By William Bruce. Updated Friday, November 13, 2015.
What gives with this superstition?
Is there some evidence to support the fear? Or is my friend Bubba Jim Beam right when he says, “there ain’t nothin’ to it.”
The fear of Friday the 13th is referred to medically as friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen).
The earliest known documented reference in English occurs in a 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th. The author wrote:
“He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that one Friday 13th of November he died.”
However, some historians have suggested the superstition has much earlier origins.
One theory states that it is a modern combination of two older superstitions: that thirteen is an unlucky number and that Friday is an unlucky day.
In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve gods of Olympus, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles of Jesus, the 12 successors of Muhammad in Shia Islam, etc., whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness.
Many hotels and office building do not have a 13th floor. Guests are magically transported in one story from the 12th floor to the 14th.
There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth, that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners.
Friday has been considered an unlucky day at least since the 14th century’s The Canterbury Tales. Many have regarded Friday as an unlucky day to undertake journeys or begin new projects. In fact, Nancy Regan’s astrologer warned her about Fridays. Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s.
However, research seems to support the assertion of my friend who said “there ain’t nothin’ to it.” A recent study in Holland concluded that “fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays.”
So what do patients with friggatriskaidekaphobia have to look forward to for the rest of the year? There are no more such days this year. The next Friday the 13th is in May of 2016.
So what are the afflicted to do on those dates? Again, we turn to my friend Bubba Jim Beam who advises “two shots of bourbon with breakfast.”
“It’ll get ’em get through the day.”
“In fact,” he concludes, “it’ll help you get through just about any day.”