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Friday 13th Is It Really Unlucky?

Hereford Voice

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Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year. 


There are two Friday's that fall on the 13th in 2023 - Today, January 13th and Friday, October 13th.

What is fear of Friday the 13th called?

Fear of the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia.

The panic associated with Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia.

The scientific term arises from the Greek words Paraskeví meaning Friday and dekatreís meaning thirteen.

Other names for this phobia include friggatriskaidekaphobia which originates from Norse mythology where Frigg is the Norse Goddess for Friday.

Many call superstitions an irrational belief of the supernatural, actions that stem from ignorance or fear of the unknown. But these “irrational” acts are actually more normal than you may think.

The fear of the number 13, is such that many high-rise buildings, hotels, and hospitals skip the 13th floor, and many airports do not have gates numbered 13. 

Here are a few common superstitions..

  • Don't Break A Mirror: According to folklore, breaking a mirror is a surefire way to doom yourself to seven years of bad luck. The superstition seems to arise from the belief that mirrors don't just reflect your image; they hold bits of your soul. That belief led people in the old days of the American South to cover mirrors in a house when someone died, lest their soul be trapped inside.                                              
  • Opening An Umbrella Inside: Bad Luck 
    It seems like a no-brainer that opening an umbrella inside brings bad luck, since it presents a risk of breaking valuable items and poking someone in the eye.
    But one common superstition holds that because umbrellas shade us from the sun they’re somehow magical.
    When the umbrella is opened inside – out of the way of sun’s rays – it offends the sun god.
    It may even signify impending death or ill fortune for both the person who opened it and the people who live within the home.
  • Throwing Salt Over Your Shoulder: European/Christian, ancient Roman
    Perhaps the next most common superstition, at least in the West, involves tossing salt over one’s shoulder. Like ‘knocking on wood,’ this superstition also involves the idea of ‘warding off evil’ - in this case, the Devil himself. In Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Jesus’ betrayer, Judas Iscariot, is portrayed as having accidentally spilled salt. Since Judas was associated with doing something bad, the argument goes that, ipso facto, so was salt, and throwing it over your shoulder would blind the devil waiting there.

  • Walking Under A Ladder: European/Christian, possibly Egyptian
    The superstition of not wanting to walk under a ladder also has roots in Christian symbolism: the “Holy Trinity” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit led to an association of the number three with something sacred. The triangle, with its three sides, came to be regarded as sacred as well, and a ladder of course forms a triangle, so, naturally, to walk under that ladder would be to destroy the sanctity of the Trinity and thus incur punishment.

  • Keep Your Shoes Off The Table:
    Not only is it gross, but in Britain it is considered bad luck because it symbolizes the death of a loved one.

  • Touch Wood:
    Lots of us find ourselves ‘knocking on wood’ or ‘touching wood’ to secure good luck or avoid bad luck. Some people believe the tradition began with the Pagans who believed that good spirits lived inside trees and that people once laid their hands on trees to ask for good luck. Others believe the wood in question was from Christ’s cross, or the fragments said to be from the cross which found their way across the world. There are more theories, too: that the practice dates fro the Spanish Inquisition when Jewish communities used a system of knocking on wooden synagogues to avoid persecution, that sailors knocked on wooden decks to have good luck at sea and that miners would tap the rafters inside mines to check for rot that could cause a collapse.

  • A Black Cat Crossing Your Path Is Unlucky:
    The ancient Egyptians revered cats, linking the sleek companions with deities, women and a prominent place in the household. Cats toppled from their revered pedestals around the 13th century, however, when Pope Gregory IX issued a warning against having or associating with cats. He portrayed the felines as Lucifer in disguise, cavorting with witches to place curses while purring beside a bubbling witch’s cauldron.

  • Crossed Fingers: 
    This is a way to ensure that lucky things will happen. It really means “Let’s hope it happens!” or “Let’s hope for good luck”.
    “Fingers crossed!” = good luck! “I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you today!”
    Also, crossing your fingers is considered a way to get away with telling a lie. This isn’t related to the good luck superstition.
    For example, if someone says “I won’t tell anyone” but they secretly have their fingers crossed behind their back, it means that they’re lying!

  • Seeing A Single Magpie:
    If you see a single magpie make sure to tip your hat (especially if you’re not carrying onions).Until the arrival of Christianity, magpies were seen as a lucky bird. But the story that they refused to weep at the crucifixion or enter Noah’s Ark changed their reputation into one of misfortune. In 1507, it was reported that “whan pyes chatter upon a house it is a sygne of ryghte evyll tydynges” and the fact that they could often be seen around places of death looking for carrion only cemented their reputation. 
    By 1780, the superstition around the magpie was so strong that the UK had developed a rhyme recounting the different types of luck a magpie could bring. It’s still commonly recited today: “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy.” There are several regional variations on what that sorrow can be, including a sign of an impending death in Scotland, a hazardous journey in Wales, and a day without catching any fish in Devon. In Northampton, three magpies predict a fire rather than a girl.
    There are ways, however, to negate the bad luck, the most common being to doff your cap and say “Good morning general (or captain).” Again this varies by region, and other greetings include making the sign of a cross, asking after the magpie’s wife, and spitting three times over your shoulder. The oddest is practiced by the people of Somerset, who are encouraged to carry an onion with them at all times to protect themselves from the evil effects of seeing the magpie.

Do you have any superstitions that you routinely follow? 

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