13 February 2007

Post for the 13th

It’s the 13th of the month, and therefore my turn to be profound and authorly. (According to my word processor, that’s not a word, but I’m going to run with it anyway.) Sorry, I'm running a bit late. I wrote this ahead of time, and then lost it in the vast confines of my laptop computer. Oops.

I’ve given some thought to my topic and decided to take a look at historical superstitions. The 13th happens to be my lucky number, which is why I chose it as my day for 'official' posting, but many consider it to be unlucky. Hotels sometimes won't have a 13th floor, which is silly because of course they do have a 13th floor, they just don't mark it as such. I've seen elevator keypads with buttons for 11, 12, 14, 15 … But I digress.

Since today is the 13th, even though it's not a Friday, I thought I'd start there. The following are some myths and rumors that concern this date...

* Jason and his mother are not real people.
* Jesus was crucified on Friday the 13th.
* Eve fed Adam the apple on Friday the 13th.
* Cain killed Abel on Friday the 13th.
* The Knights Templar were massacred on Friday the 13th.

I’ll stop there for now, though if you do a search on the internet you'll find many more. The first rumor is true. Other than the fact that I am a mother, and my son's name is Jason, the Jason and his mother of Friday the 13th fame are purely fictional. Neither Jason, nor his mother, of Friday the 13th movie fame ever existed. Surprised? I know I was!

The next three are interesting, taken in turns. The Bible doesn't specify what the date of Jesus' crucifixion was, mainly because our modern date system wasn't invented and put into practice for another several hundred years. Even the Christian celebration of Easter (three days after the crucifixion) was created by the church years later to fall into a time that would make the conversion of pagans to Christianity a little bit easier. (They did that a lot, by the way). The name of the holiday, Easter, finds its root in the name of the Pagan Goddess, Eastre. Back up three days from the traditional Sunday celebrations of Easter and you have a Friday. But there is no evidence Christ actually died on Friday.

For all we know, Friday the 13th already had a bad reputation and that's why those folks responsible for putting the bible together chose 3 days back from the rising, etc. etc. I'm not speaking of a theological reasoning, but a practical one. (The literal translation of "40" days, which we see quite often in biblical reference is closer to 'umpteen'. The number 40 was important to the biblical Jewish community, but we don't know for certain if it rained for 40 days, or if Jesus wandered the desert for 40 days on a literal level. So if that's true, then perhaps the translation of the number of days that Christ was dead, from his execution to his ressurection, is also less literal, and was turned into 3 to accomadate his dying on a Friday? The 13th no less? -- I'm thinking out loud, of course.)

Which leads us to the next two Biblical references. There is no evidence in the Bible or anywhere else that these two events occurred on Fridays. But, just for a moment, let’s suppose they are true. Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Would the fact that these events occurred on Friday the 13th, hypothetically, mean that those days were 'unlucky,' or did the perceived notion that this date/day combination is unlucky find its birth because of these events? To revisit my earlier question: Did those responsible for putting the bible together place the crucifixion on a Friday because everyone already knew that Fridays, falling on the 13th, were unlucky?

I'm not so sure. Luck, in my opinion, would have had nothing to do with the events. Christ was born to be killed. It was prophesy. Eve handed Adam the Forbidden Fruit for the Tree of Knowledge and he chose to bite into it. Cain chose to kill Abel. (Of the five people involved, Abel would have been the only 'unlucky' one in the bunch.)

Some say the mythology of Friday the 13th stems from the fact, yes fact, that the Knights Templar found their end, predominately, on Friday, the 13th of October in the Julian Calendar year 1307. (I say 'predominately' because the order was given to track them down, arrest them, kill those who resisted, and I doubt they found everyone in a single day.)

In the end, I can’t say as there is anything cryptic about Friday the 13th or anything having to do with 13 in general. I kinda like 13.

It's my birthday.

So what do you think? Is 13 unlucky? What about Friday the 13th in general? Do you know of any mythology or superstitions from history that might be fun to discuss? Speak on, readers... quick... before something bad happens!



Michelle Styles said...

There are appears to a few misconceptions in your post

The Julian calender came about because of the reforms that Julius Ceasar made in the 46 BC. The Romans were using this calender when Christ was crucified. The use of weekdays comes from astrology, and was in use at the time of Jesus's death. (See Carcopino Daily Life in Ancient Rome 1941 Penguin Books) for a more in depth discussion.

Jesus's death is linked to the Jewish fesitival of Passover and the Jewish celebration of their sabbath (which happens on a Saturday). Hence the reason for Good Friday as well as the reason for moving the date of Easter about. It always coincides with the celebration of Passover.

I do agree that I have not seen evidence that Christ was crucified on the 13th. However one does need to remember that they did keep very good records at the time. (You see the records that they dig up in Vindoland for instance -- Roman society was highly literate) Also if one looks at when the Coptics celebrate Easter, it does coincide with the Jewish passover festival. Thus , there is good evidence to beleive that the feast of Christ's Passion is taking place at the correct time of the year. This is unlike the feast of Christ's birth.

Easter does take the name of the Anglo Saxon goddess Oestre in English but this is not a universal name. In French, it is derived from the Latin word meaning -- Passion -- ie the Feast of Christ's Passion or suffering. There is no evidence that the indigenous British people worshipped Oestre before the advent of the Anglo Saxons in the fifth century. Oestre is a Anglo Saxon, rather than Celtic name. However, there is plenty of evidence that certain sections were Christainized -- for example the spot in York where Constantine was crowned emperor has remained Christain since 305. There is a major debate on how Christain Northumbria was, particularly after the discovery in the 1990s of the 4th century Christian church in Vindolanda.
In other words it is far too facile to dsay that the modern celebration of Easter was simply the usurping of pagan tradition.

Possibly more info than you want to know...


Tess said...

Great post, Marjorie! And Michelle, thanks for the additional info :-)

As for the Templars, I gather the majority of them were arrested that day. The orders had been sent out already, so the attacks on them were well coordinated. At least in France - elsewhere in Europe, it took a little longer.