Minor Superstitions by Albany Poyntz

One of the most prevalent minor superstitions has its origin in a religious influence. Friday is regarded as the most unlucky day of the week, from being that of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. People of all classes object to commencing an undertaking, or a journey, on Friday; and the Calabrian brigands forbear to assassinate on that day, however difficult to postpone the premeditated crime till the following morning. They feel convinced that a murder committed on a Friday will be overtaken by the hand of justice. In Paris, the average quantity of new pieces produced at the different theatres is from a hundred and fifty to two hundred; and for the last thirty years, not one of these has been produced for the first time on a Friday.

Boileau, in one of his Satires, places among the number of human weaknesses, the superstition which makes

Twelve grouped together, fear an other one.

The origin of this sentiment dates from the Last Supper; when, thirteen being at table, one of them betrayed and another denied his master, and “went and hanged himself;” and a prejudice has ever since prevailed that out of every thirteen dipping together in the dish, one must fall a victim before the end of the year. The probability that one out of every thirteen may die in the course of the year, exceeds but little the usual chances of mortality.

The dislike which many entertain of seeing a knife and fork crossed on a plate, has also reference to a religious objection as an emblem of the crucifixion. Yet it sometimes obtains ascendancy over unbelievers. Frederick the Great disliked seeing a knife and fork crossed so much, that he never failed to uncross them. Others dislike to see three candles lighted; an omen borrowed from the ancients, who regarded them as symbolic of the Fates, the Furies, and the three heads of Cerberus.