Today is, of course, Friday, January 13. There are any number of triskaidekaphobiacs – persons who fear the number 13 and everything associated with it – who’ll leave their homes today in a state of fear and trembling...some only under duress. It’s one of the most common superstitions, with a history that trails off into the shadows of time. No one really knows how it started. As far as I know, no one has produced a “12 step program” by which to combat it. (It probably wouldn’t be popular in any case. The first thing a potential enrollee would say is “But my next step after that would be number 13!”)
Equally obscure is the special superstition attached to Friday the 13th. All I’m certain of is that it didn’t originate with the movie. As every calendar year will contain at least one Friday the 13th, there will be at least one day each year on which the hard core triskaidekaphobiacs will endure an agony of apprehension.
But as has often been observed, given any proposition there will always be more than one side. The C.S.O., for example, is a triskaidekaphiliac: one who celebrates the number 13 and Fridays the 13th in particular. Today is a big day for her and others who share this affinity. There will be party hats and hooters at the Fortress of Crankitude this evening, and very likely an especially festive pizza for our repast. (But please, dear, don’t order it with multicolored sprinkles again. They just don’t go with pepperoni and anchovies.)
The number 13 was pretty big with some of the earliest Americans. Consider, for example, the Great Seal of the United States:
Note all the following:
- There are 13 stars in the ring at top center.
- There are 13 letters in the phrase E Pluribus Unum (“Out of many, one”).
- There are 13 stripes on the eagle’s shield.
- There are 13 leaves and 13 berries on the branch in the eagle’s claw.
- There are 13 arrows in the eagle’s other claw.
Yeah, yeah, the 13 colonies became the first 13 states, so 13 figured pretty big at the time of the Founding. Still, the flag has been updated every time we’ve added a state; why has the Great Seal been left untouched? I doubt it has anything to do with reverence for our history; in what other regard has our political class ever shown itself to respect that?
If you need a few more reflections on 13 and the ominous reputation it’s borne, here are a few places to go for them:
- 13 Reasons People Think 13 Is Unlucky
- Hotels and their “missing” 13th floors
- The 13th of the Norse gods was Loki the Trickster.
- The Knights Templar were arrested en masse on October 13, 1307. That worked out rather badly, both for the Knights and for Philip IV of France, who did it so he could confiscate their wealth and properties.
- Our 13th president was Millard Fillmore. Fillmore became president upon the death in office of Zachary Taylor, and had the shortest presidency of any man who did not die in office. Fillmore’s sole achievements were to be the last President from the Whig Party and to have his name attached to two concert venues.
Enjoy your Friday the 13th...and be careful to avoid tottery mirrors, black cats, and ladders, of course!