Today is Friday the 13th, a day often viewed as somewhat sinister and full of general evil. For many it’s a day they anticipate will be chock-full of bad luck. The sixth day of the week and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations said to date from ancient times. Their inevitable conjunction from one to three times a year portends more misfortune than some credulous minds can bear. According to phobia specialist Dr. Donald Dossey, it’s the most widespread superstition in the United States today. Some people refuse to go to work on Friday the 13th; some won’t dine in restaurants; many wouldn’t think of setting a wedding on that date. The technical term is “Paraskevidekatriaphobics”, meaning those afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear ofFriday the 13th. So, how many Americans at the beginning of the 21st century actually suffer from this condition? According to Dossey, the figure may be as high as 21 million. If he’s right, no fewer than eight percent of Americans remain in the grips of a very old superstition. Of course, the rational mind argues that this is just another day. So where does this sense of dread surrounding Friday the 13th stem from? Well, that’s not completely clear. No one can say for sure when and why human beings first associated the number 13 with misfortune, the superstition is assumed to be quite old, and there exist any number of theories purporting to trace its origins: Religious superstition around this day is thought to have come about during the Middle Ages and may have Biblical origins. Some historians have claimed it was the day on which Eve bit the apple from the Tree of Knowledge; God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on aFriday; the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday; and, of course, Friday was the day of the week on which Christ was crucified. It is therefore a day of penance for Christians. There is also a biblical reference to 13 being considered unlucky. Judas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus who later betrayed him, was supposedly the 13th guest to sit down at the last supper. Friday was also unlucky in medieval times because it was “hangman’s day”. The author of the “Da Vinci Code,” Dan Brown, cites the 14th-century execution of Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay, which took place on Friday the 13th. He cursed the Pope and the King of France, and this spread misfortune down the ages. Interestingly the Chinese regarded the number as lucky, some commentators note, as did the Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs. Thirteen is said to have 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). The “Earth Mother of Laussel,” for example — a 27,000-year-old carving found near the Lascaux caves in France often cited as an icon of matriarchal spirituality — depicts a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches. Regardless of your belief, this is truly one of the most talked about and superstitious days in the entire calendar. (Sources: ThoughtCo , Wikipedia, National Geographic, Live Science, BBC)
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