The common expression TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Friday) expresses the joy attached to most Fridays for their connection to the weekend, but for the superstitious or even slightly cautious among us, Fridays that happen to fall on the thirteenth of the month might not be viewed with much enthusiasm.
As the American journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson said, “Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.”
When it comes to Friday the thirteenth and other superstitions, like Dirty Harry said, “You have to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky?”
History of Friday the Thirteenth
Biblical experts say that the fear surrounding Friday the 13th comes from religious beliefs associated with the Last Supper, and its 13th guest – Judas, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus – and the crucifixion of Jesus on a Friday, which was already known as hangman’s day.
Taking the biblical connection to the negativity associated with Friday even further, some biblical scholars believe that not only was Christ crucified on that day, but some also believe Adam was tempted into eating that forbidden fruit on a Friday and that Abel was slain by his brother Cain on a Friday. That may be why no one back then was saying TGIF.
The trepidation resulting from the thought of a traitorous 13th dinner guest and Friday being the hangman’s day (perhaps among other negative occurrences on that day of the week) caused Friday the 13th to be a big source of anxiety for some. That kind of fear takes hold and gets passed on, which explains why some of us still feel wary when Friday happens to arrive on the 13th day of the month.
Other Spooky Superstitions
Friday the thirteenth is not alone and in fact, has plenty of company when it comes to superstitions. The number thirteen, without Friday as a partner, is another superstition as the number itself is associated with unluckiness and in some cases, considered pure evil. This fear is so pervasive that there are even some hotels and other buildings where there is no thirteenth floor. The name for the irrational fear about the number is called the frighteningly long word, “Triskaidekaphobia.”
In Spain and Spanish speaking countries, Tuesday the thirteenth takes the place of Friday the thirteenth in inspiring fear and dread. Martes, which is the Spanish word for Tuesday, comes from the Roman god of war, Mars, which ties the day to violence and destruction.
Walking under ladders is an old superstition, and theories postulate that it arises from the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. That ladder leaning up against the wall forms a triangle, so walking under it breaks that triangle. Yet another theory is that the fear of walking under one is related to its resemblance to gallows. Either way, it is probably best to avoid walking under one for general safety purposes.
With an estimated 95.6 million cats kept as pets in the United States, chances are a black cat is going to cross your path eventually. A black cat crossing your path was said to bring misfortune from the days where folks feared that witches lived among them, possessed animal familiars and were able to take on animal form. However, in Ireland, Scotland and England, it is considered good luck for a black cat to cross your path. Nowadays most people believe that a black cat crossing your path simply means the feline is going somewhere.
Like cats, bats were also viewed as an ominous sign because they were potential witch’s familiars, and another myth stated that if a bat flew around someone’s house three times that someone residing in the house would soon die.
Birds flying into a home can have a similar meaning to the bat intruder with a death soon to follow.
If you are the one wishing death on someone, a German superstition says toasting the individual with water could make that happen.
There is a superstition that if you spot a spider on Halloween, a deceased loved one is watching over you.
Halloween itself has a past entwined with superstition. A Celtic myth that dressing like a ghoul could fool evil spirits into thinking you are one of them so they would not try to steal your soul coupled with the belief that during Samhain the ghosts of the deceased could hang out with the living and may even knock on your door asking for food is where trick-or-treating in costumes originated. In the old myth, if you turned the ghost away, you might be cursed or haunted, so you might want to rethink ignoring those trick-or-treaters, just in case.
There is a belief that bad luck comes in threes. A couple of things go wrong, and superstitious folks start looking for that third. A lot of it has to do with perception. If you go looking to find something “wrong” you will find it because you are biased to view things from that point of view.
Folklore warns that breaking a mirror will doom you to misfortune for seven years, kind of like a financial mistake on a credit report. It seems to come from the belief that mirrors don’t simply reflect your image, they capture a piece of your soul. Whether true or not, you might want to be careful with those mirrors as seven years is a long time…
The Psychology of Superstitions
Although superstitions are arbitrary for the most part, once they are part of our culture, they become widespread and persistent enough that most people tend to honor them for fear of tempting fate.
The way superstitions flourish throughout so many different cultures all over the world has to do with a principle called, “Magical Thinking.”
Magical thinking is a term used to describe a belief that one’s thoughts, actions or words will cause or prevent something from happening in a way that defies commonly understood laws of causality. This term is used in anthropology, philosophy and psychology.
Even though there is no science to support that superstitions have any real consequences, even the least religious or spiritual among us can sometimes indulge in magical thinking and as a result, give some substance to superstitions.
A study from Jane Risen, a behavioral scientist at the University of Chicago Booth School for Business found that whether people identified as superstitious or non-superstitious, both types of people believe bad outcomes are more likely if a person is jinxed.
