Today is Friday the Thirteenth and some people will have spent the day in bed suffering from friggatriskaidekaphobia, which is a fear of this supposedly unlucky date in the calendar.The origins of Friday the 13th being a day of unlucky events are unclear but several theories have been proposed about why it has become such a feared date. One such states that it is a modern amalgamation of two older superstitions: that thirteen is an unlucky number and that Friday is an unlucky day. Combining two unlucky elements into one day would make it all the more worrisome, and so it has become. Apparently, worldwide,hundreds of millions of pounds of business will be lost today due to people’s fears of Friday 13th – too scared to travel, or even leave their homes.

It does seem insane to have a morbid fear of an arbitrary date but I think superstition plays a part in most of our lives. Rational as I think I am, I still ‘touch wood’ in order to avoid tempting fate (though I don’t believe in fate), I salute single magpies and would be reluctant to ride in a green car. But these are all ingrained on my psyche from growing up with people who did these things or had these beliefs.I wouldn’t lose sleep if I forgot to touch wood and I can happily walk under ladders, break a mirror or put new shoes on the table.But many of us allow superstitions to rule our lives. A friend told me that her neighbour blamed the death of her horse on the fact that my friend’s daughter (who used to help with the grooming and care of said horse) wore a pendant of an ‘upside-down’ horse shoe. She subsequently banned the girl from having anything to do with her horses because of the bad luck which the pendant had so obviously wrought upon the horse.Stories like this make one realise the power of this nonsense and how readily one can be made to believe in the power of good and bad luck charms.

Superstitions began centuries ago when our ancestors tried to explain mysterious circumstances or events as best as they could with the knowledge they had.For instance, before science was able to explain such strange things as, for instance, why mirrors show our reflections or why shadows appear on a sunny day, it was reasoned that a shadow or reflection must be part of their soul.If someone broke something onto which the shadow or reflection appeared, people believed that their soul was harmed. Therefore, when a person broke a mirror it was considered unlucky or harmful.Nowadays of course we know that reflections and shadows are not part of our souls but many of us still believe it is bad luck to break a mirror and indeed that they will have bad luck for the next seven years! So a superstition is a belief or practice that people cling to even after new knowledge or facts prove that these silly beliefs are untrue. Well, fingers crossed they are…