It's nearly Friday the 13th - starting to get scared?

ARE you superstitious about Friday the 13th? If so, tomorrow is not for you as it is Friday, July 13, writes Tom Gillespie.

Many people fear this day, staying indoors and missing work. Many, I know, would not move house on Friday the 13th for fear of bad luck - Friday being the traditional day to undertake such a momentous task.

Books and films have further added to the myth and indeed heightened the superstitious nature of the day.

I don’t have any hang-ups about this Friday. To me it is just another Friday, and the day before my birthday, and the weekend is ahead and I’ll be Inishturk bound.

Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in the western world. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday. It occurs at least once every year, and sometimes up to three times in a given year.

Last year it occurred twice, in January and October. There will be two Friday the 13ths per year until 2020, and 2021 will have just one occurrence.

Now this is a new one on me: The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name - triskaidekaphobia; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví, meaning ‘Friday’, and dekatreís, meaning ‘thirteen'.

The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion in which there were 13 individuals present in the upper room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.

While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

An early documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossin, who died on a Friday, 13th:

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 13 as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.

It is possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, contributed to disseminating the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

A suggested origin of the superstition - Friday, 13 October, 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar - may not have been formulated until the 20th century.

It is mentioned in the 1955 Maurice Druon historical novel The Iron King (Le Roi de fer), John J. Robinson’s 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and Steve Berry’s The Templar Legacy (2006).

In Spanish-speaking countries, instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck.

The Greeks also consider Tuesday (and especially the 13th) an unlucky day. Tuesday is considered dominated by the influence of Ares, the god of war (Mars in Roman mythology).

The fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade occurred on Tuesday, April 13, 1204, and the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans happened on Tuesday, May 29, 1453, events that strengthen the superstition about Tuesday.

In addition, in Greek the name of the day is Triti, meaning the third (day of the week), adding weight to the superstition, since bad luck is said to ‘come in threes’.

In Italian popular culture, Friday the 17th (and not the 13th) is considered a day of bad luck. The origin of this belief could be traced in the writing of number 17 in Roman numerals: XVII.

By shuffling the digits of the number one can easily get the word VIXI (‘I have lived’, implying death in the present), an omen of bad luck.

In fact, in Italy, 13 is generally considered a lucky number. However, due to Americanisation, young people consider Friday the 13th unlucky as well.

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history.

Some people are so paralysed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. It's been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day.

A study in the British Medical Journal, published in 1993, concluded that there ‘is a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day, such as Friday the 6th, in the UK’.

However, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics on June 12, 2008, stated that ‘fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home.

Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the recent years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.


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