Today is the first Friday the 13th of 2018 and the second one is lurking in July.
Bangalore, April 13, 2018: “April is the cruellest month” went T. S. Eliot in his famous poem The Waste land. Add a Friday the 13th to it and we have a story that would make Stephen King sit up and beg.
The idea of Friday the 13th strikes more fear in the hearts of people than the wrath of the good Lord himself. The spooky conjugation of a day of the week and a random date scares even the most die-hard Einsteinists and Newtonites.
Behavourial scientist at the University of Chicago, Jane Risen believes that superstitions affect even the non-believers. She said that people who identify as superstitious and non-superstitious both believe a bad outcome is more likely when they’ve been jinxed, such as by stating they definitely won’t get into a car accident.
“Even if I don’t actively believe, just that fact that Friday the 13th exists as a known cultural element means that I entertain it as a possibility,” she says.
The phobia of the number 13 is so common and real that it even has a name; triskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia, which is the fear of Friday the 13th. With words like these connected to the date, no wonder it scares the bejesus out of all.
“The number 13 is a bad omen because if you add the two numbers you get four which is the number of Rahu. Friday in itself is a prelude to Saturday that is Shani and thus has a bad reputation,” Tara Sen, an astrologer.
For those of us who don’t speak astrology, Rahu is a cosmic shadow entity slouching in the corners waiting to pounce on the hapless sapiens with all sorts of bad juju.
Shani is a planet with a maleficent influence. Put those two together, and the superstitious half of the populace might as well stay indoors with guards at the doors armed with Uzis.
The history behind the myth is based on a big fat sacred party of Norse gods like Loki and stinking Judas. Some blame Loki who crashed a dinner at Valhalla or Judas being invited to The Last Supper by Jesus himself. And we know that did not turn out well.
Triskaidekaphobia (ehm, the fear of the number 13) is so omnipresent that most hotels in the world especially in the U.S. do not have a 13th floor. Some people do not invite 13 guests to dinner parties. God bless the well-fed and watered 12s who make it to such parties.
In fact the number 12 fills most people up with images of puppies, sunshine and all the good things in the world. There are 12 months, 12 hours in the clock, 12 Apostles of Jesus, 12 Olympian Gods. But add 1 more to the group and we have the perfect number for witches to make a coven to double double, toil and trouble in the words of the Bard.
If that wasn’t enough, Dan Brown stormed into the market with The Da Vinci Code speaking of Knights Templar being arrested and executed by Philip IV of France on Friday the 13th. This Big Brother of most conspiracy theorists books established a link between Friday 13 superstition and the decline of the religious order.
For people who think Friday the 13th is the only ominous date in the calendar, Julius Ceasar’s stabbed back begs to differ. The poor dictator died with “Et tu Brute?” on his lips on the Ides of March. For Italians it’s Friday the 17th—un giorno nero – a black day” which is the day to fear.
Whether it is the 13th or the 17th, you need to apply a little bit of caution to get through the day. Mind walking under the ladder though, or the black cat that just crossed the road.
(Image Source- Wikimedia Commons)