Friday, January 13, 2012

Must Be Superstition


So is it a good day to watch the movie (or movies) Friday the 13th.  What is it Friday the 13th other than just another day? Let’s take a look at Friday, a day which in many different cultures is both unlucky and a day when evil forces are at work. If that is the case then it is strange that we have adopted the saying, “Thank God it’s Friday!”

In Ancient Rome, Friday was execution day. In Britain it was Hanging Day. From the bible Friday is said to be the day Eve gave Adam the apple and were expelled from the Garden of Eden, it is also the day that they died. The great flood happened on Friday, the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on Friday and Christ was crucified and died on Friday.

Witches prefer Friday for coven gatherings. If Friday was a holy day for "heathens" the Church felt it should not be for Christians, so Friday became known as the "Witches' Sabbath." The name Friday is derived from the Norse goddess known either as Frigg - wife of Odin (the goddess of marriage & fertility, the moon & witches) or Freyja (goddess of love, beauty, sensuality, war, good fortune, magic & wisdom). Pre-Christian Teutonic people actually considered Friday to be lucky, particularly for wedding, because of its association with these goddesses. This however changed when the Christian church came into ascendancy. Frigg/Freyja was re-cast in folklore as a witch and her day became associated with evil doings.

As legend goes, the witches of the north used to observe their Sabbath by gathering in a cemetery in the dark of the moon. On one such occasion Freyja came down from the mountaintops where she lived, and appeared before such a group of 12 witches. She gave them one of her cats and ever since then the witches' coven, and every properly-formed coven, is comprised of thirteen members.

Other superstitions concerning Friday include: Clothing made on a Friday will never fit properly. Visiting your doctor on Friday will not have a good result. Never change your bed on a Friday, as it will result in nightmares and bad dreams. One should not move their residence or marry on a Friday, if they expect any good to come of it. Cut your nails of Friday and you cut them for sorrow.  Friday is an inauspicious day to start a trip as "misfortune will follow." Ships that set sail on Friday will have bad luck.

This superstition is supported by the urban legend of the H.M.S. Friday. It is reported that, in an attempt to debunk the many sailors' superstitions centered on Fridays, the British government commissioned a special ship. They named it the H.M.S. Friday; the crew was selected on a Friday, the keel was set on a Friday, and she was launched on a Friday. They even went so far as to hire a man named Friday to captain her. It was on a Friday that she set sail on her maiden voyage, and as the story goes, was never heard of again.

The suspicious number 13 and the misfortune it is associated with are known more or less planet wide. There are so many people with a fear of the number thirteen, and they will go to great lengths to avoid it entirely. This is why there are cities that do not have a thirteenth Street or Avenue, highways often do not have a thirteenth exit, many airports do not have a thirteenth gate and many buildings do not have rooms and in some cases floors number thirteen.

One of the most commonly known and observed superstitions concerning the number thirteen, has to do with dining. It is said to be incredibly unlucky to be invited to dinner and have thirteen people at table. The belief is that the first person to rise from table and/or the last person to sit down at the table are destined to die within the calendar year. The only way to avoid this is for everyone to be seated and to rise from the table at the same time. There is some hope for everyone's survival if two or more of the people at dinner are seated at another/separate table. According to the bible, at the Last Supper Judas Iscariot was the last person to take a seat at the table.

Interestingly enough, precisely the same superstition has been attributed to the ancient Vikings. As one story goes, twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, (god of mischief) had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to thirteen. True to character, Loki incited Hod (the blind god of darkness and winter) into attacking Balder the Good (fairest of the gods). Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and shot it at Balder, killing him instantly. This tale apparently explains why the Norwegians still believe that thirteen people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.

