Happy Friday the 13th everyone! I’m Joell Posey Grager, Miss Hollywood 2015. I’m not certain how my fascination with luck began, but I am a believer. Ever since I was young, my family owned Stefan Bechtel and Laurence Roy Stains’ The Good Luck Book. Simple quotes and stories of superstitious origins always intrigued me and since my entire family enjoys watching and playing sports, we held tight to our good luck charms.
Friday the 13th is a trepidatious day for a tremendous number of Americans. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute reports, between 17 and 21 million Americans are afraid of Friday the 13th and many of them won’t leave the house. Each year is graced with at least one Friday the 13th, while 2015 is unique with a total of three. This is a real endurance test for those suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia, the scientific classification for a fear of Friday the 13th. Although, an abundance of individuals are frightened by this supposedly unlucky day, the beginning of its reign of terror cannot be pinpointed.
A variety of origins surround the spooking date of Friday the 13th. Some believe it stems from the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and the 13 individuals present (12 apostles and Jesus) at the Last Supper. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, published in the 14th century, declares Friday as unfortunate and a day of ill luck. Both the number 13 and Friday were not discussed as unlucky together until the 19th century. In Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini speaks of the unlucky day and number in conjunction with his death. Then in 1907, Thomas W. Lawson’s novel Friday, the Thirteenth may have created widespread concerns of the superstition. Similarly Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code debates the urban legend of the superstition with Friday, October 13th, 1307 when hundreds of the Knights Templar were arrested. No matter where it all began, people around the world avoid bad luck and superstitious items.
Avoiding Bad Luck
Dozens of objects and actions are considered bad luck, so on this unlucky day try to avoid black cats crossing your path and owls. Broken mirrors are haunting because it was believed a mirror was a look into your soul and if it was broken, the soul was astray from your body. Likewise, one should never kill a sparrow as ancient times believed they carried souls. Darker tales surround the superstition of walking under ladders. Before gallows, prisoners were hung from the top of a ladder and their evil ghosts linger in the triangle under. If you spill the salt shaker better through some over your left shoulder, just look before you throw so you don’t wind up with a Dumb and Dumber moment. Although umbrellas are a rare sight in Southern California, still be mindful of not opening them indoors, not only because it’s bad luck, but also because most won’t easily make it through the doorway. Last, never place new shoes on a table, instead slip them on and go out!
Good Luck Charms
Now for some lucky charms! Keep a horseshoe for good luck, but it must be displayed with the open end upwards to prevent luck from falling out. As Saint Patrick’s Day approaches the little green four-leaf clover, or shamrock, is all around. These small tokens are thought to protect people from evil spirits. The unusual charm of a rabbit’s foot wards off bad luck, especially if it is kept in your left pocket. Crossing your fingers isn’t simply for everyday luck. In American and European folklore, people would cross their fingers when they crossed graveyards. Children still cross their fingers to “X” out the lie they’re telling. One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is to take the wishbone with a loved one and each of us makes a wish. Whoever breaks off the larger end will have their wish come true! I continuously say, “knock on wood,” because I do worry about saying things that may jinx my favorite sports teams.
Hollywood and Theater
Wishing an actor a “good run” or “good luck” is a jinx, (so knock on that wood) instead wish them a “great opening” or to “break a leg.” Supposedly an actor can use a lucky colleague’s soap in hopes of it rubbing off on them. Two of my father and my favorite actors kept good luck tokens throughout their careers. John Wayne continued to use the six-gun from his first western he filmed and Jimmy Stewart wore the same hat throughout his career.
A few bad luck signs to avoid onstage are black cats, opening an umbrella, or dropping a comb. Randomly, if someone is knitting on or near the stage it is considered bad luck. Notoriously, Macbeth, known as the Scottish Play during rehearsal and production, is considered cursed. Several urban legends surround Macbeth including stories that the first actor playing Macbeth died during production, the actor playing Lady Macbeth died during the show and real witches cursed the play. If someone speaks the name prior to the performance they must leave the building spin three times, spit, curse and knock on the entrance to be allowed back in. Not all theater superstitions end in disaster. A terrible dress rehearsal indicates a great opening night!
Whether you’re superstitious or not, I wish you the best of luck today! And here are a few time-honored ways to improve your luck:
- Catch a falling leaf and keep it.
- Put a penny from your birth year in your penny loafers.
- Look at the new moon while holding silver coins in your hand.
- Catch the bubbles atop your coffee or tea with a spoon and drink them before they break.
- Tie a string in a circle and keep it in your purse.
- Sit with your legs crossed.
- Hide a lucky bean and don’t let anyone know where it is.
- Sprinkle a little nutmeg on your lottery tickets.
- Give a poor person a pair of new shoes.
- Before sleep, place your shoes with the toes pointing under the bed.
- Bechtel, Stefan & Stains, Laurence R. (1997). The Good Luck Book. Workman Publishing, New York, NY.
- DellaContrada, John (9 February 2004). “Fear of “Friday the 13th” Most Likely Originated from Jesus' Last Supper and Crucifixion, Says UB Anthropologist”. University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
- Garber, Marjorie B. (1997). Shakespeare's Ghost Writers: Literature as Uncanny Causality. Methuen. pp. 88ff.
- Hartston, Willam (1 June 2007). Encyclopedia of Useless Information. Sourcebooks, Incorporated. p. 365.
- Henry Sutherland Edwards, The Life of Rossini, Blackett, 1869, p.340.
- Thomas W. Lawson. “Thomas W. Lawson, ”Friday, the Thirteenth” (1907)”. Gutenberg.org. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
- “Why Friday the 13th Is Unlucky”. Urbanlegends.about.com. Retrieved 13 May 2011