Friday, May 13, 2005

Phobia of the Day

Okay, admit it. You are not superstitious. But, were you afraid to go to work today? Won't go out to eat in a restaurant today? Definitely won't get married today?

If so, you may just suffere from the dreaded paraskevidekatriaphobia (try saying that three times real fast!) But not to worry, you are not alone. In fact, if you suffer from para-----, you are one of 21 million people in the United States alone (or about 8% of the population). What is it?

The fear of Friday the 13th.

We all joke about it; we all laugh at such 'fears,'; we all pooh-pooh such fears. But for a lot of folks, it can be very, very real.

Why Friday? Why 13?

Some say Friday is a bad day, historically. According to tradition, it was on a Friday that Eve enticed Adam with the apple, and they got driven out of Eden on that same day. Another old tales says that God scrambled languages at Babel on a Friday; a similar tradition tells us that the Great Flood came on Friday. And, of course, there is that Friday Christians call "good" when Jesus went to his death.

Friday was considered such a "bad" day, that for centuries, Christians would not begin travel on that day, or initiate new projects. (Of course, I am sure that the fact that Friday comes from the Norse goddess of love and sex, Freya, has nothing do do with our attitude towards the day!)

13 has been seen as a bad luck number for even longer. Hindu lore says that if 13 people gather for a meal together, all will die within a year. Norse mythology tells of the hero Balder being killed by the evil Loki, who crashes a party of the gods, making a total of 13 in attendance. And again, there were 13 gathere at the table at the Last Supper.

13 also figures into the names of folks who are considered to be the epitomes of evil: Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Theodore Bundy, and others all have 13 letters in their names.

Yet, in other cultures, 13 is considered to be a very lucky number. The Chinese have seen it as one of the most favorable numerals.

For the ancient Egyptians, 13 represented the highest goal for a human being. Believing that life consisted of 12 stages, they viewed the 13th (and final) stage as that of life beyond death, when one would be gloriously transformed into the image they would have for all eternity.

Isn't it interesting how, over the centuries, we have corrupted a belief that symbolized reverence and respect for life beyond what we know now, into an attitude that represents the fear of death?

So, maybe we should break the "spell" of Friday the 13th by going out and having a party, inviting 12 of our best friends to a sumptious meal, meeting someone who has 13 letters in their name for drinks after work, laughing in the face of phobias and fears. Isn't that what trust in the risen Christ is all about . . .

. . .or, are we too superstitious?

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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