Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

No one knows for sure where the superstition about Friday the 13th started. Some date it back to the ancient Greeks, some to Biblical times. According to Wikipedia, the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia,... derived from Greek words meaning "thirteen", "Friday" and "fear". The authors then continue with my favorite words of the week:

This is a specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, a simple fear of the number thirteen, and is also known as friggatriskaidekaphobia.

Ya'gotta love a word like friggatriskaidekaphobia.. Frigga-triska-ideka-phobia.

The dictionary tells us that "superstition" is defined as a blindly accepted irrational fear of what is unknown or thought to be mysterious

Friday will fall on the 13th day of the month in March and again in November. So it isn't over yet.

Any discussion of Friday the 13th raises the larger discussion of superstition in general.

Gingersnaps gives us a great YOUTube of Stevie Wonder singing "Superstition" on Sesame Street
Very superstitious, writing's on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout' to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.

I was raised in an Eastern European family. We are great on superstitions. The deep and dark forests and mountains of Eastern Europe gave forth some colorful superstitions. Here are a few that passed as gospel in my family.

1. Never let a rocking chair rock with no one in it. You will be giving the devil a free ride. We actually stop a rocker from rocking when we exit it. It is now a reflex.

2. If someone is mending something or hemming it while it is on you, you must hold a length of thread in your mouth or your mouth will be sewn shut by a flying sewing needle.

3. Never throw a hat on a bed. Bad luck.

4. Never ever have 13 people for a meal. One of them will die within the next year.

5. If you give someone a purse or a wallet for a gift, you must put a penny in it or they will have bad financial luck.

6. If your nose itches, you'll be kissed by a fool.

7. Drop a fork? Company is coming.

8. Itchy ear? Someone is talking about you.

9. Palm itch? Money is coming. says that the fer of 13 people at dinner is a wide one. They also say:
The Turks so disliked the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don't have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil's luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names).

Not all bloggers are superstitious, but several explored the number 13 and what facts and fears surround it.

"Phylameana's Holistic Healing Blog"lists 13 interesting things incorporating the number 13 that she found on google today.

Karin lists "interesting" facts abut Friday the 13th, among them "The seals on the back of a dollar bill include 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 stars above the eagle's head, 13 war arrows in the eagle's claw and 13 leaves on the olive branch. So far there's been no evidence tying these long-ago design decisions to the present economic situation."

This will be the first year since 1998 with three Friday the 13ths. On average, this happens once every seven years.

So I decided to hunt out some intriguing superstitions. was a big help.:

An acorn on a windowsill will fend off lightening.

The new bride must enter her home by the main door, and must not trip or fall - hence the custom of carrying the bride over the threshold.

Bad luck to light three cigarettes with one match.

Cows lifting their tails is a sign of coming rain.

It is bad luck to say the word "pig" while fishing at sea.

Cut your hair on Good Friday to prevent headaches in the year to come also lists the following cautions about the number 13 that even extend beyond North America:

More than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor.
Many airports skip the 13th gate.
Airplanes have no 13th aisle.
Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.
Italians omit the number 13 from their national lottery.
On streets in Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 and a half.
Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue
In France, socialites known as the quatorziens (fourteeners) once made themselves available as 14th guests to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate.
Many triskaidekaphobes, as those who fear the unlucky integer are known, point to the ill-fated mission to the moon, Apollo 13.

But as strange as some superstitions seem, there are many that we have just folded into our lives, superstitions that just seem part of the everyday landscape:

Blow out the candles on your birthday cake to get your wish.
Wish on a falling star to get your wish.
Pick a four leaf clover for luck.
Step on a crack, break your mother's back.
Never say the name "Hamlet" in a theatre. Say "The Prince of Denmark" instead.
Beware a black cat crossing your path.
Do not walk under a ladder.
A broken mirror? Seven years bad luck.

Oh, and of course the major electronic superstition..."send this email to 10 people or something horrible will happen to you!"

Are there other superstitions that you learned as you grew up? Are their any that you still believe in, or observe out of habit?

And, one superstition just for Valentine's Day :
On the eve of St. Valentine's Day it is an old custom to pin bay leaves to your pillow, one at each corner and one in the middle. You will then dream of your future lover, or the man you are to marry.


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