Well, it looks like we made it through yet another Friday the 13th. Given my particular viewing proclivities, you can probably guess right away the first thing that jumps to my mind on this particular date. That’s right, promiscuous teenagers getting chopped up for their transgressions by a machete wielding maniac. Yeah, yeah, I know, but what can I do? I was a teenager in the 80s, after all, and Friday The 13th movies seemed to come out about every two weeks back then. Not so much these days, though, so anybody looking for a new Jason Voorhies fix has to dig really, really deep. And sometimes there’s gold to be found. Take, for instance, this silly mash-up of actual dialog from some of the Friday The 13th movies with clips from Scooby Doo. If you’ve got any familiarity with the trappings of the slasher movie genre, this should give you a chuckle or two.
Of course, I realize that not everybody out there immediately thinks of bad movies when Friday The 13th rolls around. There’s still a lot of folks who associate the date with the idea of being cursed with bad luck if you leave the house on that day. In fact, the fear of Friday the 13th is so prevalent, psychiatrists have apparently given the condition it’s own name, paraskevidekatriaphobia. The odd thing is, nobody really seems to know where the superstition surrounding Friday the 13th actually started. It seems to be an amalgamation of traditions from various cultures throughout the ages. The Hindus, the Vikings, and the Egyptians all had trepidations about the number 13, while the notion of Friday as an unlucky day dates back at least to The Canterbury Tales. The popular combination of the day and date likely stems from Thomas W. Lawson’s 1907 novel Friday, The Thirteenth, although The Da Vinci Code makes an argument that it actually can be traced back to the Catholic Church’s eradication of the Knights Templar on that date (but since it’s Dan Brown saying so, even Wikipedia doubts the truth of that presumption). But whatever it’s origin, the superstition surrounding Friday the 13th is alive and well.
Which actually doesn’t sit too well with Christian teaching when you think about it. While Webster’s describes a superstition in general terms as “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation”, the Church is a little more specific. As defined in the Catechism, “Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.”
In effect, this means to willfully hold to a superstition is a sin against the first commandment in which God tells us, “You shall not have other gods beside me”. The old Catholic Encyclopedia goes into a bit more detail on this aspect of superstition, which it explains “is defined by St. Thomas (II-II:92:1) as ‘a vice opposed to religion by way of excess; not because in the worship of God it does more than true religion, but because it offers Divine worship to beings other than God or offers worship to God in an improper manner’. Superstition sins by excess of religion, and this differs from the vice of irreligion, which sins by defect. The theological virtue of religion stands midway between the two… There are four species of superstitions: improper worship of the true God (indebitus veri Dei cultus); idolatry; divination; vain observances, which include magic and occult arts. This division is based upon the various ways in which religion may be vitiated by excess. Worship becomes indebitus cultus when incongruous, meaningless, improper elements are added to the proper and approved performance; it becomes idolatrous when it is offered to creatures set up as divinities or endowed with divine attributes. Divination consists in the attempt to extract from creatures, by means of religious rites, a knowledge of future events or of things known to God alone. Under the head of vain observances come all those beliefs and practices which, at least by implication, attribute supernatural or preternatural powers for good or for evil to causes evidently incapable of producing the expected effects."
So given all that, it’s probably a good idea to put aside any ideas you might be holding regarding the efficacy of lucky rabbit’s feet or the misguided belief that wearing a scapular guarantees you a spot in heaven. And maybe it’s a good idea after all to ditch the whole notion of Friday the 13th as a day of bad luck and just watch bad movies instead.
That’s the excuse I’m using anyway.