Freaky Friday: Friday the 13th Superstitions and Triskaidekaphobia

Ever wonder what the big deal is about Friday the 13th? We did, and found most of the superstition is rooted in religion.

BY: Deborah Caldwell


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Ever wonder what the big deal is about this silly date? We did. It turns out the history of Friday the 13th is complicated. There are superstitions about Friday, superstitions about the number 13--which together seem to create the fear of Friday the 13th. Most of these superstitions are rooted in religion.

Amazingly, folklorists say Friday the 13th is probably the most widespread superstition in America. There's even a name for the phobia attached to it: paraskevidekatriaphobia. Maybe a little information (see below) will help sufferers of this phobia. Or maybe we'll all just dive for cover on Friday the 13th.

Superstitions about the Number 13

According to the 1925 book

Popular Superstitions

, fear of the number 13 is so widespread around the world that "it seems clear that, to the primitive mind of early Man, [13] had no real meaning--he stopped at 12. So persistent are these old instincts that, even today, we stop at `Twelve Times Twelve' in our school multiplication triplication tables, though there is absolutely no reason whatever why we should do so."

According to this theory, since 13 represented the unknown to primitive people, it was "dangerous."

According to David Emery of

, 13-phobia may have come from the Hindus, who apparently believed it was always unlucky for 13 people to gather in one place. A version of the same superstition also from the Vikings: Twelve gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been excluded from the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total to 13. Loki then proceeded to incite Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly.

Sometime after that moment in history, the superstition attached itself to the story of the Last Supper of Jesus and the 12 disciples. (Twelve plus one equals 13.) Judas, who rose first from the table, was the first to die.

On the other hand, the Egyptians at the time of the pharoahs considered 13 lucky, because they believed life unfolded in 12 stages, and that there was a 13th stage-the afterlife-beyond. That meant the number 13 symbolized death-as a happy transformation. Egyptian civilization perished, but the symbolism of the number 13 lived on as fear of death. (In Tarot decks the "Death" card bears the number 13 but retains its original, positive meaning: transformation.)

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