The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

August 2, 2013

Beware Friday the 13th!

Humans long have been a superstitious lot, even those who don’t profess to be superstitious, or those who go out of their way (like me) to not be superstitious.

Yet, we all have our little superstitions, no matter how hard we try.

I mean, I’ve “knocked on wood” at least once a week for as long as I can remember— automatically.

But it’s the old superstition about Friday the 13th that has caught my attention. You know, that special day or days each year when something bad is somehow going to befall each of us.

In the year 2013, we still have two Friday the 13ths to look forward to — Sept. 13 and Dec. 13.

Sept. 13th will be the key one to avoid, since Friday, Dec. 13th coincidentally falls two days before a national holiday — my birthday. Actor Don Johnson and I both were born on the same Dec. 15th day in history, and you may have noted just how much the two of us resemble one another.

OK, now that you’ve stopped rolling on the floor in laughter, let’s get a bit more serious about this strange Friday the 13th day we all seem to dread.

Scanning various websites to see what is offered about Friday the 13th, it appears it has its roots in two separate fears — the number 13 and fear of Fridays.

To Christians, 13 has significance because Jesus and 12 apostles sat at the Last Supper, and the 13th member to arrive betrayed Christ.

Also, Jesus was crucified on a Friday, some hold that Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit on a Friday and the Great Flood mentioned in the Bible began on a Friday.

So, you have a very powerful religious background for fear of Friday the 13th.

Also, some historians suggest distrust of Friday comes from sailors — a noted superstitious lot. Legend says the British Navy commissioned the HMS Friday in the 1800s to quell the superstition of sailors refusing to sail on a Friday.

The ship was launched on a Friday, and the captain of legend was James Friday. On its maiden voyage, the ship disappeared forever.

My personal favorite, and one I think has greatest credence, is the number 13 once was closely associated with capital punishment.

In British tradition — remember, this land once was composed of British colonies  — Friday was the conventional day for public hangings, and by tradition, there were 13 steps leading to the gallows.

Pretty powerful image if I do say so.

But the best legend I found comes from the mysterious and powerful Knights Templar, of particular cinematic and literary note of late.

The worst Friday the 13th supposedly occurred during the Middle Ages in Europe. At the time, the Knights Templar were the toast of Christendom, drawing men of noble birth to join their ranks, and fighting in the First Crusade under Hugh de Payens as a military force in Jerusalem.

Protecting Christian pilgrims en route to the Holy Land to visit shrines of their faith, the Templars became vastly wealthy and powerful nobles, and some said the first bankers of their day.

After rising from humble beginnings, the Templars gained lands and power far beyond their fighting prowess against Islam and other non-Christians. This gave the order considerable favor from the Catholic Church and many of Europe’s monarchies.

History shows that on Friday the 13th, 1306,  King Philip of France arrested as many Templars as he could find, tortured them and legend says marked that date as a day of evil.

In fact, the evil lay as much in King Philip as in the wealth of power of the Knights Templar. Motivated by greed and a desire for their wealth, Philip tortured confessions from the Templars, who were accused of trampling and spitting on the cross, homosexuality and idolatry.

In 1312, the Templars were dissolved by Pope Clement V at the Council of Vienne, after many Templars were killed or burned at the stake.

This tale of woe, while added to and expanded by legend as much as actual history, may well have brought about the idea Friday the 13th indeed was a day of evil.

But, then again, who really knows why this particular day is considered so unlucky each year.

The Greeks consider Tuesday the 13th to be especially unlucky. Huh?

My preference is that Monday the 13th, and all other Mondays of the year, are unlucky, owing to a particular distaste for having to begin a new work week.

Bet you didn’t know that fear of Friday the 13th actually has its own designation — paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Gender specifically, I’ll give a hug or a backslap to whomever can pronounce that word for me.

So, as we prepare for our next Friday the 13th, let’s all knock on wood and hope it passes peacefully.

Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at http://enid news.com/historicallyspeaking

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