Friday, October 13, 2017

Quick. Throw Salt. (But be careful of the person behind you.)

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Have you been apprehensive all week? Feared the coming of today like you feared the unavoidable ladder on the sidewalk? Like you feared the knowledge that you inadvertently picked up a penny that was tails up?

Yes, it's Friday the 13th.

According to  Wikipedia (I mean, where else would you look?) the fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: "triskaidekaphobia"; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning "Friday"), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning "thirteen").

Sure.

The superstition surrounding this day (so it says)  may have arisen in the Middle Ages, "originating from the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion" in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.

But Friday the 13th is a new thing. Ish. Wiki says: While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

It is possible (just so you know, according to Wiki)  that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth contributed to disseminating the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

Did you know this? In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th (Martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck. Not Friday.

In Italian popular culture, Friday the 17th (and not the 13th) is considered a day of bad luck. (Has anyone heard of that? My birthday is on a 17th. I was always happy about that.)

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. "It's been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day".

Reds, do you take extra precautions?

HALLIE EPHRON: I went into labor on Labor Day, but no, I usually pay no attention to when Friday's gong to fall on the 13th. What would I do? Stay home? That's no good because according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (there is one), more fatal accidents happen at home than anywhere else. Somewhere else it says car accidents kill more. So what does that leave you? Air travel is probably safer.

LUCY BURDETTE: The truth is, I like Friday the 13th. I choose to consider it lucky, same as I consider black cats crossing my path to be lucky. I do not, however, walk under ladders or spill salt without tossing a little over my shoulder!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I don't usually even notice when it's Friday the 13th. I don't think I'm superstitious about any of the traditional things, although when I was a child I was totally convinced that if I stepped on a crack in the sidewalk it would break my mother's back. Fortunately, my mom lived a good long life with back intact! Where did such a silly saying come from?

HANK: I looked it up! That the cracks on the ground lead directly to the underworld and if you step on one, it lets out demons. That's the post politically acceptable reason, at least. 

JENN McKINLAY: I'm with Lucy on the salt and Debs on the cracks in the sidewalk. Weird stuff. Also, I don't open my umbrella inside but that just seems more practical than superstitious. I have no issues with ladders, black cats (I have two) or with Friday the 13th, but I do knock on wood to keep the good luck from turning bad. Ridiculous, I know! 

HANK: Well, according to someplace, knocking on wood is a version of the ruckus that pagan Europeans raised to chase away evil spirits from their homes and trees or to prevent them from hearing about, and ruining, a person's good luck. See? Can't hurt.

RHYS BOWEN: I'm not particularly superstitious, and also wouldn't notice Friday 13th unless someone mentioned it. I do mutter "Rabbits" when I wake up on the first of the month, courtesy of my great aunt who was into every superstition known to man: salt, ladders, black cats, if you drop a spoon it's a disappointment, etc etc. And Jenn, I have been known to knock on wood too.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I always say I'm not superstitious, and I'm not... but I do knock wood, toss a pinch of salt if I spill it, and pick up pennies for luck (extra lucky if it's your birth year!) Whenever I spot ravens or crows, I sing the counting song to myself to see what fortune the birds foretell: One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never told.

Sometimes I think it's less about believing in fate and more about keeping alive folk traditions in a world that is happy to throw away old ways and words with both hands. 

I know that Friday the 13th is unlucky this year, I'm not spending it at Bouchercon!

INGRID THOFT: I’m wracking my brain, but I can’t think of one superstition that I abide by.  I walk under ladders, on cracks in the pavement, and don’t worry about breaking mirrors except for the cleanup.  I’d never even heard of the heads-up penny, Hank!  I had an Italian roommate my first year of college, and my goodness, the superstitions.  Salt over the shoulder, cross yourself when you hear an ambulance, don’t touch houseplants during that time of the month.  It was a wonder she got any school work done, she was so busy warding off evil spirits.  I did recently notice that my high rise doesn’t have a 13th floor, except of course, it does.  That one must be universal if even building developers accommodate it!

HANK:  I always think that's hilarious, Ingrid. Oooh, just don't call it that, and it doesn't exist. Brilliant. 

