BY LISA MARIE BASILE
I flew out of New York and into New Orleans on Friday the 13th once a few years ago. It was for a quick trip - a weekend glossed in debauchery and purposefully-chosen haunted hotel rooms with elaborate millwork, and walking vampire tours -- the kind of trip where you get drunk in an "absinthe" bar and flee down the street without paying your tab. You run past a junk shop with pornographic picture books, you stand bleary-eyed in front of an old building said to house gaggles of French vampires, you take orb-doused pictures in slanted wooden bars with sticky tabletops and you sleep with a light on just in case. Or a candle, for good measure. So, you'd think that the trip would have been a disaster. Turbulence, storms, strangers who follow you from the airport to your house.
But nothing happened. I landed safely, despite the out-of-habit rosary in my pocket. In fact, it was just another night: no turbulence, no strangers, nothing. It was almost a let-down.
Anyone who was raised religious but has since abandoned the concept of faith will know that belief is more often than not a crutch. We all covet control, especially when we are suffering emotionally or physically; when life is in disarray or the fog of confusion settles in, we tend to create a sort of divine harness for ourselves, whether it be in the form of God, ritual or superstition.
Friday the 13th has always been an odd one in that regards. It transcends belief - people of all backgrounds wiggle around Friday the 13th, as if the air itself feels spookier, more dangerous. And no one really knows why. It has its roots in magic and numerology, of course (I worked in building without a 13th floor), but it's got its claws in all of time and place. It's even got itself wrapped up in money:
The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina says "It's been estimated that [U.S] $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day [Friday the 13th] because people will not fly or do business they would normally do."
Having Friday the 13th in November is especially odd as well; it's supercharged by the brooding, deathly Scorpio, and follows Dia de los Muertos and Halloween, and so the collective mind has a playground of ghoulish supernatural darkness to run amok in, even if it belies reason and even atheistic beliefs.
The fact is, people do still believe. One poll showed that more than half of people believe religion is the answer to every question, which means it is perfectly reasonable to avoid leaving your house on Friday the 13th (you will die, according to this study) or you'll narrowly avoid it (if you're living in Buckingham Palace, get the hell out).
I don't believe in God but even I take part in the 13th lure. I like the ritual of it; it makes me feel like there's something behind all of my intentions, some sort of extra push. Like Halloween, everything feels a bit more swollen, like the veils are open and you can test them or not.
I wish I believed in god, though; I wish this superstition and belief system carried over to my everyday life. I wish I didn't think of it as a game we play with ourselves.
I sometimes cry for my own atheism, but the fact is I believe that everything is random and that it is likely we will be gone for good once we go. I wish I could see everyone again one day, but I won't. It's not even an absence of faith that saddens me, it's the logic. I don't mourn as if I'm broken, as if my poor little heart hasn't been awakened by god yet. I mourn because there's a disconnect between my feeling so alive and the fact it's so transient; it's quick and fleeting and painful and riddled with sickness and employment and all of the things that tick away at our short time here. What a sadness.
But then, it takes courage to live, and if superstition and ritual help with that -- after all, Luna Luna is devoted to exploring the occult, then by all means. Avoid the black cat, massage the worry stone and avoid planes on Friday the 13th.