A word of warning to those who believe in lucky numbers, omens, auspicious colors and star-crossed dates: Ignore ladders, black cats, broken mirrors, opening an umbrella inside or stepping on cracks, there are more urgent matters for you to consider….Friday the 13th and “The Ides of March” are upon us.
Friday and the number 13 both have foreboding reputations. Any month that starts on a Sunday will contain a Friday the 13th and this inevitable conjunction happens from one to three times a year. This is the second Friday the 13th of 2015 (the first was on Friday, February 13, 2015). However, this Friday the 13th is also followed on Sunday by “The Ides of March”. For the superstitious this could portend more misfortune than their superstitious minds can bear.
According to experts Friday the 13th is the most widely held superstition in the United States. Some people won’t go to work on Friday the 13th…some won’t eat in restaurants or even leave home and very few would consider a wedding on this day.
Triskaidekaphobia is the irrational fear of the number 13. Triskaidekaphobia is so wide spread that the Otis Elevator Company does not even include a button with a 13 on it in elevators all over the world. Triskaidekaphobes even assigned the number 13 as the reason for explosion of Apollo 13, which took off at exactly 1:13 p.m. (1313 military time) on 4/11/70 (digits that add up to 13, naturally). Weird?
To the ancient Egyptians, whose quest for spiritual ascension unfolded in 13 stages… twelve in this life and one beyond… the number 13 symbolized death. However, they didn’t see death as the end, they believed it was a glorious and desirable transition into an eternal life. Though Egyptian civilization perished we could assume the symbolism conferred on the number 13 by its priesthood survived only to be corrupted by subsequent cultures who came to associate 13 with a fear of death instead of a reverence for the afterlife.
The number 13 was also revered in the prehistoric goddess worshiping cultures. The number 13 corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). But with the rise of male-dominated civilization, the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar, and the “perfect” number 12 triumph over the “imperfect” number 13, which then became a number of fear and loathing.
The name “Friday” was derived from a Norse deity worshiped on the sixth day, known either as Frigg (goddess of marriage and fertility), or Freya (goddess of sex and fertility)… or both. Frigg/Freya correspond to the Roman goddess of love, Venus. The Romans named the sixth day of the week “dies Veneris.” to honor their goddess.
Friday was actually considered quite lucky by the pre-Christian Teutonic peoples, because of its association with love and fertility they considered Friday an especially good day to get married.
However, it seems these pagan practices were not looked on with favor by the “Church”, which went to great lengths to suppress them. Could it be that the church fathers felt that if Friday was a holy day for “heathens”, it must not be so for Christians? And so during the Middle Ages Friday became known as the “Witches’ Sabbath.” And Freja, the goddess of the sixth day, whose sacred animal was the cat, was recast as a witch and her day became associated with evil doings.
Friday’s bad reputation could go all the way back to the Gensis’ Garden of Eden. Supposedly it was on a Friday that Eve became the first temptress when she persuaded Adam to taste the forbidden fruit… which resulted in both being expelled from Paradise.
Biblical tradition also holds that the Great Flood began on a Friday, that God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on a Friday, that the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday and Friday is also said to be the day of the week on which Christ was crucified.
Though in pagan Rome, Friday was execution day (later Hangman’s Day in Britain)… in other pre-Christian cultures it was the Sabbath, a day of worship and to receive the blessings of the gods.
Some superstitions about the number 13
- If 13 people sit down to dinner together, one will die within the year.
- Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue.
- Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor.
- If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names).
Some superstitions about Fridays
- Never change your bed on Friday; it will bring bad dreams.
- Don’t start a trip on Friday or you will have misfortune.
- If you cut your nails on Friday, you cut them for sorrow.
- Ships that set sail on a Friday will have bad luck.
Consider the “tale” of H.M.S. Friday. Over a hundred years ago, the British government sought to quell once and for all the widespread superstition among seamen that setting sail on Fridays was unlucky. A special ship was commissioned, named “H.M.S. Friday.” They laid her keel on a Friday, launched her on a Friday, selected her crew on a Friday and hired a man named Jim Friday to be her captain. To top it off, H.M.S. Friday embarked on her maiden voyage on a Friday. The H.M.S. Friday was never seen or heard from again. If true that is very weird!
As for the “Ides of March”, the word “ides” comes from a Latin word that means “to divide” and marked the halfway point in Roman months. The ides of March is simply the middle of the month of March. But dark clouds began to form around the middle of March in 44 BC, when a soothsayer’s warning “Beware the Ides of March,” forever imbued that date with a sense of foreboding.
According to ancient historians, Suetonius and Plutarch, sometime in March, when Caesar was making sacrifices, a soothsayer or astrologer named Spurinna warned Caesar of danger on a date no later than the Ides of March.
According to Plutarch’s account, written in 75AD, Caesar had decided, wisely, to remain within the safety of his chambers on March 15th. However, Caesar’s “friend” Decimus Brutus managed to convince him that the astrologer’s warnings were nothing more than superstition; so Caesar attended the Senate anyway on that date.
On his way to the Senate, Caesar met up with Spurinna and upon seeing him mocked, ‘”The Ides of March are come”. to which Spurinna replied, “Yes, they are come, but they are not past”. Later that day…on March 15, 44BC…Caesar was assassinated. (Personal thought: Caesar should have heeded the astrologer’s warning!!!)
Likely the superstition and foreboding that surrounds “The Ides of March” lingers on in our modern memory due to the dramatic portrayal of this event in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”.
In act one, scene two, Caesar asks a soothsayer what the future holds.
Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak. Caesar is turn’d to hear.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
True, there are those who toss caution to the wind and never think about the consequences of not taking extra care on these days. To them “Friday the 13th” and “The Ides of March” are days just like any other day… some better than others.
It’s often said that what you fear you draw to you…so perhaps it’s only when you believe in such things, become fearful and overly careful that you suffer. Therefore, my advice for all is to rise above any foreboding about the future, to celebrate Venus the Goddess of love by having fun with your friends and think happy loving thoughts all weekend long.