It’s Friday 13th today, considered to be unlucky by some. Add in a full moon to turn up the fright factor, then consider that we are also in the midst of Mercury retrograde, the planetary period associated with mishap, mayhem and misfortune. Oh dear.

For our own safety, should we just turn off the alarm clock and stay in bed today?

Let’s take each of today’s potential portents and assess whether there is any basis for their uncertain reputations. The most superstition-filled aspect of the day is the date: Friday 13th inspires such deep-rooted dread in some that they avoid travel and do not plan any significant events. Phobias relating to this day or the number thirteen are fully recognised and have even been given their own names: Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number thirteen, and paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek, or friggatriskaidekaphobia, which has Norse roots, both mean fear of Friday the 13th.

The number thirteen was ill-regarded in Norse mythology, when Loki, the trickster, gate-crashed a banquet held in Valhalla in honor of Baldr, the god of nobility. Twelve Norse gods were seated at the table when the thirteenth uninvited guest appeared. Baldr was later executed by his own brother, Hoor, using a magic spear made by Loki, and this incident forever gave "the thirteenth guest" a negative association.

This symbolism is echoed in Christianity at the Last Supper, where twelve disciples sat down to eat with Jesus Christ, and Judas, Christ’s betrayer, was the thirteenth supper guest to arrive. In fact, Phillips Stevens, Jr., associate professor of anthropology at the University at Buffalo, believes that the whole superstition surrounding Friday the 13th most likely arose from this Christian association, which gathered momentum during the Church-dominated Middle Ages.

"There were 13 people at the table (at the Last Supper) and the 13th was Jesus," explains Stevens. "The Last Supper was on a Thursday, and the next day was Friday, the day of crucifixion.

"When ’13’ and Friday come together, it is a double whammy for people who have these kind of magical beliefs," he says.

This negative association was further fuelled by the massacre of the Knights Templar, one of the most important and most well known international organizations existing in the Middle Ages. King Philip IV of France carried out the mass arrests of thousands of Templars in a well-coordinated dawn raid that took place on Friday 13th in 1307, a horror that embedded the number thirteen in the collective mind of the population and connected it to death and destruction.

In the tarot, card number thirteen is, of course, the Death card, the sight of which is enough to throw a shadow over any reading, yet the significance of the card is often misinterpreted. As today is also Whitley Strieber’s birthday, it seems fitting to include some pertinent references from his wonderful book, "The Path", which takes the reader on an enigmatic and thought-provoking journey through the mysteries of the Tarot. Whitley describes the Death card not as a sign of doom but as "a gateway", a cleansing for the soul which removes all the "noise" of our lives and leaving only our tranquil essences remaining. Even traditional tarot readers view Death’s appearance as an indicator that positive change can arise from the end of a cycle, opening new doors for us to enter.

The Moon card in the tarot as depicted in "The Path" symbolises the soul’s first steps on this incredible journey. The Moon is the symbol of mystery, revealing a world of half-light and shadow where clarity eludes us and our senses can often be clouded. A fear of the unknown has therefore grown up around its enigmatic influence over the Earth, a fact which cannot be disputed. Science has proved that the gravitational pull of the moon is a major factor that influences the tides of the Earth’s oceans, and controls the winds that circulate around the globe, but it is thought that these influences also extend to the human body, particularly the mind.

Leading Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman historian Pliny the Elder to suggested that the brain was the “moistest” organ in the body and therefore the most susceptible to lunar influence, and it is no accident that the word "lunatic" is derived from the latin "luna", also the name of the Roman goddess of the moon. Historically, the moon has long been associated with the power to transform the sane into crazed madmen, a belief that persisted throughout the Middle Ages in Europe and evolved into an accepted syndrome known as the “lunar lunacy effect,” or “Transylvania effect,” when humans were widely reputed to transmogrify into werewolves or vampires during a full moon.

This belief has continued into the present day, where there is a still a prevalent view that erratic behaviors, psychiatric hospital admissions, suicides, homicides, emergency room calls, traffic accidents, fights and even dog bites are more common when the moon is full, and police and emergency departments have admitted that they often lay on more staff during these lunar periods. Most research studies have found no solid evidence that there is an increased incidence of accidents and mishaps around the time of a full moon, however, though one Finnish study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2002 concluded that female drivers seemed to have more accidents around this time, and there could be a good reason for this.

The Moon is traditionally linked to the divine feminine, probably because ancient people determined that it affected and governed a woman’s menstrual cycle. Recent research has suggested that women who have cycles of 29.5 days are most likely to be fertile – is it a coincidence that 29.5 days is the length of the lunar cycle? The Babylonians, who compiled tables of lunar longitudes, recognised this connection, and excerpts from their ancient texts state: "A woman is fertile according to the moon."

In 1987, a US psychologist, Winnifred Cutler, conducted a study which was published in the Journal of Human Biology. The study monitored almost 1,000 Philadelphia college students, and revealed that the highest density of menstrual onset occurred at the full moon. This fact alone could cause many men to view a full moon with caution, as the collective hormonal effects of a group of menstruating women could definitely result in bad luck for them!

It is uncommon for Friday the 13th to coincide with a full moon, though specifically, this will not be a global event. This full moon will occur precisely at 12:11 am EDT on Thursday night, early Friday morning, meaning that the 13th will coincide with the full moon for residents of the Eastern time zone (as well as South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia), but not for residents in the Central, Mountain, or Pacific time zones.

The last time these calendar events coincided was on October 13th 2000, and the next time will be on August 13, 2049.The last time the full moon fell on a Friday the 13 in the month of June was in 1919, and the next time will be in 2098, so those who are filled with apprehension at this alignment of events can breathe a sigh of relief when the day is over, as it is unlikely to trouble them again for a few decades.

What of Mercury’s contribution to this eventful day?

Mercury turns retrograde several times each year, and is typically associated with a period of irritating mishaps, machinery malfunction and delays. Matters connected with Mercury are said to become more prominent at this time, and these include travel and transportation – bad news for those who are already reluctant to leave the house on Friday the 13th. Mercury is also associated with the dissemination of information, communication and commerce, or any type of networking, so it is probably a good day to think twice before speaking. Astrologers do warn that arguments and misunderstandings could ensue today, as retrograde Mercury, the planet of communication breakdowns, is opposed by the Moon, the planet of feelings and inter-personal relationships.

So, will today be particularly unlucky?

It will be for some, as will tomorrow, the next day and the day after that. For others it may be the day that they pass exams, driving tests or meet the love of their life.

Ultimately it seems, as with most superstitions, the harmful effects can be self-fulfilling: an expected outcome often occurs because we are unconsciously focusing on negative events rather than positive after witnessing or acknowledging bad omens. These negative events are then subsequently associated with that portent or sign, making us edgy and fearful, and more likely to make mistakes or have arguments.

These portents of "darkness" could also be viewed as an opportunity to remember the mystical Shadowside, which is just as important for our spiritual growth as the Light; on our journey through the path of life, we should embrace both positive and negative events and look for the lessons in each.

"Don’t reject the negative," writes Whitley in "The Path". "I cannot repeat enough how important it is to integrate the negative side of the path into one’s life. The positive side is there to be lived, the negative side to be served. Who does not serve it, is doomed to be consumed by it."

We should all be grateful that Whitley’s, often very difficult, personal Path which has led to the creation of this wonderful website; Mercury retrograde is said to be an ideal time for reflection and review, so today it is a good time to reflect on the wealth of unique insights that Whitley has made available to the world.

Let us hope that, on this special day of his journey, Whitley has a day full of light and laughter.

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