As you go about your business today, look out for black cats. Be careful around ladders and mirrors. Don’t walk on a pavement crack. Keep that umbrella closed indoors. Don’t cut both ends off the same loaf of bread.
And, for heaven’s sake, if you’re a man getting married today, do not take a gander at your bride before the ceremony. And, if you’re the bride, make sure you have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
It’s Friday, the 13th.
Today, and any other Friday, the 13th – a head’s up we’ll have another one this year in November – is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition to those who believe such things. The easiest way to remember one is coming is if a new month starts on Sunday.
Being superstitiously afraid on this specific day is more than a simple case of triskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekphobia? Nope, that’s not the fear of being able to pronounce it. It’s the fear of the number 13.
Today places that fear on a Friday – a double whammy.
It’s paraskevidekatriaphobia day – Greek for Friday (Paraskevi) and thirteen (Dekatreis).
There’s your language lesson for the day.
But why is there a fear of Friday, the 13th? Legend has it one has to go back to the 19th century for a specific mention of the two together. An early documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday, the 13th.
Information showed Rossini was surrounded through his final breath by admiring friends. Being Italian, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and 13 as an unlucky number. For him to pass away on a Friday, the 13th, was considered to be too coincidental.
In addition, it’s possible the 1907 publication of Thomas W. Lawson’s novel “Friday, the Thirteenth” contributed to disseminating the superstition.
In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.
There are other references, but you get the idea. And, of course, there’s “Jason.”
A little more research revealed that according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history.
Some people are so paralyzed by fear of this day that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. In fact, I discovered it’s estimated that millions of dollars are lost in business revenue on this day because it is a Friday, the 13th.
Going a step further, CNN reports that one in four Americans are superstitious, adding that psychologists at Kansas State University say superstitions are all about trying to control your fate.
People often use superstitions to try to achieve a desired outcome or to help alleviate anxiety. A perfect example of this is performers and athletes who have specific and sometimes quirky rituals before or during a big event.
But mathematician and author Joesph Mazur explains how having superstitions actually can promote a healthy and positive mentality.
“Everyone wants luck but since there is no tangible thing we can call luck, we have to create that tangible thing by transferring it to an object,” he said. “People hold on to those objects as a sense of security.”
CNN continued by reporting that a study conducted by psychologist Stuart Vyse tested a group of people on various memory tasks. The group of people who were allowed to carry their lucky charms with them performed better on the memory tests than the people who had their lucky charms taken away.
“It’s all about that ‘low-cost’ confidence booster,” Vyse said.
By that logic, Friday the 13th could be just as lucky as it is unlucky, depending on your outlook.
Me? I’m not superstitious. I’ve never had a lucky pair of socks and I don’t do the same things the same way every day because it will bring me good fortune.
However, I do remember way back in fourth grade my classmates and I tried to bring some “bad luck” on our math teacher.
It was a Friday, the 13th, and before class started we made a poster that read: “It’s Frightday, the 13th. Bad luck to Mrs. Johnson.” We placed it on her desk before she came into the room.
She saw the poster, smiled and announced we were going to have a multiplication quiz.
Moans echoed through the room.
However, being the quick-witted kids we were, we decided – all of us – not to take the quiz, saying we were too afraid to take it on Friday, the 13th.
We thought that would show that bad luck was, indeed, on Mrs. Johnson and not on us.
We all – some quite nervously – turned in blank papers.
“Bad luck on Mrs. Johnson.”
Yep. She got the joke. Yep. We got the zeroes.
Our superstitious attempt at humor backfired on us.
But, being the good teacher she was, she gave us the same quiz on Monday, the 16th – after making us all sweat through the weekend.
Friday, the 13th.
Naw, no big deal. It’s just another day. …
But anyone got a rabbit’s foot I can borrow – just in case?
As always, thanks for reading.