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Friday, August 13, 2010

Triskaidekaphobia’s hot word of the day was “Triskaidekaphobia”, fear of the No. 13. So why all the hype about Friday the 13th sapping our good luck?

Turns out that Friday was named after one of two Norse goddesses, Freya or Frigga and some traditions consider “Frigga’s Day” to be unlucky.

Many cultures have an issue with 13 and many architects are known to actually omit a 13th floor. The precise circumstances that made Friday and 13 such an intense combination for superstition are unclear, but a study speculates that businesses lose millions of dollars in revenue from phobias of the day. Some possible origins revolve around the Battle of Hastings, the Knights Templar, or the goddess Frigga once again.

Quite a few interesting beliefs and taboos still haunt homes in Eastern Europe as well. Most of these are adhered to automatically, despite the fact that few remember their source or deeper meaning. For instance: never say "thank you" for medicine or it won't work; never shake hands across a threshold… A particularly sinister superstition revolves around counting the calls of the cuckoo bird in the forest to learn the number of years you still have ahead of you.

We all know the general "touch/knock wood" to deter the bad luck of running into a mishap just mentioned, a form of the "never say never" proverb, I guess. In these parts, an alternative to touching/knocking on wood is throwing a pinch of salt behind you or spitting 3 times over your left shoulder to dissuade demons - the former is somewhat of a contradiction on how it is unlucky to spill salt. We all know the one about attracting years of bad luck equal to the pieces of mirror one has shattered. Some superstition is specific to Latvia as the country's roots lie in pagan beliefs, as can be seen from its folklore symbols here: The summer solstice or Ligo holds a specific significance for the Latvian people and in many ways even trumps Christmas as a National holiday. Even in contemporary Latvia it is widely believed that couples can temper their love by jumping together over a Ligo bonfire and that he who sleeps on Ligo night (23-24th of June) will be sleepy and unlucky until the next Ligo. Following the midnight celebrations, couples generally part company with their friends and sneak off in the pre-dawn twilight into the musky spring forest “to seek out the magic glowing fern”, the key to perpetual luck and prosperity.

Whatever the source that drives public opinion, it’s certain that, however much we want to believe that rationality informs our decisions, logical and systematic thought has limits and thus, keen businesspeople keep their fingers on the pulse of the consumer to sense the ebb and flow of demand, the driving force of all business.

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