Friday the 13th, black cats and bad luck: should we care about them?

Will you avoid walking under ladders, especially ones with black cats on them? pic: karindalziel (Flickr)

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday 13th, and you are in for a tough year if you suffer from it. After two years in which Friday landed only once on the 13th day of the month, this year there will be three separate days when you will have to phone in sick and hide under the duvet. Tomorrow is the first and the other two are in April and July.

The number 13 has been seen as an ‘unlucky’ since biblical times, when Jesus’ last supper led to a belief that a dinner of 13 people would lead to the death of one of the diners.  And the number 12 historically represents balance – which is why it is used to measure the hours of the day and months of the year. Superstition has it that the number 13 upsets this balance.

The first allusion to Friday bringing bad luck came in Chaucer’s Canterbury tales, but ‘Black Friday’ has been used to refer to economic crises since the 17th century.

The superstition around the number is such that hotels have often been known to go straight from 12 to 14 when numbering their rooms. We checked out some local hotels and found that neither the Hoxton hotel nor the Avo Hotel in Dalston have a room numbered ‘13’. However, they have assured us that this is down to technicalities only; the former numbers all of its rooms with three digits, and the latter has only seven rooms in total.

Louise, a clairvoyant from East London psychic agency Light Messengers, told EastLondonLines that the problem lies in our heads: “I do not believe in superstition as it is purely based on fear. If someone believes in so called ‘bad luck’ then it is highly possible that this is what they will attract. Superstitions are just another form of control.”

Her hunch was born out by research from Hertfordshire University in 2003, which found  that those who believe that they are destined for bad luck may actually bring misfortune upon themselves through the related feelings of anxiety.

Conversely, one East London business is actually capitalising on the supposed bad luck that Friday 13th brings. Hackney-based tattoo studio, Metal Morphosis, are offering customers at their Selfridges branch the popular number ‘13’ tattoo design for just £13 on the day.

David Potasnick, of Metal Morphosis, explained that “the number 13 tattoo has become one of the standard tattoos that a number of people will get. It may be to show they’re not afraid of the number – or because they are!

“This number crops up in a vast number of ways though out popular culture and so like many other symbols the skull, cross and star to name a few have also become part of the standard set of tattoos some people might have.

“We are offering this mainly as a bit of fun; inviting people to ‘come and get your 13 tattoo for £13 on Friday the 13th’ makes the whole thing stand out a little more.”

So there will be crossing on the stairs aplenty, no black cat will go on its way uninterrupted and ladders will be passed under with wild abandon this Friday in East London.


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