If you felt an overwhelming urge to lock your doors, close all the blinds, and hide under the covers when you realized today’s date, then you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, the “official” scientific word for someone who has a fear of Friday the 13th. How in the world did a day/date combo on the calendar get such a terrifying rep anyway?
No one really knows the exact genesis, but even before doing any research ourselves, we knew it had to go well beyond Jason Voorhees – the hatchet wielding, hockey mask wearing dude of Hollywood horror flick fame.
As it turns out, the sum of its parts are what make “Friday the 13th” such a scary combo.
Friday = Misfortune, Unlucky, Woe
Lots of really bad things reportedly have happened on Fridays throughout history:
All of the early accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion agree that it took place on Friday – the standard day for crucifixions in Rome.
The famed order of the Knights Templar were wiped out by King Philip of France on Friday, October 13, 1307.
In The Canterbury Tales (1475), Chaucer writes, “And on a Friday fell all this mischance.”
In late-nineteenth century America, executions were traditionally held on Fridays.
13 = Evil, Wicked, Diabolical
Some folks link the fear of the number 13 back to a Norse myth. As the legend goes, twelve gods were having a dinner* at Valhalla – the fabled hall where legendary Norse heroes feasted for eternity after they died – that was interrupted by a 13th guest, the evil and mischievous god Loki.
The party takes a turn for the worse when Loki tricks Höðr (the blind god of winter and son of Odin, the supreme god in Norse mythology) into shooting his brother Baldr (the benevolent god of summer who was also Odin’s son). Some dinner guest, huh? As a result, the number 13 was branded as unlucky… nice job Loki.
Then there’s the Christian take… Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of his Twelve Apostles, who just so happened to be the 13th guest to arrive for the Last Supper*.
Last but not least, 13 is imperfect (i.e. bad) simply because it’s not 12, a number embedded across cultures as being symbolic of things that are complete and perfect: twelve months in a year, twelve signs of the zodiac, twelve Gods of Olympus, twelve sons of Odin, twelve labors of Hercules, twelve Jyotirlingas or Hindu shrines where Shiva is worshipped, twelve successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, and twelve tribes of Israel.
* Note to self: never invite 13 people to dinner… it just doesn’t end well.
Friday + 13 = Superstition, Irrational Fear, Movie Making Gold
So you take an already menacing number and have it fall on a day of the week that is associated with its fair share of misfortunate happenings, and you’ve got fodder for one giant, superstitious pitcher of Kool-Aid that Americans have been guzzling for decades.