And just so you can be prepared: There will be two Friday the 13ths per year until 2020, where 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence. Crossing fingers. 

 Reds and readers, are you superstitious? Or about anything? (I won't put shoes on the table. But I can never remember if it's no shoes on the table, or no  hat on the table. Or no shoes on the BED or no hat on the bed. Safest not to do any other them. And cleaner, too.

How about it, Reds and readers?




Copyright: olivier26 / 123RF Stock Photo

54 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I remember jumping over the cracks in the sidewalk when I was a kid, but I don’t pay much attention to that any more. However, I do cringe over broken mirrors and I don’t open umbrellas in the house. But I don’t pay any attention to Friday the thirteenth and I like black cats just fine.

    I have the knock on wood and the salt over the shoulder down pat, but I don’t walk under ladders because it seems to me to be unnecessarily careless.

    As for the pennies, I always pick them up . . . . When we were children, we were told that coins lost on the ground were angel kisses. If you picked up the coin and it was heads up, it was yours to keep, a small present sent to you by your guardian angel. But if it was heads down, you had to give it away because your angel had entrusted you to share the kiss with someone who needed it at that moment. I always check and always give the upside down ones away . . . .

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  3. Lucy, you're my twin on this one. I am quite fond of Friday the 13th. My father was born on a Friday the 13th, and I've always considered it lucky. I might go out to eat to celebrate tomorrow, er today. And, black cats? I decided some time ago that since I seem to be a magnet for them, I might as well start considering them good luck, too. But, spilled salt has me grabbing some quickly and tossing it over my shoulder. My horrid children think it's funny to spill some on purpose to watch me panic. And, no walking under ladders either, thank you. I think the superstition that I'm most insane about is a bird getting in the house is a portent of death.

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  4. This is so cool! I love finding out about new superstitions, although I am not particularly superstitious myself. I always pick up pennies, but didn't know the thing about heads up or heads down. I've never heard about counting crows, but I love it. I'm totally cool with black cats--I've had four over the years--and Friday the 13th because, hey, Friday! I do nod in passing to some of the theatrical superstitions, like wishing bad luck to get the reverse ("Break a leg!") and I will admit that I knock wood any time the words, "This should be easy," or "This is going well," cross my lips before a show is over because the wheels still have time to come off.

    Did you know that there are lots of superstitions about quilts? The block patterns all have names so, for instance, you should never give your lover a quilt that uses the Wandering Foot block for fear he will run off. Some quilters used to make deliberate mistakes in piecing their blocks because "God doesn't like perfection." The farther you go down that rabbit hole, the more quilts stop being simple blankets and turn into magical shields to protect your loved ones at night. This actually makes sense, in a way, when you consider all the time and energy that goes into making one, and all the magical traditions about using knots and strings to tie good luck spells into things. It's all fascinating to me.

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    1. Persian rugs always have one deliberate imperfection, too, for the same reason, "Only Allah is perfect".

      I love the mystique around quilts and quilting, too. All the time and energy invested in each one has to contribute to both the lore, and to the magic they hold, don't you think?

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    2. Gigi, I totally embrace the "Only God is perfect" superstition for quilts--because I always make a mistake somewhere--and now it's a game--my B-I-L especially enjoys finding 'the mistake'. ;-)

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    3. Gigi, this makes me think of the prayer shawl ministry in my church - a group of women who meet and knit thick shawls (more like lap blankets, really) for people in hospital, experiencing difficulties, etc. As they knit, they pray for the recipient of the shawl, so the blessing becomes part of the fabric as they make it.

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    4. I knew nothing of the quilt superstitions, but I don't quilt, I only admire them. I will have to ask an acquaintance of mine who quilts if see has an intentional mistake in her quilts.

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  5. GUILTY as charged... I used to skip over cracks, throw spilled salt over my shoulder... Superstitions about QUILTS? Do not tell me. Now I still pick up pennies. But ladders and broken mirrors don't upset me.

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    1. As long as nobody gives you a quilt called "The Drunkard's Path" you're safe, Hallie.

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    2. My husband opens up wet umbrellas and puts them in the bathtub to dry. I have to contain my impulse to run screaming from the house....

