For most people, this Friday, which happens to fall on the 13th, will be just the end of a long week. However, those who have friggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia, consider it to be the unluckiest day of the year. This unfounded fear of Friday the 13th affects over twenty million people in the US and scores more worldwide.
The symptoms range from mild anxiety to a nagging fear that something bad is about to happen to even full-blown panic attacks. Friday the 13th appears to affect even non-believers, given that travel and big purchases dip substantially on this day. According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute, businesses lose between $800-$900 million USD every time the date and day coincide. Fortunately, it is not a very frequent occurrence.
Though some of the bad reputation can be blamed on the Friday the 13th movie franchise, for many, the fear began long before the film’s hockey-masked villain, Jason Voorhees, made an appearance. The number 13 has always had a bad reputation, especially in western culture. That is the reason most commercial buildings and hotels do not offer a 13th floor.
University of Delaware professor Thomas Fernsler believes that the fear stems from the fact that the number follows the nicely-rounded 12, which is considered “safe” given that we have 12 months, 12 zodiac signs, 12 apostles, etc. Folklore historian Donald Dossey attributes the fear of the number to an ancient Vikings myth. According to the story, twelve gods were enjoying a peaceful dinner in their mythological heaven, Valhalla, when Loki (of the Thor movie fame), strolled in. The uninvited thirteenth guest caused havoc and even convinced Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to kill Balder, the god of joy and gladness. Dorsey says that to this day, many people consider it unlucky to have thirteen people dining together. Some also believe that the first to rise from the meal will meet with some serious misfortune.
The fear of Friday stems from the fact that it was the day when Jesus was crucified. While the date was different, the tragedy occurred shortly following the Last Supper, whose 13 diners included Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. Many biblical scholars maintain that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday as well. Nobody, however, knows what the date was. The one unfortunate biblical event that is thought to have occurred on Friday the 13th is the slaying of Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, by his brother Cain.
Of course, the fact that these events took place on a Friday, a 13th day, or both, are most likely just a coincidence. In fact, Dr. Caroline Watt, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, believes that the greatest risk this day poses is the fear that something bad is going to happen. The professor says, "As a result, they (people with friggatriskaidekaphobia) may be more anxious and distracted, and this could lead to accidents. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Fortunately, there is some relief for those that are dreading this Friday. The positive energy from the full moon on the 12th will hopefully mitigate some of the purported bad luck. Also, at least for the residents of the US, this Friday marks the beginning of a three-day weekend.
Resources: Telegraph.co.uk, History.com