As I walked to the train station on Friday 13th April my mind dwelt on the origins of the superstitions surrounding that date. According to Wikipeidia (admittedly not always an accurate work of reference) folklorists can find no written evidence of a superstition connected with Friday 13th prior to the 19th century. Before researching the superstitions regarding Friday 13th I had no idea that a specific term exists to denote fear of the date. Wikipeidia has the following to say on the matter
“The fear of Friday the 13th has been called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen”), (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th#Phobia_names_and_etymology).
In 2008 the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics produced research showing that in the Netherlands the rate of accidents including reports of fires was lower on Friday 13th which could be due to people taking extra care on Friday 13th than on any other date owing to the superstitions surrounding the perceived bad reputation of the date (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th#Rate_of_accidents). This is not an observation based on anything other than my own personal hunch, but I do wonder whether certain individuals may be more predisposed to accidents on Friday 13th due to them being anxious about what might happen and, as a consequence not paying attention to their surroundings resulting in an accident.
As regards the number 13 more generally, this has long been considered to be unlucky. There are 13 witches in a coven (remember to count them the next time you happpen to be strolling about on a blasted heath at midnight)! Despite the number of witches composing a Coven usually being 13, in Macbeth there are, of course only 3 witches hence
“when shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightening or in rain …”.
Moving on to a consideration of superstitions more generally, as a child I remember an aunt (now sadly deceased) reciting the following rhyme
“A whistling woman, a crowing hen frightens the devil out of his den”.
According to answers.com there are 3 common variants of the above proverb, including “A whistling woman and a crowing hen, Is neither fit for God nor men”, however none of these proverbs are rendered precisely as my aunt used to recite the above rhyme (see http://www.answers.com/topic/a-whistling-woman-and-a-crowing-hen-are-neither-fit-for-god-nor-men).
I have no idea why a whistling woman should be frowned upon. Perhaps the origins of the proverb can be traced back to a time when it was considered unladylike for ladies to whistle hence them doing so would frighten the devil (or the “old lad” as another variant of the rhyme has it) “out of his den”.
Am I supersticious? Well I say “touch wood” which is traditionally supposed to ward off bad luck. At the logical level I no that it will do no such thing, however saying it is engrained in my make-up and it is, after all wholly harmless to invoke such superstitions.
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