Saturday, June 14, 2008


Yesterday, Friday the Thirteenth, I heard several people in the office commenting with great certainty and enthusiasm about the origins of this least explicable though most feared day of the year. Of course, their offerings were far off course, but amusing. I kept my head down. Then, another employee offered that it was on Friday, Oct. 13, 1307, that France's King Philip IV had the Knights Templar jailed, tortured and many eventually executed. Eureka, finally someone with some credible historical context!

We remember that the Knights Templar were an order of warriors and administrators within the Roman Catholic Church who banded together to protect Christian travelers visiting Jerusalem in the centuries during the Crusades. The Knights eventually evolved into bankers and large property owners and a wealthy and powerful entity. After Jerusalem fell to Saladin Phillip the Fair (complexion not demeanor), King of France (who just happened to owe the Templars a Hell of a lot of money), prosecuted the Templars for alleged heresies in order to plunder their resources. Most of the Templar properties were confiscated though the greater mass of their wealth was never recovered including the now iconic, controversial and elusive Holy Grail. Many Templars were believed to have escaped to Scotland where the unbroken Templar line still exists in the Grand Bailiwick of The Scots. At any rate, while this employee made a good offering to the pot, this probably isn’t the origin of Friday the 13th legends and cautions. It was probably a combination of many different events and some meddling by the early Christian Church.

We see references to Friday the 13th in the historical record that go as far back as the 12th century though other references have stigmatized the number thirteen as far back as several thousand years BCE. For example, the Code of Hammurabi, a collection of laws created ca. 1760 BCE, that number to 282 does not contain a thirteenth law (or laws from 66-99). We can go from the Norse Gods to the Last Supper to find these allusions that probably stem from folks having too much time on their hands.

The name Friday is believed to have evolved from the Old English frigedæg, meaning the day of Frige the Anglo-Saxon form of Frigg, a major Norse goddess and Odin’s wife. However, in most Germanic languages the day is named after Freyja or Freya the Norse goddess of beauty, love and war. Freya and Frigg are frequently identified one with the other. We are told that the seven day week was established by imperial Rome as prompted by the Christian Church.

Friday eventually caught up with the number thirteen where in many cultures they were a reference to good not bad and in some quarters the Christian Church is rightfully blamed for turning perceived pagan practices into negative scenarios. Muslims use Friday as their day of rest and worship. The Qur'an calls Friday a holy day, the "king of days." Those of the Jewish faith start their worship day at sunset on Friday. You get the point.

Whatever happened back then, Friday and the number thirteen became an anathema and something to be avoided at all costs. Our superstitions concerning the number thirteen have been so intellectualized that some folks have developed a phobia called Triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13. Symptoms include panic attacks that literally cause people to become dysfunctional in society and even manifest physical symptoms including shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and overall feelings of dread, among others.

So firm is the grip of this phobia that even in our contemporary society (and for many years) you can’t find a thirteenth floor in modern skyscrapers which seemingly flow from floor 12 to 14 without a blink. Of course, there still is a thirteenth floor. It’s just mislabeled! In Scotland where the much abused 13 is known as the "Devil's Dozen", there isn’t a gate 13 in any of their airports. Most hospitals in the world don’t have the number 13 anywhere to be found including operating or patient rooms except Grady Hospital in Atlanta where the 13th floor is most appropriately the Psych Ward.

So you put Friday and the number 13 together and you have our modern day curse that according to the Tampa Bay Times in 2006 prompted Americans to stay home rather than chancing peril, costing American industry an estimated $750 million US in lost business on that day. I saw that figure inflated to some $800 million US in several news reports this year (2008).

My response to this is RIDICULOUS! I intend to take the opportunity of every weekend following Friday the 13th (that’s from one to three weekends every year) to create my Friday the 13th Snippets and diary which will document the events that were significant to me on that day. We will debunk this phobia together!
My day started as usual though I slept over by thirty minutes when for some unknown reason my biological clock kicked in and I woke up running with sufficient time to take my shower, shave, brush my teeth, dress and run to work. I was late by a few minutes only because I encountered a wreck on Central Expressway.

We got slammed at work with many requests for our services – both good and bad news though it certainly represents job security galore so long as you produce.

Notification that Tim Russert, Host and Moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press fame had died of a heart attack flashed through corporate headquarters in minutes. The incredibly talented Russert who trained as a lawyer but chose news casting as his vocation was gone in an instant. His bright light shone only for fifty-eight years. Tim brought balance and objectivity to a medium that is mostly suspect at this juncture.

When asked about his opinions on politics he stated emphatically that they just didn’t matter. His goal was to represent the People and ferret out the truth. He studied his guest’s performance and opinions and then took the other side. He was the perennial Devil’s Advocate always pushing the envelope. The irreplacable Russert, favorite son of Buffalo, New York made Sunday mornings bearable and informative.

I believe that few people knew about his heart problems with Vice President Cheney even commenting that with his own extensive medical history Russert never discussed his personal health issues. Russert always focused on Family and the pursuit of Truth in every way and may have been the most honest among us.

This piece cannot sufficiently memorialize this Man who is being properly recognized not only by NBC but throughout all the media.

In a previous post I identified those few journalists that I felt were worthy of note. I did not include Russet but assure you that this was a terrible oversight. He may have been the best of them all…

A good Friend in the Scottish Community called to relate that she is going to have a mastectomy next Wednesday and wanted to let me know that everything was going to be OK. She sounded great, full of optimism and appears to have plenty of support from her significant other - the Curmudgeon Permanent Sergeant Major, the one who knows and sees all… They will both be just fine.

I picked up Skip Yowell’s 2006 offering, The Hippie Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder & Other Mountains. Skip, ever the affable co-founder of JanSport, popcorn purveyor extraordinaire and one time host and climbing partner to this writer tells the story of his ascent into business and mountaineering. This is going to be a good read.

I had dinner (supper to you Midwesterners) at Mia’s, a damned fine Mexican restaurant on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas though I endured a long wait which only became more tolerable by the consumption of a Margarita. Thank God it’s Friday (TGIF). The beef enchiladas were great though well known, Family owned Mia’s has now opted for fancy valet parking which is nothing more that an economic opportunity and hardship on the guests. I noted several muttering and not too happy with the situation. I looked the parking lot over and even with their reconfiguration of parking spots, maybe they could get an additional two cars onto the lot. Don’t know if it’s going to be worth the heartache… Again, the food was good.

Received an e-mail from good Friend Beth Gay of Beth’s NewFangled Family Tree, the online publication offered in Adobe format that is the successor to the Family Tree. Beth’s NewFangled Family Tree can be found at and contains all the news that’s fit to be read along with some genealogical fun thrown in for good measure. Beth is a font of knowledge who has been invited to all the major Scottish games around the country *and elsewhere) to present her genealogy seminars and to provide living history perspectives especially as they apply to the American Scottish Community.

Beth’s Significant Other, Tom Freeman, the incredibly talented graphic artist and all around nice guy that drives Caberdancer Graphic Design of Walhalla, South Carolina is always close by. We are all active in the Kingdome of Räknar and I always look forward to hearing from both these special folks who grace me with their Friendship. Tom has created the cover of my new book, Himself & Friends, The History of The Kingdome of Räknar which will be released in late 2008 (more in another post).

All in all it was a day unlike most others, but the jury is still out. We will just have to see. God bless Tim Russert and Flora. Happy Father's Day, Tim.


Ned Buxton

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