Step on a crack, break your mother's back ... are you superstitious? Today, Friday the 13th, is often known as a day for misfortune, so if you are, now seems like a good time to explore a few Friday the 13th superstitions (and also maybe brush up on some strategies for escaping ski-mask-clad slow walker Jason Voorhees). In 2017, Friday the 13th happens twice, with the next one being in October — just in time for Halloween. And while some brush off the notion that the number 13 is bad luck, there is enough evidence in our culture to prove that many people take it very seriously.
Many multi-level buildings, for example, do not have a 13th floor. My old apartment building, which numbered apartments one through 15 on each floor, skipped the number 13 altogether and went straight from from 12 to 14. But while there is no real evidence that today is any more unlucky than any other day, if you do have a bad day today (for whatever reason) you can arm yourself with information about five Friday the 13th superstitions to dazzle your friends with over drinks tonight, because it is still Friday after all, and the moon is almost full.
1. Lonely 13, The Unluckiest Number
Peter Hewitt from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic (yes, this is a real thing in England) said on Cornwall Live that the number 13 is considered unlucky in Western cultures because it is associated with disorder and chaos. This association goes back to biblical times when Judas, the 13th disciple, betrayed Jesus.
"The number 12, on the other hand, has been traditionally used to order religious ideas such as the 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Labors of Hercules and historical time such as months and signs of the Zodiac," says Hewitt. As such, 12 feels solid and sure, while 13 feels off-kilter and somehow "wrong."
Hewitt goes on to explain that the most famous "13" most likely belongs to the number of witches in a particular coven; in 1662, the Scottish witch Isobel Gowdie apparently said that she practiced magic in a group of 13 witches who were reported to have made a pact with the Devil.
2. Don't Let A Black Cat Cross Your Path
Thanks to this superstition, black cats have a bad reputation and often get overlooked in shelters. (I'd like to take this moment to note that I have a black cat, and he has never stolen my breath in my sleep.) Once the most worshipped creatures in the animal kingdom thanks to the Egyptians, cats' popularity began to decline in the Middle Ages, according to Today I Found Out, because people started to associate them with witches. As a a massive and irrational fear of witchcraft washed over Europe at a feverish pace, the stray cats that were often tended to by old women were deemed guilty by association. Why? Because single, elderly women were accused not only of witchcraft, but also of being able to actually transform themselves into black cats.
Legend has it that a father and son were walking one moonless night when a black cat crossed their path and dove into a crawl space. Terrified, the pair defended themselves against the tiny creature's evil spell by throwing rocks at it until the cat scurried out into a woman’s house — who, at the time, was suspected of being a witch.
According to the story, the father and son came across the same woman the next day and noticed she was limping and bruised. They believed her injuries were more than just a coincidence, and from that day o,n it was thought that witches could turn into black cats at night.
3. Have a Date Tonight? You May Want to Rethink That
Dating on Friday the 13th is risky business. I mean, dating can already be wrought with anxiety, but add in all of the things you're not supposed to do on this dreaded day, and, well... those who buy into superstitions might want to stay in tonight for a slasher movie marathon instead of looking for love.
According to Seeker.com, a superstition rooted in England stated that any courtship that begins on Friday the 13th was doomed. Additionally, if people saw a young couple out cavorting on this day, it was considered their duty to harass them by beating pots and pans until the shamed duo agreed to delay their activities until the following day. This behavior was part of a larger cultural more called chivaree, which was basically embarrassing people into complying with societal norms.
4. If Your Chickens Can No Longer Lay Eggs, You Could Be To Blame
Now, I know that these days, many of us aren't keeping chickens, but if you head to the grocery store or your favorite brunch spot tomorrow and they are out of eggs, it might be because someone burned eggshells. According to Seeker.com, folklore states that burning eggshells in any manner (for example, by tossing them into a campfire) could burn the nether regions of the hen who laid the eggs, rendering her incapable of laying anymore.
5. Better To Risk Getting Wet Than Opening An Umbrella Indoors
Now, I know that opening your umbrella before you step outside makes sense; however, what's a few strands of wet hair compared to the alternative? In the 18th century when umbrellas were still a new concept, deploying them inside could cause serious injury, according to How Stuff Works.
The first umbrellas were unwieldy and often sprung open with such force that if someone were standing nearby, they risked losing an eye. Going even further back, Ancient Egyptians used parasols (much like we do in Los Angeles) to protect their skin from the sun. These early umbrellas were made out of papyrus and peacock feathers and were only to be used by nobility, because who cares if everyone else gets sun poisoning, right? If a commoner dared to use a parasol, they risked being cursed with bad luck for life.
Whether or not you actually buy into any of these superstitions, it can't hurt to exercise a little extra caution today. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?