July 29, 2021

The Editor speaks: Friday 13th that was and wasn’t

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Colin Wilson

Were you quaking in your boots last Friday?

If you are just a tiny bit superstitious you were probably trembling a little in at least one of them.

If you were Jeremy Corbin, the UK Labour leader (that is nearly WAS), when most of the UK Election results were announced (even if the election actually took place the day before), he most likely (if not then) will blame it on Friday 13th. He surprisingly, lost by a landslide. One that had not occurred since the Margaret Thatcher era in the 1980’s.

If you were Boris Johnson, the UK Conservative Leader, Friday 13th wasn’t a bad day at all. The superstition of bad luck surrounding the day was a non event.

Therefore, Friday 13th, and its bad rap is just bunkum.

The superstition that its bad luck to walk under a ladder does carry some weight. It really is not a good idea. There is a chance that something or someone might fall on you.

So why on earth is Friday 13th regarded with such fear by some members of the community?

According to a number of surveys, at least 10 percent of people living in the United States believe that the number 13 reverberates “bad juju”.

According to the website ‘ALLURE” superstition surrounding the number 13 “began in the 17th century, though they can’t identify one singular event that sparked its bad reputation. It wasn’t until the 20th century, however, that the number 13’s infamy exploded — fueled, perhaps not surprisingly, by a work of fiction. In 1907, businessman and author Thomas Lawson published a novel entitled Friday, the Thirteenth about a rogue broker who chose that date to destroy the stock market.

“Subsequently, the concept of “unlucky number 13” entered the zeitgeist, and by 1910, the term triskaidekaphobia, which means “fear of the number 13,” was coined by a pioneering psychologist, further perpetuating the superstition. The myth about the number’s unlucky attributes continued to build throughout the 20th century, and in 1980, its place in the collective conscious — along with its connection to Friday — was solidified by the slasher film Friday the 13th.

“Today, the number 13 is synonymous with misfortune and the macabre. High-rise buildings are often constructed “without” a thirteenth floor, and hotels, hospitals, and airports avoid using the number on rooms or gates. Friday the 13th is considered the “unluckiest” day of the year, which ultimately leads to millions of lost revenue.

“People tend not to shop, travel, or schedule important events on Friday the 13, and according to CNBC, businesses lose hundreds of millions of dollars because of it. And while no one really knows why the number 13 has such a bad reputation, over the years, several convincing theories have been posited as to why the figure is so haunted.” – https://www.allure.com/story/why-is-number-13-unlucky

And I believed it was all based on the Christian Holy Bible. During the Last Supper, the final meal Jesus shared with his Twelve Apostles before his crucifixion, Judas was believed to be the 13th guest.

Back to the ALLURE website it says the number 13, although not innately unlucky it does have a terrible position coming after the number 12. You see, 12 is the only positive integer considered a “sublime number,” and in terms of its numerical and cultural symbolism, it is quite literally perfect.

“According to Broadly astrologer Annabel Gat, “Humans are kind of obsessed with symmetry. [There are] 12 zodiac signs, 12 apostles, a dozen roses, 12 days of Christmas — a 360 circle divides neatly into 12, and we just love order. Then 13 comes along and throws everything off balance.”

As the number immediately following magical 12, it makes sense that 13 feels strange, off-balanced, and flawed. Many systems of measurement conclude at 12, so the presence of 13 is both unexpected and unwelcome. It exposes imperfection and abstraction, so naturally, our ancient ancestors — who depended on natural order — feared this figure.”

And finally the last reason is given as being rooted in sexism:

There are 13 menses annually along with 13 lunar cycles (the moon is supposedly feminine). Therefore, the number 13 reflects female oppression, For many years women were made to feel ashamed when they were having their periods.

There are many instances of mishaps and deaths occurring on Friday 13th, although I suspect there are many similar occurrences historically on every day of the week over the many years. No one has bothered to analyze them.

I list some of them, just for interest and maybe some of our readers can find some more:

In France, Friday the 13th often fell on the day after the Feast of Saint Imbibecus. Thus the day was often associated with terrible hangovers and poor choices made the night before.

The Aztecs brutally killed 39,000 in one day on Friday the 13th of August, 1539. This was done at the request of the recently arrived Hernan Cortez, who claimed to be a god seeking tribute. The next day he overthrew their empire.

Hammurabi’s Code, the first set of state initiated laws, omits the number 13, leading some to believe the superstition dates back to Babylon in 1700 BC.

Genghis Khan is said to have tasted his first defeat on Friday the 13th.

Three days after the completion of the Empire State Building in New York., on a Friday, the weight of the building caused it to buckle and it crushed the thirteenth floor. This floor was never replaced. Even today many buildings omit a thirteenth floor.

In 1881, a group of New Yorkers started The 13 Club, aimed at removing the superstitious stigma from the number. At their first meeting on Friday the 13th, all thirteen members walked under a ladder into a room filled spilled salt and broken mirrors. They all died in a freak accident involving a runaway truck and a rabid wolverine on its way to be put down.

On Friday June 13th of 1952 nine overcrowded city buses crashed into each other in downtown Boston.

At dawn on Friday, Oct. 13, 1307, in the kingdom of France, government agents swooped in on every property belonging to the world-famous Knights Templar, arrested their members on false charges and began a process of interrogation, public examination and reputational demolition that ended four and a half years later with the order being dissolved.

And last, but not least, the “Friday the 13th” American horror franchise that comprises twelve slasher films, a television series, novels, comic books, video games, and tie in merchandise.

Friday 13th is indeed very lucky for some. It WAS and WASN’T.

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