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Today is Friday the 13th, the second and last one that we will have to encounter in 2013! While to most of us it signifies the start of another carefree weekend, there are some people that consider today to be extremely unlucky. As you probably know, the number 13 has a bad reputation to begin with. This is the reason many office and residential towers often skip the 13th floor altogether. However, when that date falls on a Friday, the fear factor seems to escalate to a whole new level.
So how bad is it? About 20 million Americans and probably scores more worldwide, are believed to suffer from an irrational fear of this day. Known as friggatriskaidekaphobiacs (derived from the words frigg, the Norse goddess whom Friday is named after and triskaidekaphobia, the irrational fear of the number 13), their symptoms range from mild anxiety to nagging fears that something bad is about to happen, to full-blown panic attacks.
Many that suffer from this phobia happen to be employed in professions like construction or ship building, which are fraught with injury risk. That may explain the reason they get nervous and fear that their chances of getting hurt are exacerbated when the 13th happens to fall on a Friday.
While nobody is sure why the combination of this date and day evokes such dread, there a few theories. Some believe that it begins with the irrational fear of the number 13 suffered by Triskaidekaphobiacs, regardless of what day it falls on. Again, the reason behind that totally confounds researchers. According to Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist at the University of Delaware, it could be because people perceive 12 to be a complete number - there are 12 months in a year, 12 zodiac signs, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus . . . so on and so forth. Hence, the number right after that seems incomplete and therefore, deemed unlucky.
Folklore historian Donald Dorsey, traces the fear all the way back to ancient times, when the Vikings inhabited Scandinavia. 12 gods were having a dinner party at Valhalla, the Viking's mythological heaven. Suddenly, an uninvited '13th' guest, the mischievous god Loki walked in and instigated Hoder, the blind god of darkness to shoot Balder, the god of joy and gladness.
As for Friday? That happens to be rooted in ancient mythology and religion - Per the bible, Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Though the date is not believed to be the 13th, it was following the Last Supper, which happened to be attended by 13 men that included Judas Iscariot, the apostle that betrayed Jesus. Other biblical scholars maintain that this was the day when Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit - Again, the date is a little hazy. The one bad event that is believed to have happened on Friday the 13th, was the slaying of Abel by his brother Cain (The sons of Adam and Eve).
Experts estimate that businesses lose between $800-$900mm USD on this day because people avoid traveling, going to work and even, shopping!
Unfortunately since there is no logical reason behind this fear, not much can be done to alleviate it. However, Dr. Donald Dossey at Asheville, North Carolina's Stress Management Center/Phobia institute believes she may have found a solution.
She recommends people living with this fear to learn how to pronounce the word paraskevidekatriaphobia, the other term for the ailment. In her expert opinion, they will be cured the minute they are able to say it out loud, correctly. So go ahead, give it a try and let us know if it works!
Happy Friday (the 13th!)
Resources: shorenewstoday.com, urbanlegends.about.com, nationalgeographic.com, timeanddate.com