Friday Fear and Comfort
Today is Friday the 13th. Few things have more superstition related to them except perhaps black dogs. I mention this because,,, well, today is Friday and it is the 13th day of Easter if one counts the says strictly and they fall, not omitting Sundays. Also because I am owned by a big black dog that is undergoing a medical procedure today and, like most pet parents, I am a bit nervous.
Of course today is not actually Friday the 13th. It is Friday the 8th day of April. It is a good time, however, to discuss things that we fear, things like a perfectly normal procedural check-up for my dog or a date on a calendar.
Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number thirteen. Some believe the fear of the number thirteen goes back to the Babylonian era and the Code of Hammurabi. An early twentieth century translation of this by L. W. King omitted one part of the Code and from that omission came the theory that thirteen was considered evil, even back in 1780 BCE when the Code was written.
The truth is that the Code of Hammurabi had no numbers. The article omitted states that if someone died without paying all his debts, then someone could recover what was owed to them from the estate of the deceased. This appears in other translations. Can it really be just that simple that people fear the number thirteen because of an early typo?
Christians have often said that Judas was the last to arrive at the Last Supper, the final meal partaken between the man known as Jesus of Nazareth and his twelve disciples. Judas later gives the location of this dinner to the authorities who then arrest and later crucify Jesus and is considered a betrayer forever. Since the myth states he arrived last and was the thirteenth to sit at the table, the number has been considered evil. The truth is that no written account of this meal states in which order the disciples arrived or sat down at the table.
Another myth regarding the number thirteen and a meal or party comes to us from the Viking tradition. The deity Loki is said to be responsible for the murder of Balder and supposedly was the thirteenth guest to arrive at the funeral. One of the more prominent Viking stories “Lokasenna” tells of the funeral and mentions over seventeen by name so obviously that belief is based upon nothing. There was an old Norse belief, however, that if thirteen people gathered anywhere in a group setting, one would die within the year. This might have had its origins in the story of Norna-Gest which told of uninvited norns arriving at a birthday party, raising the guest list from ten to thirteen. This, according to the story, tied the life-span of the infant being celebrated to a magical candle. Once the candle’s flame was extinguished, the child would die.
In more recent times, Apollo 11 blasted into space on the eleventh day of April but on the thirteenth day, the space capsule encountered an engine explosion. It did return safely to earth with all astronauts safe. However, the Challenger mission which exploded and killed all seven astronauts in 1986 was the 113th mission.
For every myth regarding the evilness of the number thirteen, there are correlations to its goodness. We seem very easily led to believe the worse, however. A good example is my dog’s upcoming examination today. I have complete confidence in his medical team and yet, he is my baby and so I worry.
Admitting my concerns is a great first step but, if we are to be honest, that doesn’t really help us with our fears. That is where comfort food comes into play. Tasting comfort has been a tradition of mankind since before the written word. Whether it is coming home from school, a hectic day at work, or just snuggling into a comfortable chair to read or watch television, we all have a favorite comfort food item that usually accompanies us.
Being a good host includes offering such comfort food. During the early 1900’s hotel and inns often offered their guests such refreshment in the late afternoon. The Toll House Inn was owned by the Wakefield family and they often had a butterscotch cookie wafer that was put out for guests returning to the Inn after a busy day. “We had been serving a thin butterscotch nut cookie with ice cream. Everybody seemed to love it, but I was trying to give them something different. So I came up with the Toll House cookie.” Ruth Wakefield explained how she came up with a different type of chocolate cookie.
Previously, chocolate cookies were, well, chocolate. When the cocoa powder or solid chocolate was added, it would melt and the entire cookie would then be chocolate. Exactly how it happened is up for conjecture as two different stories have emerged. What is common to both stories is that the addition of bits of chocolate that remained intact and chip-like instead of melting was an accident.
One of the greatest American comfort foods of all times and one that has been included in military care packages since World War II was a mistake. Women are known for being creative and something of hoarders. I prefer to consider that we are resourceful in finding ways to use and reuse things but, the truth is, we can make lemonade out of lemons.
In the mid 1930’s Ruth threw in some chocolate expecting it to melt as her cookie batter baked and it didn’t. Perhaps it was the combination of both brown and white sugars. Perhaps it was the type of chocolate. Whatever it was, a new cookie was baked and enjoyed. People have been eating chocolate chip cookies ever since. (Note: Do NOT give your pets chcolate!)
Most of us face at least one thing each day that causes us to have trepidation. Whether it is the fear of a number, a snake, or just making a fool of ourselves, we all have those moments that give us concern. We need to follow Ruth’s example and see the situation through, making the best of what life throws at us. With faith, we will survive. Have a great April 8th, the thirteenth day of April…a Friday that heralds in the weekend and the chance for more smiles. Me…I’m off to find a chocolate chip cookie. It might not be the most nutritional breakfast but it is a great way to start the day!