Nov 13, 2009

The belief that unlucky events will occur whenever the 13th day of any month falls on a Friday remains one of the most enduring beliefs in the Western world.  This belief is so firmly rooted that it has its own phobia:  "paraskevidekatriaphobia."



In fact, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day.  Some are so affected by their fear that they avoid normal routines and refuse to conduct business on Friday the 13th.

So how did Friday the 13th become such an unlucky day?  Several theories are advanced for why Friday the 13th is considered so unlucky by so many.  In numerology, for example, the number 12 is considered a good luck number -- there are 12 months of the year, 12 hours on a clock, 12 signs of the zodiac, Jesus had 12 apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, and so on.


By contrast, the number 13 has traditionally been considered unlucky.  One superstition, thought to derive either from the Last Supper or Norse mythology, suggests that having 13 guests for dinner will result in the death of one of the diners.


At the Last Supper, Jesus and his 12 apostles gathered to dine, making 13 total.  It was Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, who was the the 13th guest to arrive that night.





Similarly, in Norse mythology, 12 gods had a dinner party at Valhalla, heaven in Norse mythology.  In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.

Whatever its origins, the belief in the bad luck qualities of the number 13 is so enduring that most high-rise buildings do not have a 13th floor.

Christian tradition has also regarded Friday as an unlucky day.  According to Biblical scripture, for example, Jesus was crucified on a Friday.  Some historians suggest the Christian distrust of Fridays is actually linked to the early Catholic Church's suppression of pagan religions and women. In the Roman calendar, Friday was devoted to Venus, the goddess of love. When Norsemen adapted the calendar, they named the day after Frigg, or Freya, Norse goddesses connected to love and sex. Both of these strong female figures once posed a threat to male-dominated Christianity, the theory goes, so the Christian church vilified the day named after them.


A more recent theory connects Friday the 13th with the arrest and execution of the Knights Templar.  Threatened by the power and wealth of the Knights Templar, King Philip secretly ordered their mass arrest and execution, which occurred on Friday, October 13, 1307 - Friday the 13th.

This theory was popularized in the 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code






















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