Well, nothing much except that some people will be so paralyzed with fear they simply won’t get out of bed. Others will steadfastly refuse to fly on an airplane, buy a house, or act on a hot stock tip. It’s Friday the 13th, and they’re freaked out.
You wonder why. Haven’t you watched enough horror movies to know that a whole lot of them have ‘Friday’ and ‘13’ all over their plot? Some fixation!
Well, Donald E. Dossey, a folklore historian and author of Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun believes that fear of Friday the 13th is rooted in ancient, separate bad-luck associations with the number 13 and the day Friday. The two unlucky entities ultimately combined to make one super unlucky day.
What’s wrong with 13?
Apparently (according to a Scandinavian legend), Loki, one of the most evil of the Norse gods, gatecrashed a party for 12 at Valhalla, a heavenly banquet for the gods (Gods and their egos!). Moreover, Loki tricked Hoder, the blind, into shooting a mistletoe-tipped arrow at Balder, the beautiful and good. Following Balder’s death, the earth was plunged into darkness and all of Earth mourned as the good and right disappeared. It was an awfully unlucky day. Since then, the number 13 has been considered ominous and foreboding.
According to Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist in the Mathematics at the University of Delaware, numerologists consider 12 a “complete” number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labours of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 Descendants of Muhammad Imams, whereas the number thirteen is considered irregular, transgressing this completeness.
Also ruining it for the number 13 is the fact that the number of guests at the party of the Last Supper was 13, with the 13th guest being Judas, the traitor.
You thought it stops there. Hold on. The 13th Tarot Card is the Grim Reaper. There are 13 steps leading to the gallows. 13 turns make a traditional hangman’s noose. Ancient Romans regarded the number 13 as destruction, evil and misfortune. A witch’s coven consists of 13 members, 13th one being the Devil, no less.
What’s wrong with Friday?
The name Friday comes from Old English Frīġedæġ, meaning the ‘Day of Frigg’. Now, Frigg (or Frigga) was a major goddess in Norse paganism, a subset of Germanic paganism. She was the free spirited goddess of love and fertility, also described as having the power of prophecy yet she does not reveal what she knows (Uncommon for a woman but then again she was a goddess). Now the drama. When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was labeled a witch and banished in shame to a mountaintop. It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess (hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, remember that before you mess with the female species again) convened a meeting with 11 other witches, plus the devil—for a total of 13—and plotted evil and disastrous events for the upcoming week. For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was called the “Witches’ Sabbath.” (I wonder how the Jews would have reacted to this. Oh! I forgot this was part of a Germanic legend. Sorry!)
As if this wasn’t enough, not to be left behind, some biblical scholars believe that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday. Perhaps more significant is a belief that Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th or that this is the day a confusion of tongues struck at the Tower of Babel or the day when the Temple of Solomon toppled. (Jesus! My bad, he wasn’t born yet)
So, Friday is considered to be a particularly unlucky day on which to undertake anything that represented the beginning of a new venture. Beginning a sea voyage or any journey is a big no-no. Giving birth? Apparently, a child born on a Friday (God forbid midnight or 3 a.m.- courtesy the movies) has special powers to communicate with supernatural beings like ghosts, demons, evil spirits, the whole jingbang. Wonder whatever happened to vampires, werewolves or lycans. Edward Cullen (vampire in Twilight), Jacob Black (werewolf in Twilight), Selene (vampire in Underworld) or Lucian (lycan in Underworld) must surely be sulking somewhere for being sidelined. (Oh don’t worry about me, I am writing this with the aspen tree branch and the silver bullet at the ready, just in case).
Getting married on a Friday seems like a bad idea because you are doomed to a cat and dog life.(Ah, now that explains the divorce rates) Here is the one of the most bizarre ones I have heard (hopefully I didn’t hear this on a Friday). Rumor has it that hearing anything new on a Friday gives you another (another? Hmm, time to look into a mirror) wrinkle on your face and adds a year to your age. (Olay won’t help you either)
The combined evil: Friday the 13th
Legend has it that on Friday, October 13th, 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered for the arrest of Jaques de Molay who was the Grand Master of the Knights Templars as well as his sixty senior knights on account of heresy, blasphemy and betraying the king. Jacques de Molay, the last known Grand Master of the Knights Templar was burned to death on a slow fire outside Notre Dame on Friday, March 13, 1314. It was said that while Jaques de Molay was being burned at the stake he was still screaming out his innocence and cursed King Philip IV of France, Pope Clemence V, and Prime Minister Guillaume de Nogaret to death within a year and 13 generations of their families to misery. The subsequent deaths of King Philip, Pope Clemence V, and Prime Minister Guillaume within a year and the populace’s belief that de Molay’s curse also applied to them led many to fear the number 13 and Friday the 13th in particular.
In 1970, Apollo 13, the 13th mission launched from pad 39 (13 x 3), mission was aborted, after an explosion occurred in the fuel cell of their service module. The rocket had left launching pad at 13:13 CST and the date was April 13th. (Why attribute the failure to the incompetency of NASA? Friday the 13th theory sounds way cooler and makes Uncle Sam look better, doesn’t it? Just saying)
In India, May 13 2011, a Friday, certainly spelt doom for the Communist party in West Bengal (Paschim Banga if you want). This day, a political party symbolized by the colour green (read: Trinamool Congress) swiftly wrested a state from the traditional red Communists who had successful ruled the state for 34 long years.
Moving on. The fear of the Friday the 13th is so pervasive that it even has its own fancy Greek term: paraskevidekatriaphobia. I presume that learning to pronounce this term will be enough to begin the healing process. Folklore offers other remedies, however. One recommendation is to climb to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burn all the socks you own that have holes in them. Another is to stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle. So if you fear Friday the 13th, take your pick of remedies.
According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, 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.
If that’s the case, we are guilty of perpetuating a misnomer by labeling Friday the 13th “the unluckiest day of all,” a designation perhaps better reserved for, say, a Friday the 13th on which one breaks a mirror, walks under a ladder, spills the salt, and spies a black cat crossing one’s path — a day, if there ever was one, best spent in the safety of one’s own home with doors locked, shutters closed, fingers crossed, reading my blog.(Cheeky!)