Surprisingly, atheists aren’t immune to fearing curses. In a study from the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, non-believers began to sweat and became visibly distressed when asking God to do terrible things. The testing concluded that doing so was equally distressing for atheists as it was for religious people.
Also, once Risen’s behavioral study offered a strategy for reversing bad luck in five different experiments, the results revealed that superstitious rituals like knocking on wood or throwing salt decreased the fears of the participants regardless of whether they identified as superstitious or not.
Shift Your Luck
If you find a penny, pick it up, and all day long, you’ll have good luck. Finding money is lucky, and the rhyme may be a spin-off from an older rhyme that said, “See a pin, pick it up, and all day long you will have good luck. See a pin, let it lay, and your luck will pass away.”
Talismans and amulets have always been used to keep evil away. Like garlic and crosses to guard against vampires, people in Turkey have an amulet to guard against what is known as the “Evil Eye” that resembles an eye. These charms are found in Greece, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Afghanistan and beyond.
Have you ever knocked on wood? That widely known superstition comes from medieval times when European churchgoers would touch wood that the churches claimed was from the cross that could give them a connection to the divine.
To avoid a premature death, don’t trim your nails at night. Whistling indoors can lead to financial problems in Russia. Another Russian superstition warns not to sit at the corner of the table, or you will have bad luck and never get married.
In some Central and South American countries and the Philippines, superstition states that setting your purse or wallet on the ground can lead to bad luck.
Due to the increase in non-superstitious folks indulging in magical thinking, scientists are starting to see it as a side effect of socially adaptive thinking.
Friday the thirteenth is an inevitable part of our calendar sooner or later, so if you need to knock on wood to feel better, why not do it?
Flowers of Fortune
Plants and flowers are thought to affect the flow of energy, and some are traditionally seen as having the ability to amplify good luck and protect against negativity. Having plants in your surroundings will enhance your health and happiness, and if they can bring you good luck and fortune, what are you waiting for?
In the Ming Dynasty of China, seasonal flowers blooming marked the passage of time, and these flowers became symbolic. The orchid and peony were spring flowers and represented love, fertility, luck and success. In winter, plum blossoms blooming against the snow represented well-being and good fortune.
Bamboo is a common lucky symbol attached to health, happiness, love and wealth. A higher number of stalks means a greater blessing of luck and fortune.
The Peace Lily improves indoor air quality to such an extent that it helps people avoid asthma, cerebral pains and many chronic illnesses. This dark green plant with its pure, gorgeous white blooms cleans the air and is said to assist those looking for prosperity.
Morning glories are said to bring peace and keeping its seeds under one’s pillow is said to prevent nightmares. A tea made from its leaves is said to cure migraines and digestive issues.
Jasmine is said to bring adoration and money into your home. The blooms open in the evening, and jasmine is said to bring prophetic dreams.
Bright and colorful sunflowers are said to attract fortune and create a feeling of safety and protection. Consuming sunflower seeds is said to enhance fertility and carry good fortune.
In many Asian cultures, a lotus bloom can bring peace and happiness to your home. If a lotus bloom is placed in water at the entrance to a home, it will attract positive energy.
For flowers to bring luck, health or positive energy, the health of the flowers or plant matters. Flowers and plants past their prime attract stagnant, unhealthy energy, so prune and replace dead flowers immediately to avoid negative energy. Flowers with thorns should have the thorns removed before displaying them as the thorns can snag energy as it is trying to circulate.
Dried flowers do not possess energy as they are not living, so they cannot positively influence your luck. However, fruit possesses live plant energy, so displaying fresh, unblemished fruit is also a way to attract good energy while also encouraging your family or friends to eat healthy.
If you wish to shift your luck and bring some positive energy to your home or business, let our florists at Maryjane's Flowers in Sicklerville, NJ, help you choose the perfect lucky flower, plant or fruit basket.
Face Your Fear of Friday the Thirteenth
It is estimated that between 17 and 21 million Americans suffer from a fear of Friday the thirteenth. As a result, between 750 to 900 million may be lost in business on this day due to the reluctance of some people to travel or make normal business decisions.
Luck doesn’t happen naturally, even for people who consider themselves lucky. There are some traits that lucky people all seem to have in common. People who consider themselves lucky are often open to new experiences, vary routines and take opportunities without as much hesitation or anxiety as more pessimistic people.
The writer David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech that was made into the book titled, “This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life,” takes an interesting look at luck.
At the end of his speech, Wallace told graduates, “I wish you way more than luck.”
In making the statement, he was urging everyone to remain open to compassion and to avoid worshiping harmful ideals like money or power or falling into the selfishness that is part of human nature.
Wallace was saying that luck itself is not enough.
So perhaps, instead of falling into traps of superstition, take a deep breath, be kind and be open to new experiences. If you can do all that, you just might shift your luck, no knocking on wood required.