Sunday, August 15, 2010

Did You Survive Friday the 13th?

We just experienced another Friday the 13th, the only one for the year 2010. Even if you don't believe in the superstitions, it's still a date that makes you stop and think.

Triskaidekaphobia: Fear of the number thirteen.
Paraskevidekatriaphobia: Fear of Friday the 13th.

An obviously irrational concept that a mere number can bring bad luck to someone. Or that a specific day of the week can be unlucky. But that doesn't stop us from dwelling on the possibility. :)

A date so infamous that it was chosen as the title for a series of horror movies.

The tradition of Friday being a day of bad luck goes back centuries with some of the more common theories linking it to significant events in Christian tradition believed to have taken place on Friday such as the Crucifixion, Eve offering Adam the apple in the Garden of Eden, the beginning of the great flood.

Many sources for the superstition surrounding the number thirteen and its association with bad luck also derive from Christianity with the Last Supper being cited as the origin. Judas was the thirteenth person to be seated at the table.

And when you put the two bad luck symbols together you get Friday the 13th…the day traditionally associated with misfortune.

Superstition is a belief or notion not based on reason or knowledge. An irrational belief. Lots of superstitions came into being during the Dark Ages, a time when living conditions were so severe that people reached out to anything that might bring them help and solace with the results being explanations for what seemed unexplainable at the time. Religious beliefs and lack of scientific knowledge helped to spawn many superstitions.

Superstitions differ from culture to culture, but we all have them even if it's only paying surface homage to the concept. We don't believe in the good luck vs. bad luck of chain letters, yet it often comes down to saying what's the harm or couldn't hurt, then sending out the letters.

We often follow the tradition of the superstition without really knowing why it's the traditional thing to do. If we blow out all the candles on our birthday cake with one breath while making a silent wish, then the wish will come true. When expressing a desire for good luck (we'll be able to go on the picnic if it doesn't rain), we grin, then we knock on wood as we emit an embarrassed chuckle.

In Western folklore, many superstitions are associated with bad luck. In addition to Friday the 13th, there's walking under a ladder, having a black cat cross your path, spilling salt, stepping on a crack, and breaking a mirror among others.

In addition to cultural superstitions, there's also certain occupations that evoke various rituals to bring on good luck. It seems to me that gamblers and sports figures have the most superstitions and rituals to insure good luck.

Do you have any superstitions that you hold dear? Are they more of a traditional situation handed down through your family or are they superstitions that have come down through the ages?

I'd like to hear about them.


Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Baseball is a sport of superstition. Totally. I've heard lots of explanations for bad luck on Friday the 13th - some sound reasonable, some don't. I refuse to walk under a ladder because I don't want anything dumped on my head! I've also read that it's not a black cat, it's a gray cat - who knows? Supposedly a gray cat might be a witch's familiar. Fun post!

Samantha Gentry said...

Julia: There are probably as many "logical" explanations as there are superstitutions. :)

I just saw a news article about a 13 year old boy in England who was struct by lightning at 13:13 on Friday August 13. He was not seriously injured. But 13 years old, on Friday the 13th, at 13:13 ... now that's weird!

Maeve said...

I've always thought you should NEVER fake an ailment or illness. Example: calling off sick from work when you're really not. I'm afraid if I put that thought into the mind of the cosmos, the ailment just might come true!

Samantha Gentry said...

Maeve: That's an interesting one. I've never heard that before. But it also sounds like it might be right.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

fiona mcgier said...

If you spill salt, toss some immediately over your left shoulder, because that is where the devil lurks, eager to steal your soul for wasting. Left is also evil, right is good, when you see those tiny devil/angel spirits on someone's shoulder. In French, droit is right, we get the word adroit. In French, gauche is left, we call someone socially inadequate, gauche. That's why they used to beat left-handed kids in school, to make them write was to get the devil out of them. My one uncle went to his grave doing everything else BUT write with his left hand.

Samantha Gentry said...

Fiona: My father was left-handed (he died several years ago). His primary complaint was that everything was made for right-handed people such as scissors and any type of gadget that was manually operated. Even a basic rifle ejected shell casings to the right which is across the face of a left-handed person. It is interesting that so many of our presidents have been left-handed.

Randall Lang said...

Hi Samantha,

The Friday the 13th superstition is based largely upon the arrest and murder of Templar knights by King Phillip IV of France on Friday October 13, 1307. An order of knights who had largely controlled much of commerce and banking in Europe for centuries was destroyed in a day.


Randall Lang

Samantha Gentry said...

Randall: Yes, Friday the 13th was the day of that raid. Several of the Templar Knights escaped, but King Phillip did break the back of the Order as a viable force.

Thanks for leaving a comment.