I don’t suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th) or triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13). I’m comfortable walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella indoors, and using the number 666. I don't care if a black cat crosses my path. Spilled salt and broken mirrors only bother me because of the mess they produce.
As the brilliant Stevie Wonder sings:
When you believe in things
you don’t understand,
then you suffer.
Superstition ain’t the way.
It boggles my mind that multilevel buildings still mark their thirteenth floor as “14” or “M” (the thirteenth letter of the alphabet). Ships, I’ve heard, will also avoid naming the thirteenth deck by its proper name.
That isn’t to say I don’t have fears and worries--I have PLENTY of those. But I don’t believe that numbers and mundane activities have any effect on the trajectory of events. And for that, I am grateful.
But I understand that even we so-called rationalists are susceptible to superstitious impulses. For example, I’ve been intrigued for years by Bruce Hood’s serial killer’s sweater test and wonder how it would make me feel. (Would you wear a dry-cleaned sweater that had belonged to a serial killer?)
If you suffer from superstition, consider all the superstitions you *don’t* believe in and ask yourself why one superstition could possibly be more “real” than another.
- In Italy, the number 13 is lucky, but the number 17 is unlucky.
- In China, the number 4 is seen as unlucky because its pronunciation is similar to the word for death. Many buildings in China skip the fourth floor.
- In Japan, the number 4 is also seen as unlucky for the same reason, while the number 9 is taboo because it sounds similar to the Japanese word for torture or suffering.
- In some parts of Afghanistan, the number 39 is seen as cursed or shameful because of its association with pimping and prostitution.
And those are just a few number-centric superstitions. There are sooo many other kinds. In Turkey, you’re not supposed to chew gum after dark. In Lithuania, you shouldn’t whistle indoors. In India, you oughtn’t give or get a haircut on a Tuesday. And in the US, people knock on wood, pick up pennies, and break wishbones—all in the hopes of coaxing luck to their side and feeling like they have some control over this chaotic series of events we call life.
Whether you believe in superstitions or not, I do hope you’ll have a happy Friday the 13th, and that it will be, for whatever reason, filled with good fortune.