Ask SAM

Today is Friday the 13th, traditionally a day when superstitious folks get even more worried than normal.

Tonight is also the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, so we have a double-whammy.

Traditionally, a harvest moon is considered a time when foods such as corn, pumpkins, squash, beans and wild rice are ready for gathering. Technically, the moon won’t become completely full until 12:33 a.m., which will actually be Saturday the 14th, but other time zones will have their full moon start on Friday the 13th.

“To add to this full Moon ‘madness,’ this upcoming full moon very nearly coincides with apogee — that point in its orbit which places it at its greatest distance from the Earth: 252,100 miles away,” according to FarmersAlmanac.com. As a result, the site says, “This month’s full moon will appear about 14 percent smaller, leading some to call it a ‘micro’ moon.”

In SAM’s opinion, it’s still not as intimidating-sounding as last January’s “super blood wolf moon eclipse.”

Friday the 13th is a confluence of two superstitions, the fear of Fridays and the fear of the number 13.

Though Fridays are often looked on well, since that’s the end of the work week for many people, that day of the week has been associated with bad fortune since at least as early as the 14th century, when, in “The Canterbury Tales,” Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, “And on a Friday fell all this mischance.”

References to Friday being an ominous day became even more popular in the 17th century. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions, you shouldn’t marry, leave for a trip, move into a new house or begin a new project on a Friday.

The number 13, meanwhile, has also been associated with trouble for centuries. The theories why that number is so bad include that there were 13 people at the Last Supper; that, in numerology, 12 is considered a number of completeness and 13 is therefore one past it; and that in Norse mythology, the god Loki caused mayhem as an uninvited 13th guest at a gathering. Some buildings even skip from the 12th to the 14th floors in the official naming.

So you combine those two superstitions and you’ve got a double-whammy. There’s even a name for the fear of Friday the 13th, paraskevidekatriaphobia. It was coined in the 1980s by Donald Dossey, a behavioral scientist from Asheville. The more straightforward fear of the number 13 by itself is called triskaidekaphobia.

Dossey, who died in 2016, told SAM back in 2009 that the symptoms of paraskevidekatriaphobia range from “a nagging sense of doom all the way to not getting out of bed that day,” and joked that once people learn how to pronounce the word they are cured of it.

He also joked that a Friday the 13th falling on a full moon in a month with blue moons (two full moons in the same month) “is super-duper unlucky.” So we in the Eastern Time Zone dodged that by about a half-hour this year.

The next full moon on a Friday the 13th won’t be until 2049.

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Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com

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Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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