Beware of Friday the thirteenth?

An unlucky day? (via Wikimedia Commons)

Superstitious? Say hello to magpies, avoid ladders and throw salt over your shoulder? Well today- Friday January 13- is an ideal opportunity for a duvet day.

We all know that Friday the Thirteenth is supposedly unlucky, but why?

Apparently, there is little record of Friday the Thirteenth being inauspicious before the 20th century, when it popularised by a novel called, well, Friday The Thirteenth. There is a legend that the Knights Templar were massacred on the date, but there is little historical evidence of that.

In fact, the Friday the Thirteenth superstition appears to be just an amalgamation of the beliefs surrounding both Friday and the number thirteen. Friday was considered the worst day of the week to start any new venture- especially a sea voyage- as it was the day Jesus was crucified. A 17th century proverb said, “Now Friday came, you old wives say, of all the week’s unluckiest day”.

The number thirteen’s bad rep starts even earlier. Loki, the god of mischief, became the thirteenth guest at one of Odin’s dinner bashes, which led to death and destruction. Similarly, Judas was the thirteenth guest at the last supper and we all know how that ended.

Harry Potter nerds would be aware that the first to leave the table of thirteen will be the first to die. A genuine superstition arising from Norse and Christian traditions has since mutated into a general distrust of the number thirteen.

So have we anything to worry about? Well, although Friday the Thirteenth is unlucky for the western, English speaking world, it’s not the same for every culture. The Greeks and Spanish believe Tuesday the Thirteenth to be unlucky. The Italians were once freaked out by 17 as it sounds like “I have lived” (i.e. “I’m dead”) in Latin. The Japanese don’t like the number four as it sounds like their word for death. Indeed, many buildings in Japan don’t have a fourth floor just like many Western ones don’t have a thirteenth.

So the next time you’re suffering from a bout of triskaidekaphobia, remember that every number and day is unlucky somewhere in the world. And statistically, Friday the Thirteenth is safer on the roads because fewer (superstitious) people undertake long journeys.

And please, be nice to any cats that cross your path, regardless of colour.

This article appeared on on Friday January 13 2012. 


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