Friday the 13th is written in a language we don’t like to speak anymore. It comes from a time when the world was lit only by fire, and just beyond the reach of the flames, the darkness was real. A vast living black, it sent its shadows to the edge of our light to watch us and whisper and wait. It was a time when evil didn’t sleep, and if we were careless. it would creep closer and we could feel its bone-cold chill touching at our clothes. Friday the 13th was born when luck was a marvel and a mischief, and we still believed there were things that we couldn’t see. Because that’s what all superstitions are: the unseen faith that we are not helpless in the face of overwhelming darkness.
These days, we are bloated with science, blinded with light and deafened by our own noise. We live by the reflected glow of our technology and think our vast machines will keep the darkness at bay indefinitely. But the truth is we have a cultural memory of the old gods. In the cold, dark soul of 4 o’clock in the morning, we still answer to them. We might not like it — or even consciously know it — but we still believe that they offer us luck, but they can also take it away. Superstitions, like Friday the 13th, remind us that the old gods are still there and that:
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Hamlet.I.5)
None of our contemporary arrogance can change that because even though we might not be afraid of the dark anymore, we’re still afraid of what’s in it.