Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.
In this issue
- This week:paraskevidekatriaphobia
- Write for British Expat
- Virtual Snacks
- Bizarre Searches
- Quotation and joke
Mostly we send the British Expat Newsletter weekly but sometimes we miss a week or two for various reasons. You could say that we started off sending weekly but ended up doing it weakly. Never mind, we only send it when we have something to say, so here goes…
Several topics on the British Expat Forum this week were related to superstition. Alan wondered if he was in for seven years’ bad luck after breaking a mirror while renovating his bathroom. He then had a lucky escape from a swarm of bald-faced hornets – worse than “killer bees” apparently. And then the “things always happen in threes” subject came up again. We’re sure that all BE readers are intelligent, well-educated people; even so, superstitions still creep in sometimes, don’t they?
Anyway, all this talk of superstition reminded us that there’s been a Friday the thirteenth in the month since we last wrote…
The next Friday the 13th is in June 2008. This 11-month gap is unusually long, though not quite the longest possible, which is 14 months. There’s an average of 1.72 Friday the 13ths in any given calendar year. These calculations are based on the 400-year cycle of the Gregorian calendar in general international use today. Given the Christian origins of that particular calendar, it’s quite ironic (or quite typical, if you’re a superstitious pessimist) that the chances of the thirteenth day of the month being a Friday are ever so slightly greater than for any other day of the week.
Like many superstitions, fear of the number 13 (triskaidekaphobia) – and its more specific variant, fear of Friday the 13th (paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia) – appears to have its roots in religion, in this case Christianity. (Apparently 13 is considered a lucky number in Jewish tradition – it stands above 12, ie the Twelve Tribes, so is associated with God.) The most common explanation is that there were thirteen at the Last Supper (including Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus) and that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. But there are other theories. One, popularised recently in The Da Vinci Code, is that it dates back to the arrest and massacre of the Knights Templar across Europe on Friday 13 October 1307.
Another is that early Christian missionaries in Northern Europe wanted to discredit the Norse goddess Freyja, with whom the number 13 and Friday were particularly associated. Certainly the superstition against Friday the 13th seems to be stronger in Northern Europe than in the South. In Spain, Greece and Latin America, it’s Tuesday the 13th that’s considered unlucky; in Italy it’s Friday the 17th.
But the fact is that there don’t appear to be any documented references to Friday the 13th as an unlucky date before the 20th century – the association between the unlucky day and the unlucky number simply wasn’t made. So it seems to be a relatively modern superstition. I suppose it’s possible that people who were educated enough to read in earlier times could simply have dismissed it as a belief held by the ignorant and unworthy of recording, but that seems unlikely.
Modern it may be, but it seems to have taken strong root. Daft though it may seem, some years ago we were due to leave our posting in India on a Friday the 13th but I didn’t want to start our new life on that date so we booked our flight for Saturday the 14th instead. As I said earlier, superstitions still creep in sometimes…
Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?
Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:
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Till next time…
Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine
“We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, US poet (1809-94)
Little Johnny’s parents were very concerned about how he was doing at school. His reports said that his study habits were poor, that he wouldn’t concentrate, and that he had zero initiative as far as homework was concerned, so, even though they were atheists themselves, they decided to send him to a Catholic school.
They noticed an immediate improvement in his overall school performance, especially in maths. Every day he would come home from school and promptly head upstairs and begin doing his sums. Amazed, his parents asked him what it was that motivated him to study so hard.
“Is it that the nuns are so strict about you getting your homework done?” they asked.
“No,” said Little Johnny.
“Is it that you find the subjects they’re teaching you challenging?”
“No,” replied Little Johnny.
“So what is it that’s made you so keen to learn ever since you started at this new school?” they queried.
“Well,” said Little Johnny, “on my first day at Our Lady of Perpetual Motion, I was sitting in class, looking around and not paying much attention. Then I looked up and saw this naked bloke nailed to a plus sign, and I reckoned they must mean business!”