Today is Friday the 13th, and I’m feeling a little curious.
Why is Friday the 13th “unlucky”? And walking under a ladder? And breaking a mirror? And spilling salt?
Why do I think all these superstitions are silly, and yet I definitely wouldn’t want to get on a plane today?
Turns out the belief in the unluckiness of Friday the 13th, and 13 in general, isn’t just some behavioral quirk or hard-to-read phobia name (Triskaidekaphobia).
No, the fear of the number 13 is so powerful and so common that it affects airport terminals, airplane seating, street signs, house numbers, and elevator buttons.
(As my fellow North Americans might have noticed, the 13th floor is cleverly renamed “14,” or as in my friend’s building, just “3.”)
So, where did this superstition even come from?
The most common answer I found dates back to the Last Supper, when the twelve apostles and Jesus gathered for supper, well, for the last time. Since Judas was the 13th guest to arrive, there's one legend that says if 13 people have dinner together, one of them will die within a year.
And, as I learned from National Treasure, Friday the 13th 1306 was the day King Philip of France arrested the Knights Templar and tortured them for false confessions of heresy.
Also, 12 is a complete number (months in a year, dials on a clock, signs of the zodiac), which makes 13 quite odd.
I don’t know if I completely buy this whole Friday the 13th stuff. Today’s been pretty good so far...knock on wood.
Speaking of knocking on wood, here are some informative pieces on other things people believe for no real reason.
Debunking Myths of Bad Luck
Origins of Superstition
Superstition and Survival
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