Uh-oh...

It’s Friday the 13th! How’s your day going? Friggatriskaidekaphobia or fear of Friday the 13th is believed to be the most widespread phobia in the US. As many as 21 million Americans believe Friday the 13th brings bad luck. Some take it so seriously that they stay home from work, won’t drive or fly, and may not even get out of bed.

Friday the 13th always occurs in a month beginning on a Sunday; there’s at least one and no more than three every year. The longest possible period without one is 14 months. In 2010 there’s only one - August 13; May has the only one in 2011.

As you are probably aware, there is no scientific basis for this superstition. Several studies have compared the number of traffic accidents on Friday the 13th with accidents on other Fridays. The Dutch Center for Insurance Statistics found there were fewer accidents on that date, but a British study showed an increase in accidents when compared to another Friday. No consensus there…

As with most superstitions, the origin of this superstition is mostly guesswork. No written record of Friday the 13th being unlucky appears before the 19th century. However, most superstitions are based on oral rather than written traditions so it is probably much older. Many folklorists believe the superstition evolved from separate beliefs - that 13 is an unlucky number and Friday is an unlucky day. Several theories have been proposed:

• Ancient civilizations believed the number 13 to be lucky. But when Christianity replaced pagan beliefs, all things pagan were discredited, perhaps to the detriment of the number 13.

• In numerology, twelve is considered “complete” with 12 months in a year, 12 hours on the clock, 12 Zodiac signs, 12 Apostles, 12 gods of Olympus, and so forth, while 13 ruins the “completeness.”

• In Norse mythology, Friday is named for Frigga, goddess of love and fertility. When Norse tribes adopted Christianity, Frigga was labeled a witch and banished. According to the myth, each Friday she gathered 11 other witches plus the devil (for a total of 13) to plot mischief for the upcoming week.

• The Knights Templar were founded in the 12th century to protect Christians during the Crusades. When they eventually became very rich and powerful, the king felt threatened and ordered their mass arrest on Friday, October 13, 1307.

So what are you doing today? Is it just another day or are you laying low? If Friday the 13th gives you the “willies” just keep in mind - it’s only one day and better yet, the weekend is right around the corner.