Years used to start in April for the Northern Europeans. The Goths and the Visigoths and the Omnigoths. All the druidy Druids. Winters are harsh to the point of lethality at that latitude; they were an enemy to outlast; the second they ended, you had to begin preparing for the upcoming one. Why would you place your demarcatory line in the dead middle of that killing season? You wouldn’t: the new year started when the snow had melted. The Romans thought different, as they were from somewhere that did not freeze in winter. The Christians that the Romans became kept their calendar.

(Discussion point: a calendar is a man’s first technology. The ones we know about–and are still using–range from 1438 years (Islamic) to 2017 (us) to 4715 (Chinese) to 5777 (Jews), but the ancestors of all those cultures had calendars, too. There was nothing to do but watch the stars, and every tribe had some clever guys in it. Humans notice patterns.)

And so, to convince their Pagan neighbors to stop celebrating the new year in April, the Christian converts would play “pranks” upon them such as exposing them to typhus, or hiring a hitbadger to gnaw their children to death. There were also whoopie cushions, but they were made of sheep’s bladders. The Old Ways disappeared, but the tradition lasted and this why we play pranks on April Fool’s Day.

That’s how I heard it.

The fear of Friday the 13th is called triskaidekaphobia, and the fear of spelling difficult words is called quite normal. It is a bad luck day, a no-good day; you would not call it inauspicious, but the Romans would. Open no business on Friday the 13th, and close no deal. Mister Last Chance gonna getcha on Friday the 13th. Right behind you, Mister Last Chance is. Gonna take you where the bugs come from.

Stop it.

Sorry. Thirteen, you see, is unlucky because of Jesus. (At this point, Enthusiast, you’re saying, “It always comes back to Rome and Jesus.” Yes.) There were thirteen diners at the Last Supper–Christ and the 12 Apostles–and, as you know, that meal did not end well for Jesus. The next dinner to go so poorly wouldn’t be until The Godfather. But why Friday?

The Illuminati.

I told you to stop it.

Hear me out.

Short leash.

Picture it: The Past. Somewhere in Europe. There are trees, I suppose. Castles. During the Crusades, all the Knights joined up together in gangs. The history books calls them guilds or orders, but they were just like the Hells Angels or Crips: bunch of aggressive assholes doing whatever the fuck they wanted. Unlike the Angels or Crips, most of their members were rich or royal and so they actually got to do whatever they wanted.

One of these groups was called the Knights Templar, whose best hire was the guy who thought up their name.

“Hey, asshole!”

“You talking to me, asshole?”

“Get out of Jerusalem!”

“Why?”

“We want it!”

“No.”

“Please?”

“I appreciate the politeness, but still no. Who are you guys?”

“We’re the Knights Templar.”

“Duuuuude. That is a sick fucking name!”

“Our bass player thought it up.”

“Killer. Like a fucking ninja in armor or some shit. On fire.”

“I like that. Who are you, bro?”

“Saladin.”

“Dude! You have an awesome name, too!”

And so on.

So, the Knights Templar became very rich and powerful because when they weren’t fighting Muslims, they were robbing and stealing and banking and trading. This annoyed Pope Philadelphius XI, and on Friday the 13th, 1307, he ordered the Knights arrested and flayed and beaten and smacked with rotting poultry. Some of them had their wangs tied to horses. One Knight was thrown off a waterfall, but only because the waterfall was right there. He wasn’t, like, taken to the waterfall. Their lands were burned, and seized. Their women were just seized.

Some brave Knights escaped; they were exemplary Templars. They needed to go into hiding.

“Dagobah.”

“What?”

“It’s damp, but safe.”

“We don’t need to go to Dagobah.”

“St. Helena.”

“You’re being dramatic.”

“Gilligan’s Island.”

“Jackass, it’s 1307. We’re gonna ride 50 miles in any direction and tell people fake names.”

“You used to be fun.”

“Well, that was before the Pope had my family killed, Jacques.”

And so on.

Another reason the Pope was cross enough with the Knights Templar enough to murder most of them was that the Knights held secrets of the Church that–if they got into wrong hands–could change everything. Luckily, a handsome Yale history professor and a woman half his age will outwit the evil agents of the Vatican in a thrilling race across glamorous Paris.

This is a Dan Brown novel.

You’re a Dan Brown novel.

Well done.

According to who you ask, the Knights Templar had the Spear of Destiny, the Chalice of Hyperios, the severed head of John the Baptist, the Holy Grail, Jesus’ velcro wallet, just about every piece of magical bullshit that exists in either the canon or the apocrypha. There is at least one account of the Knights Templar hiding the Ark of the Covenant in a monastery in Albania. Philadelphius XI wanted the power of this (or these) item (or items) for himself (or herself, in case Philadelphius was secretly a woman like 25% of all Popes).

The remaining Knights–who by this point in the story have usually picked up some sort of connection with aliens, ancient Mystery religions, and “sacred math”–blend back into society, but secretly organize to bring down said society from the inside, to control all daily life, to magnetize the children. And they called themselves: the Illuminati.

Honestly: these fuckers are batting a thousand with these names.

Such cool names. Anyway, the Illuminati–as a subtle revenge against the Pope for his/her treachery–inserts propaganda into their media to cause people to fear Friday the 13th. They also send out fear rays through the goldfish, but that’s for a different post.

That was what I was told about Friday the 13th, anyway.

“Okay” comes from OK or O.K., and O.K. comes from “Oll Korrect,” but that sounds very dumb and made up and I do not believe it.

Shaking hands with someone lets them know you don’t have a sword, but so does holding up your hand and showing the guy you don’t have a sword. Plus, you only shake hands with your right, so what if the sword’s in your left? This makes no sense.

Theodore Roosevelt was in his first term of office, and he had gone hunting down South with some Congressmen he was wooing. They went to shoot bear; TR–a skilled hunter–didn’t see one for days. The Congressmen had seen plenty, but in deference to the President, didn’t shoot them so he could get the first kill. Finally, fed up, one of the lawmakers trapped a small black bear and presented it to Roosevelt. He had killed buffalo and mountain lions in the west, and turkey and deer in the east, and when his terms were up he would go to Africa for a year and murder the living shit out of the continent.

But the bear looked so pathetic, and Teddy Roosevelt was a sporting man; he ordered the bear freed. He was also quite fond of publicity and telling stories about himself, so he regaled the press with his tale of beneficence when he got back. Someone started selling stuffed versions, and they were called “Teddy’s Bears.” That’s true. I know that.

Some things start, but some things have beginnings.