November 13, 2020

Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition.  The 13th day lands on a Friday at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year.  This year (2020) had two Friday the 13ths.  Friday the 13th occurs in any month that begins on a Sunday.  The irrational fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: “triskaidekaphobia.”  An analogy to this fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (meaning “thirteen”).  I came across three theories for why this day is considered unlucky.

Two of these theories concern a meal.  Historian Donald Dossey says the unlucky nature of the number “13” originated with a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party in Valhalla. The trickster god Loki, who was not invited, arrived as the 13th guest, and arranged for Höðr to shoot Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.  “Balder died, and the whole Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned. It was a bad, unlucky day.”  Another theory is the superstition may have also risen in the Middle Ages, based on the story of the Last Supper and Crucifixion.”  This has 13 individuals (Jesus and the 12 disciples) present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan, the night before his death on Good Friday.

A third theory concerns the Knights Templar.  Founded around 1118 as a monastic military order devoted to the protection of pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land following the Christian capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade, the Knights Templar quickly became one of the richest and most influential groups of the Middle Ages.  By the turn of the 14th century, the Templars had established a system of castles, churches, and banks throughout Western Europe.  This astonishing wealth led to their downfall.  It began in the early morning hours of Friday, October 13, 1307.  A month earlier, secret documents had been sent by couriers throughout France by King Philip IV.  These included lurid details and innuendos of black magic and scandalous sexual rituals.  In the weeks that followed, more than 600 Templars were arrested, along with hundreds of men who managed the day-to-day banking and farming activities that kept the organization moving.  The Templars were destroyed by the greed of the French monarch.

Thoughts:  It was fitting to find a present-day article on greed posted in today’s paper.  This concerned a pork plant.  As the virus spread through the plant, officials decided to test workers but sent them back on the line while they waited for results.  Weeks later nearly 500 workers tested positive.  Meat Packing plants were declared “essential services” by executive order a week later.  The virus continued to spread throughout the meat packing industry, becoming a major source of transmission, and resulting in thousands of deaths.  Greed still seems to have the same results for workers.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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