Have you ever wondered why there is so much fear and superstition around the number 13th particularly Friday the 13th, I know I have. Friday the 13th causes so much fear in some people that is actually is a phobia. Paraskavedekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th and comes from the Greek words Paraskevi meaning Friday and dekatreis meaning 13. Who would have thought that some people would have a phobia over Friday the 13th?
Some people are so afraid of Friday 13th that they won’t get out of bed, or drive in cars or airplanes. They will go to the extremes of avoiding doing anything on that day.
Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina states that the United States losses somewhere around $900 million dollars in revenue on Friday the 13th because people will not travel or do any business transactions like trading on the stock market or buying a house on that day. Up to 21 million people in America have this phobia.
I already wrote a story about my childhood where I got lost on the bus on Friday the 13th after I had practiced the bus root to go to my new high school with my best friend all summer. Did I get lost because it was Friday the 13th or was it because I was still not sure of the bus route? Logically speaking it was the latter. I did practice with my friend but I am not a very observant person and I did not realize I got on the bus going in the wrong direction. This is very typical of the things I do, whether it is Friday the 13th or any other day of the year.
Richard Wiseman, a British psychologist says that people who already consider themselves unlucky will tend to believe that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. He says,
“Their beliefs and behavior are likely to be part of a much bigger worldview,” he said. “They will believe that luck is a magical force and that it can ruin their lives.”
He also found that a quarter of over 2,000 people surveyed had a fear of the number 13 and because of their anxiety they became more prone to accidents than the average person. In other words any accidents they have could be because they are already very anxious and that nervous tension is what is causing the accidents in the first place, and not the day itself. Hey that works for me, I was a nervous wreck taking that bus that day by myself without my friend at my side.
Psychologists (my field) state that this fear of Friday the 13th is just that; a fear. This day is no different than any other. People believe that bad things will happen to them on this day and so they look for bad things, forgetting that whatever it is they find could have happened on another day of the year and they probably would never have noticed it. For example, you wanted to wear your favorite shirt to work but it was in the wash, was that because of Friday the 13th or because you didn’t do your laundry? If you do your laundry on the weekend when you are not working there is a big possibility you wouldn’t have had that shirt washed on any Friday of the month. Friday the 13th is a day like any other.
What is interesting to me is that I don’t hear people talking about good things happening on that date. Gosh children are born on Friday the 13th, people celebrate special occasions on Friday the 13th and yet people continue to look for the bad on this day to justify their fear.
This fear of Friday the 13th is steeped in Ancient folklore
The fear of Friday the 13th is born of two separate fears in ancient times, the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Friday but considered to be unlucky.
The fear of 13 is traced back to Old Norse mythology. According to the myth, the Gods were having a dinner party in Valhalla their equivalent of heaven and in walks the 13th God, who incidentally was not invited; this God was Loki, known for his mischief. He gets Holder, who is the blind God of darkness to shoot Balder the beautiful who was the God of joy and gladness. When Balder died all the lights in the world went out and the world went black. Dossey states that it was a black and unlucky day and this is the origin for the number 13 being unlucky.
Christians will also know that Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus was the 13th disciple.
In ancient Rome witches were sent to gather in covens of 12 with the 13th member being the devil himself. Also in Norse Mythology Frigga the Goddess of love and fertility lost favor when Christianity gained popularity among the Germanic tribes and she was branded as a witch, she would hold covens every Friday with 11 other witches and the devil. Fridays was known as the Witches Sabbath in Scandinavian countries for centuries.
Traditionally the number13 was a lucky number among pagans and when Christianity took hold of Europe everything pagan was discouraged and the number 13 became unlucky.
The Science Education Resource Center at the University of Delaware’s Professor Thomas Fernsler, explains how in numerology 12 is a complete number it is found everywhere, from the zodiac signs to 12 Gods of Olympics in Greek Mythology, 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles of Jesus, thus 13 is outside the perfect complete sequence and is viewed as unlucky.
According to NASA and some other scholars, there were originally 13 planets in the Babylonian zodiac. The 13th sign, Ophiuchus fell between November 30th – December 18th. According to other sources this planet was dropped in favour of the complete number 12. Each of these 12 planets then coincided with 12 tribes of Israel as much of Babylonian and Hebrew history meshed together.
Some interesting tidbits around the world
In Florence, Italy a house numbered in between 12 and 14 would never be represented as 13, it would be 12/2 and American and Canadian floors in large buildings often jump from 12 to 14.
Friday as an unlucky day
According to Mr. Roach of National Geographic news, Friday has been considered an unlucky day in Christian belief. Jesus was crucified on a Friday, Cain was said to have Killed Able on Friday the 13th and the serpent tempted Adam and Eve on a Friday.
Furthermore, Friday was considered unlucky in the 14th century (Cantebury Tales) and people did not travel or do any business.
The demise of the Knights Templar at the hands of King Phillip in France occurred on October 13, 1307, which was Friday the 13th. King Harold of England made the mistake of marching his tired troops into battle. The Battle of Hasting occurred on Friday the 13th of October 1066. The English king was killed and the battle was lost.
We know that black Friday is associated with the stock market crash and other misfortunate events since the 1800’s.