker’s dozen is considered a fortunate bargain, and if you are Jewish, age thirteen is the time for a bar or bat mitzvah.

Even with all the fuss over Friday the thirteenth, the reality is that it remains nothing more than superstition. Friday is like any other day of the week that happens to occur on the thirteenth of the month. It might be easy to laugh off such foolishness, except that the same kind of superstitious thinking operates to support quack medicine, belief in demons and spirits, and much other dangerous nonsense.