As today is Friday the 13th, and just the second Friday of the year, I decided to write about it. I don’t personally remember this date happening in January, but in 2017 it did.
It drew my attention because I have been studying from the stoics _ this week to focus only on the things I can control. I have also started meditating on what it means to become. One of the difficulties of becoming is that we attach our lives to many meanings outside our immediate control area. And, of course, you cannot control a day of the week, superstitions, and other traditions.
The fear of the number 13 goes back millennia. First, it comes after a much-blessed number: 12, the number of government, of completeness, 12 months and zodiac signs, gods of Olympus, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles, etc… In western traditions, 13 follows the significant and respected 12, the fear of the number 13 has even been awarded a psychological terminology: triskaidekaphobia.
Donald Dossey, the author of “Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun”, tells us of a Norse myth about a dinner party for 12 gods at which a 13th guest, Loki, the trickster god, showed up uninvited and killed Balder, the god of light, wisdom, joy and happiness. The ancient Code of Hammurabi reportedly omitted a 13th law from its legal rules; nobody can prove it was on purpose, yet another nail in the number 13’s coffin.
In Christian tradition, there were 13 sitting at the last supper, and on Friday, Jesus got crucified; that has started an old Christian superstition that having 13 people seated at a table is a terrible omen. There are many other traditions (yet not proven), such as the day Eve gave Adam the forbidden fruit (not an apple, that’s for sure) and Cain killed his brother Abel.
When and why did Friday the 13th start to be feared?
Terrible things are supposed to have happened on this day; one that is closest to its meaning is related to the Order of the Templars Knight, which by order of King Philip IV of France, whose coffers had been emptied from his longstanding war with England (in alliance with Pope Clement V) ordered all Templars to be arrested and thrown in prison and the seizing of all their properties, titles and wealth in France. The Knights were accused of numerous crimes, including heresy and treason. The legend of Jacques DeMolay, the last Grandmaster of the Order, cursing both Philip IV and Pope Clement V as he died, still lives to this day. Incredibly, Philip and Clement died within months of DeMolay’s death.
Many bad events occurred on Friday the 13th, including the German bombing of Buckingham Palace (Sep. 1940); the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane in the Andes (Oct. 1972); the death of rapper Tupac Shakur (Sep. 1996) and the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy, which killed 30 people (January 2012). However, bad events happen every single day.
Most people in western countries attributed it as an inauspicious day, yet until the late 1800s, no one would think of Fridays the 13th with a particularly negative connotation. Credit for popularizing the Friday the 13th myth is often attributed to Capt and William Fowler starting a society called the Thirteen Club. According to a blog by the New York Historical Society, puts the initial meeting on a Friday, the 13th — Jan. 13, 1882, at 8:13 p.m., in room 13 of Fowler’s Knickerbocker Cottage.
This day gave us two terms— “paraskavedekatriaphobia” and “friggatriskaidekaphobia” to describe the fear of this supposedly unlucky day.
In Hebrew, the number 13 is associated with the word LOVE. According to the gematria (Jewish numerology), the word AHAVAH (אהבה) adds up to 13. I don’t know about you, but despite all the hype around being a bad luck day, I would instead hold on to LOVE. After all, the perfect love, as told us by John (the apostle of love), drives out all fear.
The Stoics embrace an essential truth, the “Amor Fati”, or love of fate. One does not need to fear the day but welcome it as it is and love what happens. In that sense, there is no point in worrying about anything, including Friday the 13th.
“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.”Marcus Aurelius
What occupies our mind are the only things we can control completely, our actions and deeds. We cannot hold the events of the day. For that, there is no difference if that is a 13th or 21st, a Friday or Monday; all days are alike; we are the ones who give meaning to our existence by genuinely becoming who we are supposed to be, virtuous, wise, discipline and courageous, the four cornerstones of stoicism. Below Epictetus is clear that our divine ability is to make a choice and use our reasoning faculties to judge and decide. The day will take care of itself; I, therefore, remain unshakable in my resolve and actions.
“Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night— there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession…”Epictetus, discourses, 4.4.39
We aim to embrace love as the highest gift and to cast out all fear, Amor Fati.