Happy Friday the Thirteenth!

Friday falling on the 13th of the month occurs one to three times a year. Only once this year – today.  Doesn’t happen again until May 2011.

The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia, frigga, meaning “Friday” and triskaidekaphobia, or paraskevidekatriaphobia, a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”), attached to phobía (φοβία, from phóbos, φόβος, meaning “fear”).  The word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953.   Sources believe that it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today.

It seems to be  mainly a Western thing, but not exclusively.  The Chinese regard the number as lucky, as did the Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs.

There are lots of theories about the beginning of the superstition.
There are many ideas about why 13 is unlucky. There are other ideas about why Friday is unlucky. So the combination of the two of them strikes fear in people.

Some sources speculate that the number 13 may have been purposely vilified by the founders of patriarchal religions in the early days of western civilization because it represented femininity. Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric goddess-worshiping cultures because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). As the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar with the rise of male-dominated civilization, it is surmised, so did the “perfect” number 12 over the “imperfect” number 13, thereafter considered unlucky.

On the other hand, one of the earliest concrete taboos associated with the number 13 is said to have originated in the East with the Hindus, who believed that it is always unlucky for 13 people to gather in one place — say, at dinner. Exactly the same superstition has been attributed to the ancient Vikings.

In many pre-Christian cultures Friday was the sabbath, a day of worship, so those who indulged in secular or self-interested activities on that day could not expect to receive blessings from the gods — which may explain the taboo on embarking on journeys or starting important projects on Fridays  (which still influences some folks today).   So the early Church went to great lengths to suppress the pagan connection.   If Friday was a holy day for “heathens”, it must not be so for Christians — thus it became known in the Middle Ages as the “Witches’ Sabbath,” and many myths and legends were spread to keep the people in line – just one of the measures of the horrific witch hunts.  Thirteen became associated with the Witches Sabbath as well,  in myth representing the number of people in a coven.

Well, I choose to go with the opposite end of the spectrum…the TGIF crowd.  Beginning of the weekend, off work, preparing for the Sabbath.  The ancient celebration of women.  And personally I happen to love the number 13.      So…

the 13th!

 


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