Frightening Friday

Today is Friday the 13th! For most this is just another day, but for many it is one of the most frightening days of the year.  Not just those who suffer from triskaidekaphobia or parakevidekatriaphobia, but also those who are superstitious without being phobic. The question some of us may be asking is: why?

Tradition

People grow up fearing what they are told is scary.  If you hear every Friday the 13th all your life that it’s a day of bad luck then you are likely to believe it.  The dark side of the day is mostly in our minds, or at least that’s the theory of Stuart Vyse, a professor of psychology at Connecticut College in New London.  If you think about it further that’s really how all culture is passed down through the generations.  Associating bad luck and fear with the number 13 and Friday the 13th is just one part of Western Culture which has been carried through the generations.

Western culture actively avoids the number by skipping it in high rise buildings when labeling the floors or (sometimes) in street addresses. The ever growing number of films dedicated to making this date scary hasn’t exactly helped anyone forget about this custom either.

Biblical Roots

There were 13 guests present at the Last Supper where Judas betrayed Jesus.  The Last Supper was on a Friday.  Merging the two statements gives us one reason for fearing the day.

Other theories with biblical origins also exist.  Some believe that Adam and Eve shared their first taste of forbidden fruit on a Friday. It’s also said that Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th.

 Negative Associations

One of the largest factors contributing to the wide spread fear of Friday the 13th are the number of awful events (real or mythological) which have been associated with the date.

In Norse mythology there is a tale of a doomed dinner in Valhalla. 12 gods were assembled when Loki entered as the 13th member.  He convinced the blind god of darkness, Hoder, to shoot the goddess of joy and gladness, Balder, with an arrow laced with mistletoe. Balder died plunging the morning world into darkness.

King Philip IV of France torture the Knights Templar on Friday the 13th. Apparently he wanted the riches they were supposedly hiding. In Roman culture witches we said to gather in groups of 12 with the devil being the 13th guest.  Friday was once know as the hangman’s day in Britain. This was the day when most executions took place.  The gallows had exactly 13 steps.

Complete Numbers

According to the theory of numerology 12 is a complete number.  There are 12 signs in the zodiac, 12 apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 months in the year, 12 gods of Olympus, the list goes on.  13 in comparison is not a complete number and therefore makes people uncomfortable.  For me it’s the opposite, 12 is a strange number for me and 13 makes perfect sense.  Maybe its from years of consciously embracing 13 and refusing to fear the number.  Now 12 is just awkward for me, it feels like it falls just short of the number comfortable 13.

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