Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday the 13th!

Happy Friday the 13th, everybody!

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13, and friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th. Those are big words for paranoia based solely on superstition and rumor. A majority of people know about being superstition of the number and date, but what isn't known is why we are superstitious of them in the first place.

Friday the 13th, © Jonathan Dalar

Friday the 13th is a fairly common occurrence.  There is at least one in every calendar year, and we can't go more than 14 months in a row without one: either July to September the year before a leap year and leap year, or August to October between the following two years after leap year.  In fact, it can happen up to three times a year.  After today, it'll happen in December and again next June.  And if you're planning ahead - ahem, really far ahead - you can check out all the months when Friday the 13th occurs until the year 2100.

Some theories point to Either Norse mythology or Christian tradition for a possible origin.  Norse mythology tells a tale of a dinner party in Valhalla, where 12 gods were in attendance.  Loki, the 13th and uninvited guest, walked in and caused a day of chaos and bad luck by tricking the blind god Hoder into shooting Baldur with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.  And according to some belief, it stems from the Bible.  According to biblical writings, Jesus had 12 apostles, a perfect number.  The 13th guest at the Last Supper was Judas, the man who betrayed him to the Sanhedrin priests with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver.  Both versions share similar concepts, and a similar accounting of events.

The earliest written link between the superstition and the date was in 1869, in Henry Sutherland Edwards's biography of composer Gioachino Rossini, who died on Friday the 13th.  Edwards wrote of Rossini, "He was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that one Friday 13th of November he died."  Ironically, however, the number 13 is considered lucky by older Italians.  There, it's the number 17 that's considered the unlucky one.  Seems there might be conflicting stories there, eh?

Much has been made of accident rates on Friday the 13th, and according to some researchers, there just might be something to that notion.  The research was admittedly "too small to allow meaningful analysis," but it did show a staggering 52% increase in accidents in the particular region of England studied between 1989 and 1992.  And the Brits are not alone in suggesting this link between accidents and Friday the 13th.  A similar German study showed a 60% increase in accidents on that particular date.  While it appears a further, in-depth study should probably be done on the subject to say for sure, I wouldn't go all Mario Andretti on the Interstate today.  Any day, really, but especially today.  And if you are adventurous enough, and looking for somewhere exotic to go, you could board Flight 666 to HEL.  I hear it's popular on a day like today.

So what should you do?  Well, you do what you have to.  And you settle in this evening for a marathon viewing of Friday the 13th, the classic movie series that scared the bejeebus out of my generation when we were growing up.  I remember the first time I watched the film.  I was in high school, and I sneaked into the school library after hours with a girl to watch the movie.  It really wasn't all that scary until she grabbed my arm and screamed.  After that, I was a little jumpy.  Don't laugh; you would be too.

Whatever happens today, don't worry.  It's just a date, just a number, with no real supernatural power attached to it.  Its power derives simply from the superstition we allow it.  It's not like today is any different than any other day, where something terrifying will come up behind you suddenly, when you least expect it, and snatch you fr

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