Friday, April 13, 2012

Blame Christianity for Friday the 13th

Browsing through the archives of newspaper articles I'd written back when I had a life, I came across one from a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper dated Friday, March 13, 1992. The title, "Just Another Day." 

Front Page Story, LIFE section
I remember the assignment well. For some mysterious reason, the paper's editor thought I was the perfect feature writer to cover the topic of how Friday the 13th became surrounded in superstition. 

Because there was no lack of metaphysical shops filled with occultists, tarot card readers, ritualists, witches and even fairies in the Bay Area, research was an easy and fun--albeit bizarre--experience.

I have retyped the article (1200 words) and included it here. One fascinating tidbit: In the opening paragraphs I note that each calendar year has at least one Friday the 13th and some have as many as three. "... [it] will happen again in 1998, 2009 and 2012."

Hmmmm. 2012. Is it a coincidence I found this article again 20 years later in 2012? 

Or is it just good luck?

Just Another Day—Friday, March 13, 1992
By Michele VanOrt
The Montclarion

To many of the superstitious in the western world, Friday the 13th is regarded as a day of bad luck. Superstition warns against getting married o this day, beginning a new job, starting a voyage or beginning any new undertaking. You shouldn’t turn the mattress on a bed, have your haircut or your nails manicured.

For a criminal, it is bad luck to be sentenced on a Friday the 13th.

While each year has at least one Friday the 13th, some have as many as three, which happened in 1987 and will happen again in 1998, 2009 and 2012. This year, we must face this ominous day twice. And in case you haven’t yet looked at your calendar, today happens to be one of those days.

Don’t panic. According to folklore, some Friday the 13th superstitions prescribe good luck. If, for example, you happen to be a “13th-of-the-months baby” then this should be your best day.

Or if you’re into ancient pagan religion, you’ll also be okay. Friday the 13th was the sacred day of the Norse Goddess Freya, making it a lucky day. And in those times, the number 13 was revered. It was drawn from the 13 months of the lunar years.

“I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life on Friday the 13ths,” said Sitara, who works at the Rockridge metaphysical store The Moon and Star. “I remember when I was 14 years-old and most of my classmates were uneasy about the date, I found a $20 bill.

All Things Good
Sitara also claims she became pregnant with her first son on a Friday the 13th. “It’s an incredible day,” she said. “The attitude that it was bad—all black cats and bad luck—never came into play for me.”

Another school of thought on Friday the 13th lies in the mystical yet scientific world of the occult. Elizabeth Myrddian, self-proclaimed student of the occult who lives in San Francisco, says that everything is broken down into numbers.
“Thirteen is three and one, which makes four,” Myrddian says logically. “The number four in the Tarot stands for leadership, aggression and worldliness. It is represented by the emperor.”

Myrddian, who views Friday the 13th as a “bonus day,” said four is a powerful number because it is a square. The four equal sides represent the four elements—water, earth, fire and air—and the directions north, east, south and west.

The Tarot trump numbered 13 is the death card, represented by a skeleton moving a field of human heads with a scythe. “This is a symbol of death and new life . . . or transformation,” says Myrddian, who adds that it’s up to the individual whether to interpret trump No. 13 as good or bad.

So that takes care of the number 13. What about the Friday part? Myrddian explains that too.

“Friday is the day of Venus,” she said. “Rituals are performed on Fridays to keep rhythm with beauty and art. Venus protects nature’s balance, physical perfection and harmony. It represents fertility of plants, animals, humans and the end of a barren phase.”

According to Myrddian, a ritual performed on Friday the 13th may include an offering to Venus or to Earth. “You can burn green and pink candles and place flowers on an altar as a tribute to the beauty of Venus,” she said. “Or you can take a bath with herbs like rose petals or jasmine, adding certain spices you can find in your own kitchen that represent Venus.”

Myrddian compares the shaping of a ritual to following a recipe for making a cake. “To make a cake you don’t just will it into action,” she said. “You add a variety of ingredients to get the result you want. If you want coconut flavor, you add coconut. The same is true for rituals, be they fertility rituals of a romantic notion or to help you gain money or whatever.”

As far as advice for this Friday the 13th, Myrddian said, “You should try to stabilize things in your life and keep the status quo in balance. It’s a good time to break old habits or dissolve a bad relationship,” she said.

Myrddian cautions against following literature that requires adherence to strict patterns. “There’s so much material available that it’s easy to get lost in the mystical world of the occult. So often people forget that there’s a real world out there and a lot of bad luck is based on mundane communication snags.”

Placing Blame
According to Leana Alba of Albany, known in local spiritual and metaphysical circles as a priestess and ritualist, Friday the 13th got its bad name from the Christian monks. “Throughout history when one religion takes over another, the old gods become the new demons,” said Alba. “Prior to Christianity, most cultures worshipped the Goddess. Therefore (when Christianity emerged), everything associated with pagan female divinity was called unlucky.”

Literature suggests that Alba is right, and that Christianity is most likely responsible for spreading the fear of Friday the 13th. For example, it is generally believed that Christ was crucified on a Friday ad as a result, Fridays became a day of fasting, fish eating and gloom.

Friday also became known as “hangman’s day” in many countries, a day on which criminals were executed.

And the fear of the number 13 is so great, there is actually a word for it: triskaidekaphobia (tris-kai-deka-pho-bia) or “three-and-ten fear.” Again, the common and persistent negative superstition has roots in Christianity.

The Christian church opposed all pagan symbolism including the sanctity for the number 13, which was based on the 13-month lunar menstrual calendar. As a result, 13 became a contemptible number in the Christian world.

From the fear of this number came euphemisms like “baker’s dozen” and “devil’s dozen.” How many sat down to the Last Supper? Thirteen. And the first to leave was Judas who betrayed Christ. Superstition has it hat the first, or perhaps the last to leave any table will die or suffer some misfortune within the year. For this reason, many believe that it is unlucky to sit down at a table of 13.

Reason Upon Reason
Adding fuel to the number 13? The 12 apostles. In early Christian numerology, anything that went beyond the 12 apostles was considered sinful.

Thirteen is also the traditional number of a coven of witches, and some say that 13 was deemed unlucky since human beings first began to count. They added their 10 fingers and two feet and they got 12. What came after 12 was a mystery and amounted to terror of the unknown.

Other accounts credit the Romans for associating 13 with death and misfortune. Their year consisted of 12 months and each of their days was a daytime or nighttime of 12 hours. The Romans considered 12 a number of completeness. Thirteen dangerously exceeded proper limits.

So take your choice. You can choose to ignore Friday the 13th; you can choose to worship it; or, you can stay safely in bed with your head under the covers. In any case, have a nice day.

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