When a minibus accident claimed the lives of two people in Zomba and another claimed lives of two others in Thyolo, some people who have watched the Friday the 13th movies linked the deaths to that horror filled superstition.
According to CBC news Stuart Vyse, professor of psychology at Connecticut College, said the superstition that associates Friday the 13th with bad luck is one of the most widespread in Western culture.
Online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.org cites that the official names for fear of Friday the 13th are friggatriskaidekaphobia and paraskevidekatriaphobia. Sufferers can have symptoms as severe as panic attacks.
The site goes on to explain that no oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exactly sure of the roots of the calendar-based fear, but there are several popular theories.
Some Christians tie together the belief that Judas Ã¢â‚¬â€ who would eventually betray Christ Ã¢â‚¬â€ was the 13th guest at the Last Supper, and Christ was supposedly crucified on a Friday. Other theologians have also theorised that Abel was slain by his brother Cain on Friday the 13th.
Jumping ahead to the 14th century, some believe the fear originated when King Philip IV of France had the Knights Templar arrested on Friday, Oct. 13, 1307. Looking to seize their vast wealth, Philip ordered the mass arrest of members of the Christian military order that had been active in the Crusades. Confessions for a variety of crimes, including heresy, were obtained from them with the help of torture.
This Templar theory has recently gained traction in pop culture as a result of references to it made in Dan BrownÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s novel The Da Vinci Code.
The number 13 is also considered unlucky in Norse mythology, with the mischievous god Loki being the uninvited 13th guest at a banquet of the gods. Loki would eventually trick the blind god Hoder into killing Balder, the god of joy and gladness, plunging the Earth into mourning and darkness.
Ancient Romans werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t huge fans of 13 either. They believed that witches gathered in groups of 12, and a 13th person joining them would be the devil.
But while there are references throughout history to both Friday and the number 13 being unlucky, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s evidence that the combination of the two is a creation of the 20th century. An 1898 edition of E. Cobham BrewerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, has entries for both the number and the day, noting both as unlucky but makes no mention of the combination of the two.
In 2012 January, April and July all have Friday the 13th.
According to the website Watchtower.org true Christians must keep the dark practices of superstition out of their life and accept the spiritual light offered by the Creator, Jehovah, and his Son, Jesus Christ. They can thus enjoy true peace of mind derived from the knowledge that they are doing what is right in the eyes of God.Ã¢â‚¬â€John 8:32.
The same website talks of an example of a man called Jean from Benin who did not follow the cultural practices that are superstitious but believed in the Lord.
According to superstitious tribal customs, a woman who had just given birth to a son would have to stay in a specially built hut for nine days. If she gave birth to a daughter, she would be confined to the hut for seven days.
In 1975, JeanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wife gave birth to a good-looking baby boy, whom they named Marc. Based on their knowledge of the Bible, Jean and his wife wanted nothing to do with wicked spirits. But would they succumb to fear and the pressure to follow the superstition and have the mother stay in the hut? NoÃ¢â‚¬â€they rejected this tribal superstition.Ã¢â‚¬â€Romans 6:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.
Did any harm come to JeanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s family? Many years have passed, and Marc is now serving as a ministerial servant in the local congregation of JehovahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Witnesses. The whole family is happy that they did not allow superstition to influence their life and to jeopardize their spiritual welfare.Ã¢â‚¬â€1 Corinthians 10:21, 22.