This, from a few years back, when I was writing a weekly column for our local paper:
We’re lucky: We have another Friday the 13th this month. If you want to quit some old habit— like quit smoking, say, or quit kicking the dog or quit spitting at your neighbor– and start your life fresh, Friday the 13th’s a good day to do it. I’ll explain why in a minute.
First, I confess to some bias. I was born on the 13th, and I turned 13 years old on Friday the 13th. For that, I had my picture in the paper, sitting under a ladder, holding a black cat. (“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts…”) Friday the 13th and I go way back.
The number 13 has had some bad press. Because of my personal connection, I’ve had opportunity to research the facts. In the “forbidden science” of numerology, the picture symbol for 13 is a skeleton in a cape, riding a horse across a field, swinging a scythe, lopping off heads, which can be seen rolling around in the pasture. Not an image, granted, to which it is easy to apply a benign spin.
The bad luck associated with the number 13 apparently began with a few early, superstitious Christians. They assumed that since 13 were at the Last Supper, 13 must be an unlucky number. But obviously, the supper itself was not unlucky. Indeed, it is one of the most memorable occasions in all history, still providing nourishment and strength to hundreds of millions of people, here 2000 years later/ Surely, that’s not a matter of luck.
Of course, one of the thirteen attending the supper turned out to be fickle. Judas finked, brought in the goon squad, and the rest is history. This is why some have suggested that, at least for Jesus himself the number 13 was unlucky. But if you have even the slightest sense that there is Order in the Cosmos, you’d have to admit that the life of Jesus was not one unfolded by happenstance or the vicissitudes of luck. Seems like something else was happening there. That dinner date wasn’t just an unlucky accident. In fact, one might reasonably argue that the whole event, even for Jesus, was quite fortuitous, providing an enduring demonstration of life victorious over death. That’s not bad, not unlucky.
What the skeleton lopping off heads– the number 13– actually represents is the death of old ways of thinking, making way for new beginnings. The old man must be put off, in order that the new may arise.
So where does the Friday part come in? Friday is supposed to “magnify” the bad luck of 13. How did that silliness begin?
Again, some superstitious Christians assumed that Friday was unlucky because it was the day that Jesus died on the cross, the “ending” of something good. So you put the “last supper” number 13 with the “last day” of Jesus’ enfleshment and you end up with Friday the 13th, double whammy, double bad luck. That’s how the whole thing started.
But the word “Friday” comes from friegedaeg, which means Frigg’s day. Frigg was the wife of Din in Norse mythology and she was, like Venus, considered to be the goddess of Love. Love, especially divine love, is never bad luck.
So we come to the real opportunity of Friday the 13th: It’s a day for putting off the old man, putting an end to the old ways of thinking — whoop, chop, there goes his head– and beginning a new life, with a resurrection of love. That’s not bad. That’s pretty lucky.
So this week you can say, T.G.I.F. the 13th.
(Me, of course, I’m staying in bed.)