Friday the Thirteenth - lucky for me because I can recycle an essay I posted a few years ago - even that was recycled from an article I wrote for our community magazine.
|Don't you just love the Count?|
Heads up all you friggatriskaidekaphobics and paraskevidekatriaphobics: this is Friday the 13. Triskaidekaphobia means fear of the number 13. It is from the Greek: tris means 3, kai means ‘and’, deka means 10, and phobia means ‘fear’. The word was coined 100 years ago in 1911. Frigga was the Norse goddess for whom Friday was named, so add her name to the front and it becomes fear of Friday the Thirteenth. I won’t begin to decipher the meaning of that second word; it suffices to say it means the same thing.
In western culture, the number 13 is widely associated with bad luck. No one wants to live on 13th Avenue, or have an apartment on the 13th floor. Hotels also eliminate the 13th floor, but the floor is really there, isn’t it? It’s just been renumbered. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. For ages the number thirteen was just one of many and had no special significance.
The superstition surrounding 13 seems to have arisen in in medieval times. It is said that folks became aware that there were thirteen at the Last Supper, and thereafter tried to avoid thirteen - not only at a table but everywhere else. Norsemen may tell you that when the mischievous Loki crashed the party at Valhalla to which Odin had invited eleven of his closest friends, all Niflheim (that’s Norse for hell) broke loose, resulting in the death of the beloved Baldur. Another case of thirteen at the table.
Fear of Friday the Thirteenth, that paraskevidekatriaphobia, is a newer, just as irrational fear. Some point to the fact the Jacques de Molay and many of his fellow Knights Templar were arrested for heresy on Friday, October 13, 1307, but many other significant events, good or bad, could have taken place on other Fridays the Thirteenth. It really seems to be a combination of fear of 13 and the fact that many people wouldn’t care to start anything on Friday. Actually, neither would I. Not that it really matters, but starting a job on a Friday seems strange: Monday, with the whole work week ahead, seems more logical. Folks don’t usually want to get married, start a business venture, move, start a trip, or even give birth on a Friday. “Friday’s child is full of woe.”
There are probably a baker’s dozen of reasons to admire the number thirteen: a baker’s dozen cookies, or loaves or biscuits, fits nicely on a baking tray. Thirteen is a prime number, divisible only by 1 and itself. It is also a Wilson prime and a Fibonacci number, but that’s more mathematics than we need to know right now. There were thirteen original colonies in our United States, and thirteen stars and stripes on the flag. We’ve added a star as each state was admitted to the union, but we’d be down to pinstripes if we hadn’t kept just the original six white and seven red.
There are thirteen players on a rugby team and thirteen cards in a suit. At thirteen you become a teenager and can watch all those PG-13 movies. Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dan Marino wore number 13. Alex Rodriguez wears it for the Yankees. Well, that’s not quite a baker’s dozen reasons, but you get the idea.
And by the way, it might come in handy to know that for some obscure reason the first Friday the Thirteenth of any year is also observed as Blame Someone Else Day. Don’t look at me: I didn’t think of it.