13.05.2005 | 09:20

Friday the 13th

Looks like Friday the 13th is not an unlucky day for Huuko as she seems to be winning the guest starring blog cat contest. It's 4 votes for Huuko and 2 for Takku at the moment. (If you know any Finnish you may notice that Huuko is a man's name and I just said "she". That's because we thought she was male and later found out that she was female. There were no kittens, however.)

So, here's a quick re-run of the picture of Huuko and the ugly scarves:

I took the scarves home and thought that my mother and sister (both of them knit occasionally) can either rip the scarves and re-use the yarn or give the scarves to Huuko. The cat has been very fond of the blankets my sister knitted for her from leftover yarns, so I thought she might appreciate new scarves/blankets - and she did.

But why is Friday the 13th said to be an unlucky day? There's even a word for for people who suffer from the date: paraskevidekatriaphobia means a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th. Triskaidekaphobia is just the fear of the number 13.

Let's start with the number 13 and why it's considered to be an unlucky number. One theory is quite simple: people have 10 fingers and 2 legs, so in the old days they were able to count only to 12. 13 was the next, incomprehensible, strange number. (I wonder why didn't anyone tell those people to use toes for counting as well? Is it because they wore handknitted socks and did not want to take them off?)

For the ancient Egyptians the number 13 symbolised death. To them it was the next stage of life, afterlife, a life beyond the 12 stages of life on Earth. In other cultures the association to death remained, but changed to fear of death instead of waiting for the afterlife.

13 people together are also considered to be bad luck: the Viking god Loki the Mischief (hey, why am I starting to sound like my husband?) crashed a party making the total number of guests 13. At the party he started a fight and killed a favourite of the other gods, Balder the Good, making the whole Valhalla grief. (Loki was imprisoned, but escaped and his bitterness finally caused Ragnarök, the end of the world, but that's another story.)

There were also 13 people gathered together at the Last Supper, which brings us to Friday as the crucifixion took place on Friday. That's not all: it's said that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on Froiday, and that it was Friday when the Great Flood began, when God tongue-tied the people who built the Tower of Babel, and when the Temple of Solomon was destroyed. Phew!

But why is Friday so bad? The church took great measures to suppress the pagan traditions which included worship on the sixth day of the week (yes, Friday was the sixth day then) and, of course, a pagan holy day cannot be a Christian holy day. However, the associations remained and changed like the Egyptian associations to number 13.

By the way, the name of Friday (fredag in Swedish) comes from the Norse gods of fertility, Freya and Frigg (Freya's sacred animal is the cat, and, to throw in some more trivia, some people call the fear of Friday the 13th friggatriskaidekaphobia). So, the sixth day was Freya's day and related to fertility in other cultures as well, for example, the Teutonic people believed that Friday was a good day to get married. In ancient Rome Friday was also dedicated to the goddess of love, Venus (their equivalent of Freya), but it was also the day people who were condemned to death were executed...

Talking about Freya, a legend tells that it was a dark and stormy night... or a night at least, when Freya came down from the mountains, joined 12 witches celebrating the sabbath and gave them one of her cats. That made - surprise surprise - 13 of them! (Actually that's 14, if you count the cat, didn't anyone count the cat?)

Now you do the math: take an unlucky number and an unlucky day and tadah! You get Friday the 13th.

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