It’s Friday the 13th

Nowhere does the coinciding of a day of the week and a day of the month have such ominous overtones as does Friday the 13th. What other day could have given rise to a whole franchise of horror movies? This year, the calendar is blessed – cursed? – with three Friday the 13ths – today, next month and in November. Last year it occurred only once; same for next year. For centuries, the Christian teaching that Friday was Jesus’ crucifixion day saddled the sixth day of the week with a malignance that made people avoid starting anything important – from a journey to a marriage – on Friday. Other cultures and events added to Friday’s stigma. The 1929 stock market collapse that triggered the Great Depression occurred on what became known as Black Friday. Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy were both assassinated on Fridays. Even as far back as the 14th Century, the English writer Geoffrey Chaucer singled it out as a day of “mischance.” Some sources also attribute the bad reputation of Friday – and especially Friday the 13th – to the Oct. 13, 1307, arrest of the Knights Templar – the original military religious order – which resulted in the torture and execution by burning of many of their number. What to fear? Thirteen wasn’t always as maligned as it is nowadays. Ancient Egyptians, some sources say, actually counted it a particularly beneficent number, though the Vikings and later cultures reversed that notion in the West. Northeast Mississippi’s tallest buildings are the 11-story Martin-Stockard residence halls at the University of Mississippi, but some high-rise structures in other areas skip 13 in numbering their floors or give it another name. Memphis’ famed Peabody Hotel labels the floor above the 12th the “Skyway.” Triskaidekaphobia – defined as “the abnormal fear of the number 13” – reaches subtly into other aspects of culture as well. NASCAR.com lists 123 vehicles in three divisions, but not one bears the number 13. Of the NFL’s 32 teams with about 60 players each, only five players wear “13” on their jerseys – including Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, whose team won this year’s NFC championship and nearly upset Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. Not so lucky is the New York Yankees’ “13” – Alex Rodgriguez, the latest baseball star to admit using steroids. While Saturdays surpass all other days for weddings, Fridays are a second favorite. No one would expect today to compete with tomorrow’s opportunity to get married on Valentine’s Day, but calls to several Northeast Mississippi florists failed to find any weddings on tap for either today or March 13. “I’m sure I have done a wedding on Friday the 13th at some time,” said Judy Conner, owner of University Florist in Oxford. “But I sure can’t think of one.” Some people make a point to laugh in the face of superstitions. Dr. Joe Edd Morris, a Tupelo psychologist, is one of those. “There is no rational reason to fear one day above another,” he said. “Because of that, I’ve always decided the 13th day of any given month and especially Friday the 13th are going to be good days for me.” Does Friday the 13th scary you? Just another day? Post in the comments and tell us.

Errol Castens/Daily Journal