The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Ashville, North Carolina tells us 17 to 21 million people in the United States dread Friday the 13th. Many will not take flights; others take no chances, lock their doors, stay in bed all day and keep their fingers crossed. A number of buildings do not have a 13th floor.
A novel written by Thomas W. Laws and published in 1907 became widely read. Laws titled his book Friday the 13th. The once popular book tells a story about a broker who takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on that risky day. The author’s readers became much more aware of the superstition and belief in its influence multiplied.
Centuries before Laws wrote his novel, hundreds of the Knights Templar were arrested by King Philip IV...it was Friday, October 13th 1307. The Knights were an order of “Warrior Monks” formed during the Crusades. Dale Brown’s The DaVinci Code published in 2003 and Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry written in 1989 plus Maurice Druon’s historical series, The Accursed Kings and Tales of the Knights Templar by Katharine Kurtz, all refer to that time in history. But there is little documentation to prove that the superstition was born before the late 19th century.
“And on a Friday fell all this mischance,” but traveling on a Friday has been considered unlucky since the 14th century and is mentioned in The Nun’s and Priest’s Tale and The Knight’s Tale two of the stories told in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Friday the 13th is not always the day bad luck is expected to arrive. Spanish speaking nations and Greece opt for Tuesday the 13th as their unlucky day while the day bad luck holds sway in Italy is Friday the 17th.
Today most of us proclaim ourselves to be superstition free but I know if I spill salt, I use my right hand to throw a pinch of salt over my left shoulder—that keeps the devil, and bad luck away—far, far away. I admit I knock on wood for good luck and if there is no wood around I knock on my own head. Then there is the belief that opening an umbrella indoors is not a good omen. That apprehension can be traced back to the early Egyptians who believed it would offend the God of the Sun. Who wants to offend the God of the Sun? Of course, we all know if we carry an umbrella with us when rain is forecast—it will not.
It’s not just polite to say, “God Bless You,” when someone sneezes, it dates back to 590 AD when Pope Gregory the Great decreed that prayers be said to fight a deadly plague in Italy. It’s also considered a positive sign when two people sneeze at the same time or when your cat sneezes. Don’t worry if that cat is black and crosses your path, if she comes straight towards you—be of good cheer—your future is bright and full of promise.
The four-leaf clover or shamrock is extremely rare and extremely lucky. Anyone who finds a four-leaf clover will be blessed with prosperity, romance and luck in all endeavors. Sounds good to me—I intend to comb fields for my four-leaf clover the minute the winter weather leaves and the clover begins to grow.
Fess up...do you admit to any superstitions?