Dissecting Friday the 13th and Other Household Superstitions

House Superstitions

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For centuries, people have viewed Fridays and the number 13 as omens of bad luck. And when the two combine on the calendar, it’s double the trouble.

Of course, I’ve never bought into this idea; after all, I was born on a Friday the 13th (during a full moon at that!) and I think I turned out all right. Still, it’s worth examining the Friday-the-13th legend, along with a few other household superstitions that may interest all you handypeople and homeowners.

Friday has been considered unlucky since at least the 14th century, when Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales associated the date with bad fortune. Old wives’ tales mark Friday as a day of inauspicious beginnings—some sailors are still reluctant to begin voyages on this weekday. Then there are the religious beliefs: that Jesus was crucified on Friday, the same day of the week Abel was slain by Cain and Adam was urged by Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.

An ancient Norse myth may be responsible for the bad rap the number 13 gets. According to the story, the 13th guest at a dinner party arranged for the blind god of darkness to shoot the god of joy and gladness. Another dinner party of mythical status also featured a troublesome 13th guest—the Last Supper, where the guest was Judas.

According to numerologists, the prejudice against 13 might be due to its relationship with 12—a “complete” number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, and, according to some, 12 apostles of Jesus. The addition of one, supposedly, throws off the balance of 12. That’s when, in some people’s minds, bad things happen.

While many claim they don’t buy into the notion of Friday the 13th being unlucky, it’s obvious many out there would rather be safe than sorry. Numerous high-rises lack a 13th floor, airports skip the 13th gate, and hotels don’t have a Room 13.

But while the bad-luck connotation of Friday the 13th is prevalent today, other superstitions have been forgotten. Before you begin your next project, take a look at this list of omens people used to take quite seriously:

- Carrying a hoe into the house is bad luck. If you do so, undo your mistake by carrying it out again walking backward.

- The space beneath a ladder is Satan’s terrain. If you must walk there, cross your fingers.

- Never pound a nail after sundown, or you risk waking the tree gods.

- If you give a steel blade to a friend, make him or her pay you a penny to avoid cutting the friendship.

- Nail an evergreen branch or horseshoe (points-up) onto new rafters to bring good luck.

- If you give a knife as a housewarming present, that neighbor will become your enemy.

- When first moving into a new house, enter with a loaf of bread and a new broom. Never bring an old broom into the house, or you’ll bring your past in with you.

Just an FYI for all of you DIYers. Best of luck on your future projects—if you buy into that luck stuff, anyway.