Loki Crashed A Gathering Of 12 Gods In Valhalla

January 13, 2012 by staff 

Loki Crashed A Gathering Of 12 Gods In Valhalla, Put your dictionary down; don’t resort to Google. Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th and a paraskevidekatriaphobe is a person with a morbid fear of the 13th of the month whenever it falls on a Friday.

Frigga was the Norse goddess that Friday was named after. She apparently liked to follow closely behind Thor, as she does weekly in our calendar behind Thor’s day.

But 2012 is special, it will have three Fridays that fall on the 13th of the month. It’s impossible, thanks to the configuration of our Gregorian calendar, to have a year without at least one Friday the 13th and it’s impossible to have four Fridays in a year that fall on the 13th of a month.

When there are three such ominous day-date combinations in a single year, it’s most often when February and March double-team the date. When that happens, as it did in 2009, the third Friday the 13th lands in November. That will occur again in 2015, 2026 and 2037.

It’s more unusual to have three Fridays the 13th in a year with the first landing in January. When that happens, it must be a leap year with Jan. 1 occurring on a Sunday. April and July draw the other two Fridays on the 13th. The last time it happened was in 1984 and it won’t happen again until 2040.

Besides its rarity, why the ruckus and supertitious dread when Friday the 13th rolls around?

It can’t be because Black Sabbath released its self-titled classic debut album featuring a young Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward on Friday the 13th of February 1970. The phobia is much older than that.

But it’s anyone’s guess how much older.

David Emery, who writes a weekly column on urban legends for, suggests that the Friday the 13th phenomenon may be no older than the early 20th Century, although its roots date to antiquity.

Emery credits a 1907 novel about dirty dealings in the stock market, written by Thomas W. Lawson, entitled “Friday the Thirteenth” with popularizing the expression and dread. Although all but forgotten a century later, the novel was a best seller in its time and the expression “Friday the 13th” was immediately adopted and spread by the press.

Emery admits that Lawson didn’t literally invent the premise. Instead he combined two existent superstitions. Friday long has been considered the most unlucky day of the week, and the number 13 also has a history of bad luck and evil omens.

Lawson simply combined the two, making Friday the 13th the most unlucky of unlucky Fridays.

Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and author of “Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun,” says triskaidekaphobia – fear of the number 13 – is closely involved.

He traces the beginning of that fear to a Norse myth. It seems Odin planned a dinner party in Valhalla for 12 gods. He ommitted the mischievous god Loki, however. But Loki crashed the party, becoming the 13th, univited guest

Loki pursuaded Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to knotch his bow with a mistletoe-tipped arrow and shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness. Balder died and darkness came to the earth, giving the number 13 a bad reputation.

Some confirmed bachelors deem cupid’s arrows just as unlucky.

And 13 doesn’t fair much better in the Bible. Judas is deemed the 13th guest at the Last Supper, although he was invited.

Since Roman times, witches allegedly gather in covens of 12 with the 13th guest the devil or Roman equivalent, himself.

Friday doesn’t do well in Scripture either. Jesus was crucified on a Friday. One must wonder why that dark Friday became known as “Good Friday.” It really should have been called Very Bad Friday since Easter is the good day… but you can’t claim the early church fathers were adept at their choices of names. Easter, afterall, is the name of the pagan fertility goddess.

Dossey says some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with that bad apple on a Friday and others claim Cain murdered his brother Abel on a Friday, with many presuming that Friday was the 13th of whatever month.

The vilification of the number 13 may have a gender bias.

Thirteen was revered in early goddess-worshipping cultures. Those followed the lunar or menstrual cycles in a year: 13 months of 28 days equalled 364 days. But later, patriarchal cultures adopted the solar, 12-month cycle, with 12 considered a “perfect” number and 13 being treated as anathema.

There’s support for that theory in modern mathematics.

Dossey cites Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist in the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Center at the University of Delaware, who says 13 gets the short end because it follows 12 .

Fernsler says numerologists consider 12 a “complete” number – 12 months in the years, 12 signs to the Zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles of Jesus – he probably could cite a dozen examples, but stopped there.

Thirteen falls behind “this completeness,” he says.

Many communities don’t have a 13th Street between 12th and 14th; and good luck finding a hotel with a 13th floor. And then there’s the baker’s dozen – 13. And who needs the extra fat and calories in that 13th donut?

Fat and calories aside, there are claims that Friday the 13th isn’t good for your health.

Emery notes a 1993 study published in the British Medical Journal provocatively entitled “Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Health?”

The authors mapped “the relation between health, behaviour (that’s British spelling), and superstition surrounding Friday 13th in the United Kingdom.”

They compared the ratio between traffic volume and the number of traffic accidents on two different Fridays – one on the 6th of the month, the other on the 13th. They tracked the ratio over several years.

Interesting enough, fewer people chose to drive at all on Fridays the 13th. But the volume of hospital admissions due to traffic accidents was significantly higher than on the more heavily trafficked Fridays the 6th.

The report’s conclusion? “Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”

Not too many Americans saw the abstract in the BMJ, but follow the advice, nonetheless.

“It’s been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day, because people will not fly or do business they would normally do,” Dossey, who is also the founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., said.

Dossey claims there may be as many as 21 million Americans who suffer from the phobia. Symptoms range from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. The latter may cause people to reshuffle schedules or miss an entire day’s work.

We seem no better able to cope with superstitious fears today than our ancestors.

That’s okay. I’m not going to worry about it and nor should you. And don’t worry about tomorrow – think TGIF.

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