By Rev SEIK PITOI
TODAY is Friday the 13th – a day of bad luck!
In western superstition, this is a day to be on one’s guard. Like walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror or crossing paths with a black cat, having Friday fall on the 13th day of the month means disaster for those who believe in it.
The fear of this day is known to keep people indoors, or they will take every precaution if they find themselves outside of their homes. As Melanesians with our own superstitious beliefs, we may find the above funny or amusing.
Many are surprised that ‘enlightened’ people like those in the west actually had or have such beliefs. But one must know that the author of the dark world is one and the same being and he is definitely at work to instil fear in people and keep them trapped in bondage, regardless of race, colour and creed.
We will discuss in this article how such beliefs came about and see from God’s word how we should respond to them.
I first heard about Friday 13th being an unlucky day from my late father. In the late 1960s, my dad was on a Commonwealth Secretariat scholarship studying at the Birmingham University in England. His time in England, and throughout Europe when he travelled on holidays, saw him familiarise himself with western culture and practice.
One particular area that fascinated him was their superstitions. He would tell us stories of unusual things he observed, such as the time he saw his friend avoiding to walk under a ladder, or the lady who screamed when a black kitten ran across the walkway in front of her.
Many years later, I remember discussing these beliefs with my ‘pommy’ work mates and I found that they did not hold to such beliefs any more. But one bloke said that subconsciously, he did take note of “black cats and ladders” and was “a bit more careful” on Friday the 13th. However, most of the guys saw it as just another great Friday at the end of the working week to get stuck into some cold ones, regardless of the date!
The superstition surrounding this date is said to have come from the Medieval ages. It is said to stem from a widely held belief at that time that the 13th guest at the Last Supper that Jesus had with his 12 disciples was Judas Iscariot, the person who would later betray Him. Also, the act of crucifying the Lord took place on a Friday (Good Friday), hence the belief that every Friday (the 6th day, a number associated with sin) that falls on the 13th day of any month is a day of bad luck!
For many years, this date was considered an omen of bad luck. Over time, even two rather long and weird looking psychological words were coined to describe the fear associated with this day – paraskavedekatriaphobia and friggatriskaidekaphobia! Western culture has historically associated the number 12 with completeness (for example, the 12 days of Christmas, 12 months and zodiac signs, 12 gods of Olympus and the 12 tribes of Israel, just to name a few).
But its successor, 13, has had a long history of bad luck. Many untimely deaths, murders and disasters are said to have taken place on Friday the 13th. Regardless of whether some of these were natural coincidences or not, the superstitious took this to prove the demonic nature of the day.
In the late 19th century, Captain William Fowler of New York sought to remove the stigma surrounding the number 13. He proceeded to directly confront the fears associated with it, especially the belief that it was not wise to have 13 guests at a dinner table. He did this by founding an exclusive club called the Thirteen Club. The group dined regularly on the 13th day of the month in room 13 of the Knickerbocker Cottage, a popular watering hole he owned from 1863 to 1883.
Before sitting down for a 13-course dinner, members would pass beneath a ladder and a banner reading “Morituri te Salutamus”, Latin for “Those of us who are about to die salute you”. It is said four former US presidents (Chester A Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt) would join the Thirteen Club ranks at one time or another. It is interesting to note that in an effort to dispel the fears associated with the erroneous belief system, it is easy to swing across to yet another set of bondages.
Surely, there is a way to dispel such fears and break their demonic stranglehold on people. I believe this can be done by going to the Word of God!
God detests the practice of divination and spiritism of any kind. Deuteronomy 18:10 – 12 (GNB) says, “… don’t let your people practice divination or look for omens or use spells or charms, and don’t let them consult the spirits of the dead. The Lord your God hates people who do these disgusting things…” Leviticus 19: 31 (ESV) also points out: “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”
In the New Testament, we read “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Col 2:8 ESV).
We are also encouraged not to fear. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God gave us not a spirit of fear; but of power and love and of a sound mind”. We do not fear when we know God is the only true Creator. He created the whole universe and everything in it, including every day, week, month and year according to His will and plan (Genesis 1, 2).
Subject to His Lordship
Friday the 13th, the black cat and every other object of our fears and superstitions are subject to His Lordship. Jesus Christ is sovereign over all. All things have been placed under His feet (Ephesians 1: 20 – 23), and as Christians, when we trust Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we too are placed positionally “in the spiritual realm with Christ Jesus” (2: 6). Thus, we too have dominion over all.
I personally look forward to Friday the 13th, especially if it falls in March, just as it does today. It is a blessed day for me because a special person was born on that day – my wife. On a day some people fear, my family and I rejoice in God Almighty as we celebrate my wife’s birthday, giving thanks for His sovereignty over our lives.
For those with an apprehension about the day and date, and feel intimidated in any way, come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and enjoy the blessings that He will shower upon you and your family. In fact, you will begin to look for the blessings that God will send your way on that day rather than the bad luck and catastrophe that others will be expecting.
Indeed, as Christian believers, we can truly say that Friday the 13th is not a “bad luck day”, but a “blessed Friday” for us.
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.