When I was young, I remember sitting in a classroom and listening to one of my friends read out a story to the class. We had been asked to write a story about a superstition or ‘old wives tale’. I sat there in confusion as she narrated her tale about a bad girl who disobeyed her parents and deliberately stood on cracks in the pavement with the result that her nagging mother ended up with a broken back (children just aren’t afraid to be grim and gruesome)! I was perplexed. I’d never heard of that superstition before, I didn’t know that I needed to careful about stepping on the cracks in the pavement. But from then onwards….I did.
That’s how superstitions are born. One person tells you to be afraid of something implausible and depending on whether your young or impressionable, you choose to believe it and you pass it on. The superstition grows until it’s become a part of culture. We create our own beliefs, myths and superstitions. Sometimes they are based on fact and sometimes they’re just a creation from inside someone’s head.
Even in these modern, technologically driven times, we are still beholden to superstition and folklore. A prime example of this is our superstition of Friday 13th. Strangely, although the number 13 has a long history of bad luck, Friday also has a long and equally unlucky history (personally, I don’t know about you but I’ve always loved Fridays).
The main reason the number 13 is thought to be so unlucky is because there are so many negative references to it in myths and religion. Judas was the 13th guest at the Last Supper and ended up betraying Jesus. Pope John Paul II was shot and nearly died on 13th May 1981. On 13 October 1307, the Knights Templar were arrested and executed. In Norse Mythology, a dinner party of the Gods was ruined by Loki, the 13th guest, who plunged the world into darkness. The list goes on if you look long enough!
Superstition of the number 13 has even found it’s way into our architecture. Skyscrapers are often built without 13th floors. Hotels often skip the number 13 in their room layouts (people just don’t want to stay in a room branded with ’13’ on the door).
As for Friday being unlucky, well, that’s the day that we used to hang people in the UK. It used to be called ‘Hangman’s Day’ in Britain. Gosh, we really are a bloodthirsty lot! The combination of 13 and Friday is a relatively new tradition, maybe only 100 years old or so. People have become so terrified of it that it’s even developed into a recognised phobia, paraskevidekatriaphobia. Apparently though, nothing phenomenally bad has ever been reported to happen on Friday 13th.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, a vast amount of people in the UK still believe that something bad is bound to happen when the date comes around. As for me, well I have to admit to feeling a little bit of trepidation on a Friday 13th but that generally dissipates throughout the day. It’s all going to be fine. Logically, there’s nothing to be afraid of….fingers crossed….touch wood.