Paraskevidekatriaphobia, or fear of Friday the 13th is one of the most wide-spread superstitions in the English speaking world.
The Devils Dozen
It is said that if 13 people sit down to dinner together, all will die within the year. Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings (including ones that I’ve lived in) don’t have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper.) There are 13 witches in a coven. A little close to home, some (Australian) cricketers consider it unlucky to be on 87* or 187* since they are 13 away from a landmark century or a double.
Why this fascination and fear with a number? Looking at it from a historical context, apparently some ancient civilizations considered this number lucky. Infact, the fear of 13 people gathering at a place or feasting is said to have originated in Hinduism. Vikings also felt the same way. The Bible tells us there were exactly 13 present at the Last Supper.
Good or Bad Friday
Continuing on with the Bible, crucification took place on a Friday. Ever hear the story of HMS Friday? The British government commissioned a ship named “H.M.S. Friday.” They laid her keel on a Friday, selected her crew on a Friday and hired a man named Jim Friday to be her captain. To top it off, H.M.S. Friday embarked on her maiden voyage on a Friday, and was never seen or heard from again. Supposedly, Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday. In the middle ages in Britain, Friday was Hangman’s day. Strangely though, a lot of other cultures, considered Friday very lucky.
How and why these two separate superstitions converged, no one knows. I’d really feel bad for someone who, on Friday the 13th, walks under a ladder, inside a house, while holding an umbrella open, breaks a mirror and has a black cat cross his path. I wonder if it statistically possible to compute the likelihood of that happening. I would think not.
I’m not generally superstitious. But while playing cards I hate for anyone else to lay fingers on my cards, before I choose to pick them up. Some times, I open the cards in a particular order only. Its not surprising though that my only superstition is associated with gambling. Strangely, I’m a believer in fate and luck. But I also believe that through action (or inaction) it is possible to modify your fate or luck. Is this a conflict of logic?