Friday 13 February 2009


Would you walk under this ladder, especially today?

Every year our calendar has at least one Friday 13th. This year we’ll have three – today and in March and November. Last year’s single one was in July while next year we’ll again just have the one in August.

If you are among the many folk particularly wary of Friday 13th, you are suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia, or the slightly easier to pronounce friggatriskaidekaphobia – two names for the same phenomenon. Triskaidekapohobia on its own just means fear of the number 13.

All of these words are made up of elements of the Greek language. ‘Tris’, ‘kai’ and ‘deka’ mean ‘three and ten’ while ‘phobia’ is Greek for ‘fear’ or ‘flight’. Paraskevidekatriaphobia begins with a combination of the Greek words for Friday, ‘paraskevi’, and 13, ‘dekatria’. The final word has the same origin as our name for Friday: Frigga, wife of the Norse god, Odin. And Friday comes after Thursday, named after Thor, Odin’s son by a different wife. Friday is said to be the witches Sabbath and Frigga is one of the goddesses associated with witchcraft.

You can find a number of theories about the origins of these superstitions and phobias.

§ A coven is made up of 13 witches.

§ Christian ideas relate it to the crucifixion happening on a Friday, also the last supper attended by Christ and the 12 apostles, the 13th being Judas Iscariot, the traitor.

§ Some believe it had an earlier origin when the Norse god Odin was entertaining 11 of his friends at Valhalla and his crafty brother, Loki, turned up uninvited, changing the party total to 13. It was at this party that Loki managed the tragic demise of Baldur, son of Odin and Frigga.

§ It was on Friday 13th October, 1307 that the Knights Templar across France were arrested en masse, to suffer torture and death at the whim of the Pope who had been jealous of their power.

Some famously nasty happenings have been linked to Friday and/or the number 13, but sometimes these links do seem rather contrived.

§ The crew members of the Apollo 13 mission failed to land on the moon, and were lucky to get home following an oxygen tank explosion on board. They were launched from Pad 39 (3 x 13) at 13:13 hours (not local time, but Houston mission control time) on 11th April, 1970 (11 + 4 + 70 = 85, and 8 + 5 = 13).

§ Composer Arnold Schoenberg was afflicted with triskaidekaphobia. Born on the 13th day of September in 1874, he died on Friday 13th July 1951 at 13 minutes to midnight. He is said to have predicted his death on this day as it was the first Friday 13th in his 76th year (7 + 6 = 13).

§ An amazing number of serial killers’ names have 13 letters – Charles Manson, Wayne Williams, Pee Wee Gaskins, Thierry Paulin, Fritz Haarmann, John Wayne Gacy, Michael Swango, Theodore Bundy, Herbert Mullin, Jack the Ripper, Harold Shipman, Frederick West, and Peter Sutcliffe, are just 13 of them.

§ In 1993 The British Medical Journal published a report that stated that there were far fewer people traveling on a Friday 13th than on other Friday dates. Nevertheless the numbers of patients admitted to hospital following traffic accidents were far higher than the norm for Fridays. The report concluded that the risk of having an accident on Friday 13th could be 52% higher than on other days, but it did not consider the possible reasons for this. One school of thought is that there is nothing supernatural about it – drivers could just be anxious and distracted by the date, which affects their driving skills.

Nevertheless in our Western culture, triskaidekaphobia is common and is often accommodated.

§ For those who live or work in a high-rise building, there is often no Floor 13. The floor numbers have been listed as going from 12 to 14. Well, would you want to spend time on the 13th floor?

§ In America where town streets are identified by number, there is often no 13th Street. And some airports have no Gate 13.

§ Generally, we avoid having 13 people at the dinner table – in France there is an organization that can supply a 14th dinner guest at short notice.

Of course there are always some who buck the trend. Some rugby clubs in Britain have set up Friday 13th supper clubs with 13 members who eat together every time the memorable date comes around. It doesn’t seem to have affected their clubs’ performance, either.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this interesting list. I love reading things like this. I guess I'm a little superstitious about somethings, but I don't think this is one of them, have a nice weekend.

Joanne Olivieri said...

You know I don't think of myself as superstitious yet when I read your question my immediate response was no. And, I don't walk under ladders. It's weird, I don't know why but I don't. On the other hand Friday the 13th's have always been good to me.

Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

Cool, lots of little 13 trivia and some of which I didn't already know. :-) It's really interesting. I'm always intrigued about traditions and superstitions.

For some, 13 is a lucky number. 3 is the holy trinity with 10 our celestial bodies. 13 is also a very powerful number.

Still, Friday the 13th passed by with nothing monstrous seeming to happen.

Anonymous said...

Those are very interesting facts Jean, really? he he he so I'll have free meals if I'm the 14th valentine's day.

zorlone said...

Hi Jean,
Seeing the picture for the first time, I would say, i would, then, your informative blog. Suddenly, I had second thoughts! LOL!
I can recall having two patients that day. One in patient and another, my friend's daughter who went to my house for consultation. I remembered mentioning "this happened today, Friday the 13th!"
Anyway, the day flew fine, without any other mishaps.
Great post.

Unknown said...

Thanks for comments, folks.

Jude - I hope your weekend was good too. And I hope you will get Shadow walking again before too long.

Joanne - hope last Friday was another good one. And that you are not having too much trouble with the vertigo.

Rebecca - glad your Friday was ok. 13 is certainly a very interesting number.

Jena - so how many sat down to your table on Friday? (There were only two of us as usual.)

Zorlone - you were another lucky one then, last Friday. Don't forget it is coming round again next month.

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