Friday the 13th is an event that rolls around just infrequently enough for us to acknowledge it as a special day. This usually biannual pseudo-holiday reflects our culture's playful relationship with fate, luck and other cosmic forces real or imaginary.
But the date is significant for not just the superstitious, and can motivate more than simply throwing salt over your shoulder. For many tattoo enthusiasts, their love of body art provides them a new channel through which they can explore their relationship to superstition.
Tattooing enjoys a special relationship with folk superstition, and the number 13 in particular is a common artifact of that particular subculture. According to Tattoo Road Trip, the cultural wariness surrounding the numeral may date as far back as the Vikings, with 13 playing a prominent role in Norse mythology. Often associated with bad luck, the tattooed of the world have not been shy about incorporating this ominous symbol into their body art.
While there is not one standard significance that has been widely acknowledged, the practice of getting 13-inspired tattoos is typically seen as an act of reclamation. An acknowledgement of our cultural fear of the unknown and uncontrollable, many get 13s tattooed on them as a way to confront their own cosmic destiny.
One anonymous quote published on Tattoo Road Trip reads, "We embrace a lot of things that others fear, including tattoos themselves. We find beauty in what others perceive as mutilation. So, maybe it's not such a stretch that we would also see fortune in what others see as unlucky."
Showing their support
As a nod to tattooing's longstanding connection to superstition, it's not uncommon for tattoo parlors to offer special "Friday the 13th" deals for adventurous inksters. Several Chicago-area tattoo parlors were reported by Fox to offer a special deal where customers could pay just $13 for a tattoo selected from a group of pre-approved designs on the day in question. New York City, a veritable haven for tattoo artists, features several shops showing their spirit by offering similarly priced $13 tattoos – with, of course, a "lucky" $7 tip.
While it may be fun to participate in the spirit of the day, spuriously going under the needle for cheap is a path for many to tattoo regret. Nowhere is the maxim "you get what you pay for" truer than in the world of tattoos, and one-time superstition cheaters may find themselves on the receiving end of a run of bad luck thanks to an errant tattoo. Especially for an ostensibly permanent medium, it's common practice for those getting tattooed to commit to designs with some sort of personal significance, and a pre-designed "cheapie" may quickly lose its charm.
Even for those for whom tattooing is an important part of their personal aesthetic may find themselves burned by such knee-jerk ink. The decision to design a larger, more complex or more meaningful tattoo later on my find itself hindered by the presence of a misfit tattoo that's monopolizing an otherwise prime bit of body real estate. And of course, it hardly needs to be said that getting a cover-up tattoo over top of an existing Friday the 13th mark is itself taking superstition to a whole new level.
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