For those who think the fault is indeed in our stars, this is the season to be afraid — very afraid.
No, this is not about the movie made from John Green’s young adult novel, but about the underlying theme that there are forces beyond human control, whether in the heavens or in past human foibles, that can make the daily life of even good people a misery. For those believers, Friday is a double whammy. It's Friday the 13th, a bad day and dreaded number in several cultures. And it also a full moon, which has the power to turn people into lunatics, though werewolves seem to relish a bath in it.
If you believe, then stay home under the covers and play Words With Friends. You might start the obvious words of the day: Friggatriskaidekaphobia, fear of Friday the 13th, from the Norse goddess, Frigga wife of top god, Odin. Or, you can try paraskevidekatriaphobia, which means the same thing but derives from Greek roots. Or, you can just stick with plain old triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13.
If you can place any of those words, your friends will probably stop playing with you, proving your fears weren’t just paranoia — or paranormal.
With so many ways to express the fear of Friday the 13th, (including horror movies, books and even, social media like Twitter where such phrases can trend) could there be some truth involved? The scientific evidence is very sketchy.
Dr. Atul Gawande, the surgeon and widely praised writer, noted in 1998 that other surgeons avoided signing up for procedures on Friday the 13th. At least one scientific study noted that hospital admissions from traffic accidents were 52% higher on Friday the 13th than on Friday the 6th, for example. But the study is very narrow and hard to use as a template. Some high-rise developers refuse to call the 13th floor by its rightful numeral, striking the number from the directory.
The basic fear of 13 is exemplified, of course, by the Christian universe where the traitorous Judas was decried as the 13th, and unwanted, guest at the Last Supper. But there are examples in classical and Norse mythology as well, making the fear broader than its roots.
As for the moon, it is not just the word "lunatic" that derives from the celestial orb. Its light, used to politically deride more than one candidate as Capt. Moonbeam and more than one unsuccessful suitor for chasing moonbeams, is reputedly deadly.
Still, there is some good news for the superstitious. Friday will the only Friday the 13th in 2014. But the worse is yet to come in 2015 when three of the allegedly deadly days are scheduled.
As for the full moon coinciding with bad luck day? It won’t come back until 2049, long enough to develop a cure.
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