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Superstition is the stuff of ignorance and fear which gives rise to hatred and intolerance.

Friday The Thirteenth: Why So Unlucky?

There are many important issues facing the world today — North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, the whole of the Middle East, and all the other hot spots where sparks are continually flying. Important issues are being overlooked amidst all these stories, issues that if left unresolved have the potential to bring Western Civilization to a screeching halt.

Through one of those great mysteries that confound even the best of minds, somehow events have conspired to make three days from now Friday the thirteenth during the month of October. Just eighteen days before All Hallows Eve, the night of pagan ritual and sacrifice, the night the dead walk amongst the living, it will fall with the sound of a ladder landing on someone's head as they walk under it.

It's like a black cat has walked across the collective Path of all Western Civilization. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong because the worst thing possible has already happened. We have a Friday the Thirteenth in October. Do you think I'm over exaggerating the danger to our society? Have a little faith in the stupidity of your fellow human, please.

Let me give you an example of something that happened to me just recently and see if it doesn't send a chill down your spin as it did mine. I've been waiting to have a very minor surgical procedure done; repair of a hernia. It's so minor I won't even be knocked out; they will just freeze the area. I still need to be booked into an operating theatre and there has to be time on my surgeon's schedule to fit me in.

Due to the fact that the hospitals in my city are also the ones for serious problems throughout South Eastern Ontario, I figured it might take a while before I could get an appointment. The doctor's secretary phoned last week and the first thing out of her month after identifying herself was to ask if I was superstitious. I thought this was a very odd thing for her to be asking me and so I asked, justifiably I thought, “Why?”

She hemmed and hawed for a second and then said, "I've got a day this month which I'm having a horrible time getting filled for surgery." It only took me a couple of seconds before I asked if there happened to be a Friday the Thirteenth in October. She answered in the affirmative and continued by saying that people were turning down surgery dates because of it.

To say I was dumbfounded is an understatement. "Don't people realize how hard it is to get an surgical appointment in this city?" I blurted out. "Thank God, she replied, someone who doesn't live in a cave." Naturally I took the appointment and was exceedingly grateful for the rest of the city's stupidity.

This led me to start wondering what the heck was so wrong with the number thirteen that high rises skip numbering a thirteenth floor. I bet we don't use a twenty-four hour clock like nearly everyone else in the world because we don't want to have a thirteen o'clock.

It really puzzles me about what's wrong with thirteen. When did we learn to hate and fear it so? It's a perfectly natural number. The moon goes through thirteen cycles every 365 days, so it has a place in the natural order of things. (We've also created strange tales about the moon and how it can change men into bestial things, but the moon is another topic of conversation altogether.)

Paraskavedekatriaphobia is the word for people who suffer from a pathological fear of Friday The Thirteenth. Significantly, it is only in the English-speaking and Portuguese-speaking world that Friday is cursed. The Spanish and Greeks think Tuesday is the day which thirteen turns into one of misfortune.

Even the normally reliable Wikipedia doesn’t seem to be able to come up with anything that helps to explain the origins of a person suffering from triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number thirteen, save for the thirteen lunar cycles of a women, and because Judas was supposedly the thirteenth apostle and he betrayed Jesus.

There are traditions where the number thirteen is considered blessed. In some Native American societies, North America is considered to be resting on the back of a giant turtle — hence the name Turtle Island. According to certain teachings, the thirteen squares in the centre part of a turtle's shell represent the thirteen character traits a person needs to learn to be a good member of the community.

Something that thirteen and Friday The Thirteenth do confirm is the power of belief. Those who believe they will suffer some sort of misfortune due to Friday The Thirteenth have a better than average chance of doing so because they have talked themselves into it.

Friday the Thirteenth isn't the only superstition that people suffer from; there's black cats, walking under ladders, spilling salt, and goodness knows how many more. Of these, only walking under ladders may have some sort of practical reasoning behind it. Someone must have noticed you're more likely to get hit by a dropped object when you walk under a ladder as opposed to when you bypass it. Or it might even refer to the times when people used to empty chamber pots out of their windows onto the street below and you didn't want to be to close to the wall.

I used to dismiss superstitions as silliness that people believed in as more of a joke than anything else. So I was quite shocked when I was told people were turning down dates for surgery because of the day of the week. That was carrying the joke just a little too far in my books. But it seems this is no joke for many people.

Don't people think there are enough real things to worry about without having to create ones out of thin air or based on information that's outdated by hundreds of years or more. Superstition is the stuff of ignorance and fear which gives rise to hatred and intolerance. Don't we have enough of that already without helping it along?

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.

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