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  6. Gigi, I didn't know that about quilt patterns! I STILL don't step on cracks or lines (step on a line, break your mother's spine) if I can help it, and my mother died with an intact back five years ago. ;^) Great to catch sight of and/or chat with almost all the Reds yesterday, and to meet Ingrid in person finally!

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    1. Edith, isn't Ingrid just awesome?

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    2. Please drop into the comments and give us updates on Bcon when you can, Edith!

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    3. Step in a hole and break your mother's sugar bowl

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    4. I also understood just exactly how tall Jenn is! OMG, I felt short last night...

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  7. No superstitions here, knock wood, crossing self

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  8. Guilty guilty guilty, me too! I can’t help it, I throw salt. I touch wood. And oh yes I don’t pick up pennies that are tails up, but now, thanks to Joan, I know exactly what to do. Thank you!
    I don’t mind black cats at all, though, and I would walk under a ladder, though I don’t go out of my way to do it. Because it just seems dangerous, you know? Broken mirrors give me pause, I admit, but sometimes things happen.

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  9. Also, I am very fond of the fact that we all know these things… Or some incarnation of them. I’m fascinated by how superstitions got passed around and down, it is such a weird thing, but it brings us together!

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  10. I am off to my Bouchercon day… But I will check in later. And we are getting some great just Jingle Red photos! ( Julia, everyone sends their love! )

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    1. As for me, "I wandered lonely as a clod, just picking up old rags and bottles, when onward on my way I plod, I saw a host of axolotls..."

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    2. Ah, Julia, such poetry...;-) Thanks for the smile.

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  11. Don't you guys know it's bad luck to be superstitious?

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  12. I confess to knocking wood, and my noggin for extra luck, and to keeping hats (and shoes! Ick) off the bed. And if I think about it I say "Rabbit rabbit", usually after reading Hanks, Rhys's, or Kathy Reel's Facebook posts!

    Last fall, after six inches of rain in a couple of hours flooded our basement, two huge mirrors (formerly from a closed department store) fell off the wall and broke into smithereens. Lucky for me, the insurance company restored the basement, We had that area regraded, and for the first time in 20 years that part of the house is bone day. I call it lucky, myself.

    Family lore has always had it that my mother, born in 1930, the surviving premie twin, came into the world on Friday the 13th. Since she weighed less than three pounds (and was diapered with Grandpa's handkerchiefs, she was so tiny), it was truly miraculous that she has lived such a long life (and has cheated death in other ways, too). But I recently looked it up to be sure, and her actual birth date was on a Monday.

    But she's still lived through at least a 100 Fridays on the 13th, so that's still pretty darned lucky, right?

    I always pick up pennies (any money, really), because hey, it's cash.

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    1. Bone Day sounds like the title to a very chilling short story!

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    2. Karen, I have to admit that I am a latecomer to the "rabbit rabbit" first of the month custom. I didn't know about it until people started doing it on FB, and after I found out what it's all about, then I started doing it, too. I guess it's been at least two years now. I do enjoy finding the cute pictures of rabbits.

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    3. Bone Day could also be a punk band name.

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    4. I learned of "Rabbit, Rabbit" in an essay by E.B. White. (So long ago that I did not have a gray haired brain that doesn't remember the title!) He explained the superstition this way: Say "Rabbit, Rabbit" on GOING TO bed that last night of the old month. Say "Bunny, Bunny" on getting out of be the first morning of the new month. Farewell to the old, welcome the new.

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  13. What is the "rabbit rabbit" thing? I don't know that one.

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    1. Gigi, on the first day of the month, the first words you utter should be "rabbit rabbit" for good luck that month. It's turned into a FB tradition of the first item you post for the first day of the month should be "rabbit rabbit" and a picture of a cute bunnies. I decided to research this superstition further, and I found that the superstition is an English one that appeared in print in 1922. However, according to what I read on several sites, it started out saying the word three times and often followed by "white rabbit." The superstition seems to have settled into the world of social media as saying two "rabbits," but many of us extend it by the following: "rabbit rabbit, bunny bunny, hare hare." https://newengland.com/today/living/new-england-environment/rabbit/

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    2. Oh, cool! I don't think any of my FB friends do that, but now I'll know to watch for it. Thanks!

