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Friday the 13th

Triskaidekaphobia – Fear of Friday the 13th. We hear about it every time another Friday the 13th rolls around (up to three times a year depending on the year). It is a big superstition in the US that it is unluckier than any other day of the year. People that take note of such things become much more careful, often avoiding things that they are not usually worried about doing. Many people even skip work on the 13th, preferring to lose money rather than venture out. If the day truly was unlucky then surely staying home is just as dangerous. 

There is no proof at all that there is a rise in accidents and general bad luck on this Friday over any other day of the year. Just like we blame Mercury Retrograde when things break, it is most likely simply because we notice it more than we normally would. Why do people believe in this superstition? No one is sure; my guess is it is simply out of habit. So where is it rumored to have started? 

There are several origin stories; Western Culture tends to view 12 as being complete. 12 months of the Year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 inches in a foot, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Gods of Olympus. So, if 12 is complete, then 13 is obviously too much and unlucky … or so the logic seems to go. According to Norse mythology twelve gods sat down to a feast only to have Loki, the god of mischief and disorder, invite himself to join them. While creating his usual mischief at the meal Baldr the favorite of the Gods, died. In the bible, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus was the 13th guest at the last supper. In 1907, T.W. Lawson published a novel called Friday the 13th about a stockbroker taking advantage of superstition to create a panic on Wall Street. Let us not forget the many Friday the 13th Horror movies that have also contributed to this legend.

But what has happened on Friday the 13th, that is verifiable fact? 

  • 1307: King Philip IV of France had hundreds of the Knights Templar arrested and imprisoned on Friday the 13th of October. Many were later executed. This event is often pointed to as the most probable origin of the Friday the 13th myth.  

  • 1940: September, the Germans bombed Buckingham Palace. 

  • 1964: March, Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York. 

  • 1970: November, a Cyclone in Bangladesh killed over 300,000 people. 

  • 1972: October, the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane in the Andes (later to become the movie “Alive”) 

  • 1996: September, Tupac Shakur died. 

  • 2012: January, crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy, which killed 30 people 

Certainly, unlucky for the people involved, but given the population of the Earth and how many times similar events have occurred in human history, perhaps not events that can be blamed on a single unlucky day. 

So, feel free to pet that black cat or have a peacock in your house, then cross your fingers to ward off ill luck on Friday the 13th, October 2023. I would not walk under a ladder though, too much chance of something falling on your head any day of the week. 

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