Watch out for ladders, avoid cracks in the sidewalk, and take care when handling mirrors. That’s right, it’s Friday the 13th: everyone’s favorite day of superstitions, save for the friggatriskaidekaphobics (no, we didn’t collapse onto the keyboard; that’s a real word). Sadly, it will not be a fun year for those with this phobia; in 2012 there will be three Fridays that fall on the 13th. To make matters worse for the fearful, these Fridays are precisely 13 weeks apart.
Some believe that Friday alone is an unlucky day. Others find the number 13 to be ominous. Needless to say, when combined, the superstitious get antsy. Don’t be too quick to laugh if you see someone tossing salt over their shoulder today, or clutching onto a piece of wood. When the following myths (and some facts) are taken into account, it’s easier to see why some consider this a villainous day:
- In numerology, the number 12 is considered “complete” while the number 13 is seen as a transgression from that ideal.
- In Christian scripture, Judas was the 13th guest to arrive for dinner on the night that he betrayed Christ. Similarly, Friday is said to be the day that Eve tempted Adam, that Cain killed Abel, and that Christ died.
- In Norse mythology, Loki, the god of mischief, is the 13th to arrive to the banquet where, as the result of one of his tricks, the god of joy is killed.
- The Knights Templar were imprisoned on Friday the 13th, and their last known Grand Master was burned to death on the same date.
- The mysterious death of Tupac occurred on Friday the 13th. Meanwhile, the far less beloved Fidel Castro, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Butch Cassidy were born on Friday the 13th.
- According to the Ancient Romans, a coven of witches gathered in groups of 12, welcoming the devil as their 13th guest.
- Tragedies such as The Great Flood of 1951 and the South Asian storm of 1970 occurred on Friday the 13th.
- Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Theodore Bundy all have 13 letters in their names.
Over a span of 400 years, the thirteenth of a month falls on a Friday more than any other weekday (over 600 times). Those who remain convinced that superstition is nonsense will brush this all aside as mere coincidence; however, others claim these occurrences are proof that the day is a cursed one.
According to the Stress Management Centre and Phobia Institute, up to $900 million is lost among businesses on Friday the 13th in the United States. This loss is entirely attributed to this widely accepted superstition that causes employees and executives alike to avoiding flying or doing business. Yet despite the 21 million Americans sharing this fear, some celebrate the number 13.
Many winning athletes have donned the number 13 jersey including Alex Rodriguez at the beginning of his career with the New York Yankees, NFL star Dan Marino, and the NBA’s Wilt Chamberlain. Thirteen is also considered a positive number among artists: Black Sabbath released their debut album on Friday the 13th, and pop-country artist Taylor Swift has declared 13 as her lucky number. In Coperos, a Brazilian religion, 13 vastly outweighs 12’s numerology-rooted significance; it is believed to the number that will save humankind.
Whether Friday the 13th scares you or enthuses you, it’s probably for the best not to go out of your way to do anything especially reckless — just for the next 24 hours. Come tomorrow, feel free to return to your usual routine… until 13 weeks from today, that is, when the 13th of April will fall on a Friday.