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    3. I don't know the origin of that one, either, Gigi. I think it's unlikely I'll remember it the first of each month!

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    4. I had a college prof who did this and I always try to remember to say it - I have never managed it :)

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    5. Kathy, thanks for the origin story different from the one E.B. White wrote of (see my comment above). Sorry for all the dangling participles, especially in this writers' group! ;-)

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  14. Laughing. I can't walk along the side of my house without going under a ladder right now. As a kid I took the step on a crack rhyme as a challenge: to step on or jump over? Depended on my mood! I am very fond of 13 and 17 as they are family birthdays. Black cats are cool. I have a bottle tree in the side yard to catch evil spirits and our porch ceilings are painted blue to repel "haints. " I admit those two are solely because it is Southern and somehow pleasing to me.

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    1. My carport roof is painted blue, but that's mostly to repel the wasps. It doesn't hurt to ward off the haints at the same time.

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  15. My mom passed down many of these superstitions--from her grandmother--but she didn't practice any of them. I knock wood, though. And pick up pennies, because, like Karen, hey--it's cash. Although sometimes when I've been extra fortunate, I leave the penny for someone else who needs good luck. And have spent hours as a kid, picking through the clover, looking for one with four leaves.

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    1. Flora, one of my daughters used to search for four-leaf clovers, and she'd find them, sometimes more than one at a time. She's always been so very lucky.

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  16. Am I superstitious? Who told you I was superstitious? I'm not superstitious, that's crazy talk. Oh wait, that's my response for am I paranoid.

    Actually, I am superstitious but not because of Friday the 13th or anything (unless I happen to be at Camp Crystal Lake and run into a hockey mask wearing, machete wielding killer guy).

    See, I used to be a coach in the town's youth basketball league. From the ages of 14 to 39, I coached a lot of games and teams. And I was superstitious to be sure. Whether it was boys or girls, I had the same set of superstitions and woe to those who messed with them.

    There was the don't talk trash rule where I knew we'd lose if anyone talked trash before the game.

    There was the don't curse us by talking about being undefeated rule. Having had four undefeated (and 11 title winning) seasons over the years, the most annoying thing was when people wouldn't shut up about it because talking about it would make it end, right?

    There was the wearing of the same T-shirt (advertising the movie Serenity) during a 21 game win streak.

    Once, a former player came to the game wearing an old team jersey for a different team she played for...and that we were playing in that day's game. I dug out one of our team shirts and begged her to put it on so we wouldn't lose.

    At the beginning of each season, I would choose four or five songs to listen to at home before leaving the house to go to the gym for the games. And I HAD to listen to those songs each week without fail.

    And that's just some of the stuff I was superstitious about. Coaching does seem to breed more than a fair share of both superstition and paranoia.

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    1. Coaching and sports are VERY superstitious, Jay! Both my older kids were on cross-country, indoor track and track and field teams. Despite being at two different schools, they both had a host of team superstitions they had to follow for fear of jinxing the meet. Particularly interesting because neither was superstitious in civilian life (as it were.)

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    2. Julia, yes. Coaches and athletes are a stripe of superstitious unto themselves.

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  17. Since everyone always points out Friday the 13th, it's hard to notice it. But I usually don't pay any attention to it. Not that I'd go swimming at an abandoned camp in the middle of the night on the day, however.

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  18. I'm not superstitious about anything. Watching superstitious people go through their silly routines is amusing. Until I realuze that they're serious, and then it's just sad!

    DebRo

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  19. Our Reds, Rhys and Deb, were outstanding with Louise Penny this morning. Playing to a SRO crowd, they regaled us all with tales and adventures. What a trio!

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    1. I should read these things before I hit publish. But you get the drift, right?

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    2. Oh, how I wished I could have been there!

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    3. Yes they were! What a treat of an hour it was.

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    4. Louise Penny posted a fantastic photo of the fantastic trio on her Facebook page today.
      What a great time you all must be having.

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  20. People are looking at my I Read Red button and asking about it. Next time I'll wear a sandwich board. If you pay me

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