IT’S FRIDAY THE 13TH – WHO’S SUPERSTITIOUS? (October 13/00)

So it’s Friday the 13th and you’re probably saying to yourself, “So what, who’s superstitious?”

I am, for one. This particular Friday, October the 13th in the year 2000 happens to be my birthday and it’s a reminder that superstitions about this day may not be all nonsense.

Years ago, more years ago than I care to remember on a day I’d like to forget, I celebrated my 13th birthday on – you guessed it – Friday the 13th. If anyone was asking for bad luck it was me but I shrugged off my fortuneteller mother’s forewarnings and set out on my newspaper route.

Later that day I was coasting down a grade on a friend’s bicycle when the frame snapped and I wiped out. I went flying over the handlebars and ended up in a ditch with multiple scrapes and bruises. It was collection day and the money that was in my paperbag went flying. Later when I counted my change at home I was a dollar short.

Now losing a dollar may not seem like such a big thing today but in the late 40s a buck was big money. It was my spending money for the week; that buck would have taken me to a matinee movie, where after I purchased a soft drink and chocolate bar I would still have change left over.

The bike was a loss as well, the frame being unrepairable. This accident convinced me that any birthday on Friday the 13th was unlucky. Which, by the way, is contrary to popular folklore. Having a birthday on Friday the 13th is supposed to be good luck; that’s what the Encyclopedia of Superstitions says and I’ll let you know if it’s true after this day is over.

As for why Friday the 13th is supposedly unlucky, you could say it all started with the naming of the day after a Norse goddess who was a witch. Friday came to be called the “witches Sabbath,” thanks to the goddess Frigga who later became Freya and was identified with this day. It was believed that on this day each week, 12 witches and the Devil usually met – 13 evil spirits up to no good, as they say, and one of the reasons for superstitions about Friday the 13th.

Over the ages, the number 13 was believed to be unlucky and some say it started with the “Last Supper” when there were 12 disciples and Jesus at the table. Friday was the day of the Crucifixion. Eve wheedled Adam into tasting an apple on Friday. The Encyclopedia of Superstition says that Friday used to be the 6th day of the week. And six, the number biblically associated with man, also relates to the Devil.

In Norse mythology one of the legends tells of a banquet in Valhalla (the Norse paradise) in which 12 guests were plagued by Loki the God of Deceit, who was the 13th uninvited guest. In Pagan traditions, 13 was regarded as a sacred number and therefore was looked upon as evil by Christians.

Throughout religion, Christian and Pagan, you will find that Friday and the number 13 have a special significance. Thus all sorts of beliefs and strange superstitions have grown up about the day and the number. An old English folktale says, for example, that the weather on Friday determines the weather to follow. A variation of this belief says that the weather on the last Friday of the month will show what the weather will be for the following month.

The British used to say that unlucky people are “Friday-faced.” If you laughed at this and the other superstitions mentioned here, I remind you of one more British saying: “Laugh on Friday, weep on Monday.”

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