A very daunting day is lurking for those who hold on to superstitions. Tomorrow is Friday the 13th, and superstitious folks will be glad to know it's the first and last one for 2022. Do you believe in unlucky numbers and days? If so, you are not alone. In fact, the fear of Friday the 13th is rather common, and for some, it is a lot more than a superstition.
Although it occurs as often as three times a year, surveys uncovered that as many as one in six adults in the UK fear this day.
Countless studies uncovered how people change their routines to prevent misfortune on the ominous day, and the fear of it is so overwhelming for others that it becomes a phobia. Let's explore when the number and day became unlucky. Is there any scientific proof to back the belief, and how has it affected society?
The Misfortune of Friday the 13th
There is no definitive origin for the unlucky connotation of a Friday that happens to be on the thirteenth day of the month, but researchers have linked likely reasons to events dating back centuries.
One of the most common events linked to the omen comes from the last supper as recorded in the Holy Bible. The 13th guest to arrive at the table for the last supper was Judas Iscariot, the same disciple who betrayed Jesus. Some also believe that the crucifixion happened on a Friday, tying the number to the day.
Others have blamed Norse mythology. Legend has it that the 12 Norse gods were having a joyful dinner party when Loki rocked up as the 13th unwelcome guest and ruined it all. But this only explains the reason people believe the number 13 is unlucky. How did Friday become doomed as well?
British history explains that Friday once had the gloomy name of Hangman's Day. If you are wondering, it has everything to do with a noose and execution and nothing to do with the word-game.
Combine these events with man's search for meaning and modern-day media, and you have the perfect recipe for a cooked-up belief about Friday the 13th.
Fact or Fiction? Proof That the Day is Doomed
Humans seek patterns and sequences to make sense of what happens in our surroundings. This is where science, mathematics, and theories find their origins. Let's consider that some have such an intense fear of Fridays that fall on the 13th that they develop a phobia. There must be more to it than isolated events thousands of years ago. Right?
Psychologists created a word for those with an irrational fear of Friday the 13th. People who suffer from this phobia, known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, cannot go about their normal day-to-day activities on this cursed day. How many terrible events on this day in history caused some people to fear it so much?
If we consider the last two centuries, a few come to mind. Pop culture ran with this superstition, and Hollywood introduced us to the strikingly psychotic character, Jason, in the slasher film series Friday the 13th.
Rewind to about 70 years before Jason made his appearance, and novelist Thomas William Lawson writes a book titled Friday, the Thirteenth. His story wasn't blood and gore but about a stockbroker who used others' superstitions against them to create chaos on Wall Street and profit from it.
Actual events tied to the day include the tragic killing of the Knights of Templar by King Philip IV in 1307, the German bombing of Buckingham Palace in 1940, Tupac's last breath in 1996, and most recently, a cruise ship crash off the coast of Italy that killed 30 people in 2012.
Truthfully, the day has no more reason to be unlucky than any other day on the calendar, and the fear of it remains illogical.
The Problem With 13
Interestingly, the belief that this day, and specifically the number 13, is unlucky remains predominantly a Western belief. The reason is unclear, but some argue it is because of the world's oldest legal documents. The Code of Hammurabi reportedly omitted the 13th law, and so the tradition began.
Historians believe this was merely an administrative mistake. Still, so many modern high-rise buildings exclude the number 13 from floor numbers that the superstition clearly remains. Thanks to the belief, many hospitals do not have room 13 or a 13th bed in their larger wards.
In numerology and some religions, they consider the number 12 the perfect number. The reasoning behind the unlucky attachment to 13 may be that it follows the "perfect" number.
So it seems that 13 was always doomed, and it follows that if terrible events took place on Friday the 13th, the day never had a chance.
Other Unlucky Numbers
Thirteen is not the only number seen as unlucky, and many gamblers stay away from numbers linked to bad luck. Depending on where in the world you find yourself, numbers can trigger intense emotions.
In the East, the number 4 is as unlucky as 13 is to many in the West. Asians may rather suffer from tetraphobia, as the culture ties the number four to grave misfortune. As serious as death. The most obvious reason for this superstition is linguistic. The words 'death' and 'four' sound very similar in Eastern languages, causing Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean folk to avoid it.
Japanese people also avoid the number 9 for similar reasons to the number 4. The similarity of its pronunciation reminds them of the word 'torture' or 'suffering', leading most to pronounce it differently or avoid saying it altogether.
While the number 7 is considered lucky in most cultures, if you find yourself at a craps table Down Under, it's best to avoid saying the number out loud. Craps players in Australia believe it is very unlucky to say 'seven' while playing the dice game.
Lucky Number 13?
Surprisingly, some cultures believe the odd number is lucky. Ancient Egyptians, for instance, found it to be lucky. According to football fans in Italy, the number is so lucky that they tied its appearance to winning the jackpot. Before the first World War, thirteen was a lucky number in France and often appeared on postcards for luck.
Some Westerners changed the number's luck. 13 men founded Colgate University in New York with 13 dollars, 13 prayers, and 13 articles. To this day, members of the college hold on to the belief that 13 is lucky.
Another who sought to change the negative link to thirteen was Captain William Fowler. He founded an exclusive society named The Thirteen Club. The members regularly enjoyed 13-course meals on the 13th day of the month, in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage watering hole. With serious humour, they would first pass beneath a ladder displaying a banner that read 'Morituri te Salutamus' – a Latin term meaning 'Those of us who are about to die salute you'.
Turn it Around
Studies show that even people who claim to be non-superstitious sometimes experience a bout of magical thinking when an outcome seems jinxed. If the idea of Friday the 13th makes you a tad nervous and you normally don't mind opening an umbrella inside a building, there are ways to counter the negative vibes on the day.
Remind yourself of past events that proved the inverse, and take a deep breath. If this doesn't calm the nerves, take a pinch of salt and throw it over your shoulder. Alternatively, use other superstitious rituals to get through the day, like knocking on wood. Practising gratitude to get positive energy flowing is always a good idea.
That being said, if you still fear the number 13, choose to focus on others. If you can't, perhaps you have triskaidekaphobia, the illogical fear of 13.
Make Your Own Luck
The psychology of finding meaning in numbers is present in all cultures. We tie events to numbers, and our experience of these determines the meaning. This is no reason to avoid a favourite pastime like playing online casino games.
Luckily, there are far more lucky than unlucky numbers, and casino games usually contain the former. Most online slot games only contain card numbers that stop at 10, so superstitious gamblers are in luck.
If you fancy a game of roulette, place a bet on 3, 7, or 5, or maybe you have your own lucky set of numbers.
For the rebels out there, take your chance on 13 without knocking on wood! Maybe just cross your fingers before you do.
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