It is said that if you have thirteen letters in your name you will have the "Devil's luck." There may be some truth in that as Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all had thirteen letters in their names. Here are some more interesting facta about the number thirteen: There are thirteen steps leading to the gallows. There are thirteen knots in a hangman's noose. It is thirteen feet the blade of a guillotine falls. Lizzy Borden was said to have spoken only thirteen words at her trial. The thirteenth card in a Tarot deck is "Death" often pictured as the Grim Reaper (a skeleton, often in a hooded cape, carrying a scythe). It should be noted however, that the Death card is rarely if ever read as "death" but as transition, change or new beginnings. The driver of Princess Diana's vehicle hit pillar #13 at Place de l'Alma when she was killed in Paris, France. Apollo 13. In 1970, the thirteenth mission was to be launched from pad #39 (13 x 3). The 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.

A baker's dozen is a term used to describe bakery items such as rolls, or doughnuts sold in a pack of thirteen. Legend tells of a witch near Albany, NY who demanded thirteen items every time she came in to a particular bakery. One day the old baker, who could not afford her extra biscuit, refused her. She is said to have sneered some strange words at the man, and thereafter he suffered terrible luck, until he brought her another thirteen rolls. After that life was once again easy for the baker and word spread around town. The custom is still sometimes practiced today.

The earliest traceable reference to the combination of the number 13 and Friday is from the biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini. In the book The Life of Rossini, by Henry Sutherland Edwards, it says: "[Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring and affectionate friends; and if it be true that, like so many other Italians, he regarded Friday as an unlucky day, and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday, the 13th of November, he died." 
There is a theory that notes references to the superstition are nonexistent prior to 1907, and argues that the Thomas Lawson novel Friday the 13th is what has given rise to the popularity of the superstition. The book, all but forgotten now, concerned dirty dealings in the stock market and sold quite well in its day. It seems unlikely that the novelist literally invented that premise himself. He treats it within the story, in fact, as a notion that already existed in the public consciousness. This may have set it on a path to becoming the most widespread superstition in modern times; it certainly was readily adopted and popularized by the press.

There is evidence to show that although most people will claim not to be superstitious, businesses, worldwide, show a marked decline in sales etc. on Fridays the thirteenth, as many choose to put off business decisions, investments of money, business and personal travel and even personal events such as weddings. Many others choose not to go in to work, eat in restaurants, and go to movies, theatrical performances or to entertain in their homes on that day.

Do you have a theory about Friday the 13th, some scary tale to tell or do you believe like I do that if you go looking for bad luck you most surely will find it.  Remember to say, “Thank God it’s Friday” 13 times today and see what happens. Have a great week-end and stay safe.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Fascinating stuff! I'm not superstitous and today is just another day for me.

E.J. Wesley said...

Great, now I'm afraid to leave my desk! Maybe a good thing? : )

Great song, btw!


Anonymous said...

I knew some of this but not all of it. Interesting for sure. You did some serious research my friend.

Padded Cell Princess said...

I'm not superstitious but I love hearing superstitions. Today is my mother-in-law's birthday which most people would probably find fitting for their mil but mine is wonderful and I know she'll have a great day! I loved all the info and the mythology! I'm pretty sure the Catholic Church at some point must have made up all of those Friday assumptions except for Jesus's crucifixion because the Bible doesn't say Friday for any of those things mentioned except for the crucifixion. This isn't surprising that they did that though because they always had to ruin someone's good day by making up something about it being bad...and sadly the people believed them. Luckily being married to a Biblical scholar means I get to hear all the dirty 'secrets' but also some random cool stuff too. Thanks for all the fun about Friday the 13th!

Michael Offutt, Visitor from the Future said...

Superstitions are alive and well. I have a coworker that believes a bottle of vegetable oil he has in his backpack has magical properties to heal the sick because some magician in his church blessed it.

Anonymous said...

That was a fun trip though history. I did not know Friday was a day advanced civilizations preferred to kill people. I'mm be sure not to get into trouble on Fridays. Jusr stay inside. In fact, I won't even get out of bed.

Marjorie said...

What a wonderfully informative and interesting post! I always love reading the things on you blog. It's great to learn new things.

mshatch said...

yeah, I don't buy into all that superstition, well, at least not the Friday the 13th stuff :)

Misha Gericke said...

I agree with you. Superstitions are all in the mind. :-)