I have never really thought of myself as a particularly superstitious person. Sure, I ‘knock on wood’ when the occasion warrants it, and ‘break a match’ when two things have gone wrong and I don’t relish a third, and I never, ever put new shoes on the table. (Only ‘new’ shoes mind, apparently old shoes don’t count. I have absolutely no idea why this is a thing but my Mum was always adamant—no new shoes on the table. Ever.) But other than that . . .
oh, and I don’t walk under ladders because—well—who does that? That’s just asking for trouble . . . .
But when it comes to Friday the 13th I admit I have never really given the day much thought, so I was quite surprised when I read an article recently about how many people there are in the world who have really serious issues with the day. And I mean scared (hopefully not) to-death, can’t-get-out-of-bed-or-leave-the-house issues.
I knew there was a name for the fear of anything associated with the number thirteen (13), although I didn’t know what that name was. When I looked it up I wasn’t surprised I didn’t know it—Triskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is apparently so widespread as to be the main reason that so many high-rise buildings, hotels and hospitals don’t have a 13th floor and many airports do not have gates numbered 13.
(Imagine going on holiday, having to travel on Friday 13th, flying out of Gate 13 and finding out your hotel room was Room 13 on the thirteenth floor. That would give even the most sceptical amongst us pause for thought.)
Some theories about why 13 is such a unlucky number include:
- A Norse myth tells of a dinner party for 12 gods at which a 13th guest showed up uninvited. The gatecrasher—the trickster god Loki—killed (or at least was the mastermind behind the killing of) Balder, the god of joy and happiness. (I can see how such an event might cast a slight pall over any dinner party.)
- Likewise, the Christian tale of the ‘Last Supper’ names Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, as the 13th guest at the table.
- Traditionally there are 13 steps leading up the gallows. (Again, I can see how this might be considered unlucky for some.)
- According to Mr Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants, there are 13 ‘bad’ words. (Okay, not really a good reason for it being unlucky, unless you really need to know all 13 words for some reason and you don’t, but a fun fact anyway.)
Interestingly, in other cultures the number 13 is not considered unlucky at all. In China the unluckiest number is 4, because the pronunication of the word is similar to that of the Chinese word for death. (Maybe the Chinese should give ‘4’ another name like hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (fear of the number 666. I don’t think that word would sound like any other word, even in Chinese.)
So then, with so many people already freaked out about the number 13, when you go and add the Friday to it the fear goes to a whole new level and, of course, you get a whole new name for it—or, in this case, two—friggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia. (I guess only one long, almost unpronounceable scientific name for this fear just wasn’t enough.)
Apparently ‘frigga’ affects millions of people worldwide and it is estimated that many businesses incur huge losses on that day. The bad news for suffers (and businesses it would seem)—is that every year will have at least one Friday the 13th. The good news is, there can’t be more than three Friday the 13ths in any given calendar year. And although studies have been done (do we know of anything there hasn’t been a ‘study’ done on yet?) there seems little evidence to suggest that Friday 13 is unluckier than any other day (although rabid fans of Jason Voorhees might hasten to disagree).
But you know, if you are not worried about the number 13, and Fridays in general hold no angst for you, then there is probably not too much for you to worry about . . .
. . . if you don’t spill any salt . . . or break any mirrors . . . or open your umbrella indoors . . . or light three cigarettes with one match . . . don’t (obviously) walk under any ladders . . . and you speak very nicely to any black cat who crosses your path . . . what could possibly go wrong?