Friday the 13th and other superstitions


Even more than the pumpkin spice latte, the harvest moon marks the beginning of fall.

A harvest moon rises about 25 minutes after the sun sets in most of the northern United States, according to NASA. That’s 25 minutes earlier than average, which brings extra light in the evenings, extending harvesting time for farmers.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the harvest moon happens because the moon is positioned at the “most shallow angle” with the eastern horizon. This shortens the period between the time the sun sets and the moon rises.

Tonight’s full moon also happens to fall, no pun intended, on Friday the 13th, which even scares horror master Stephen King.

King wrote about his triskaidekaphobia, the word for fear of the number 13, in a New York Times article in 1984. King should have written about his paraskavedekatriaphobia, the word for fear of Friday the 13th, as he is particularly scared of the superstitious date.

It has been suggested that 13 is an unlucky number because it is one more than a perfect dozen. Many Christians believe Friday is unlucky because it’s the day Jesus was crucified, and 13 signifies the number of guests at the Last Supper, with the infamous Judas being the 13th person seated at the table.

Many hotels skip the 13th floor to avoid frightening guests. On the other hand, the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel offers special zombie, vampire and “Rocky Horror”-themed ceremonies on Friday the 13th.

One place that shrugs off the superstition is The Thirteen Club of New York which was founded in 1882 by Captain William Fowler. Their dinner parties, hosted on Friday the 13th, include 13 members performing unlucky feats such as passing under a ladder. The 13-course meal is eaten by the light of 13 candles as the group tips over salt containers. The small club evolved into a national organization that boasted such members as Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt, according to the New York Historical Society.

In some Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is considered bad luck. Tuesday, or “Martes” in Spanish, is feared because it is the day of the week associated with the Roman god of war, Mars.

Outside the fear of Friday the 13th, many other superstitions haunt our everyday lives. Although the origin is unclear, it’s a common superstition not to open an umbrella indoors because doing so might be an insult to the sun, or to the spirits already protecting you at home.

Another dirty superstition said to be unlucky is placing shoes on a table. Various legends say this will bring a day’s bad luck, but the curse can be undone by putting the shoes on the floor again before putting them on.

If you need to reverse the unlucky act of spilling salt, simply throw a pinch at the devil over your left shoulder, which most likely dates back to when salt was a scarce commodity.

The left side of the body is considered devilish in the folklore of many cultures. Itching or buzzing in the left ear is said to mean you are being badmouthed, or will face bad luck. On the right side, you are being praised or will see good fortune.

The shape of a ladder against a wall makes a triangle, an allusion to the Christian Holy Trinity, and also looks like gallows. Years ago, people thought walking under a ladder was blasphemous, and walking under gallows tempted fate.

Tossing a hat on a bed is believed to be bad luck or even a sign of imminent death. It can most likely be traced back to when people had poor hygiene and the hat might have spread lice to the mattress.

In ancient times, it was thought that mirrors contained the soul of the gazer. From this comes the belief that you will have seven years of bad luck if you break one.

Many believe a bride should not see the groom before reaching the altar because the bride is in a transitional period and is therefore bad luck for others.

On wedding days, black cats are considered a good sign, but as the saying goes “don’t let a black cat cross your path,” because in folklore black cats can be witches in disguise.

Whether you think it’s unlucky or not, cross your fingers and have a great night.

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