Chasing Down the Muse: Fears of the 13th don't add up

Paraskevidekatriaphobia. Whoa! What? But of course! This is the fear of Friday the 13th. Coming across this nearly unpronounceable word, I needed to know more.

For many years and in many countries, Friday the 13th has been considered a day of bad luck. Some folks won't go to work or wed on this date. Ditto any kind of elective surgical procedures or other risky ventures. A study done in the United Kingdom even recommended not driving on Friday the 13th based on a comparison of accidents on the 6th and the 13th.

The superstition may be a fusion of the many fears surrounding the number 13 and the day Friday.

In numerology, 12 is considered to be a complete number, while the number 13 contravenes this completion.

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is another long-held term for fear of Friday the 13th.

Thirteen is also associated with the Scandinavian fertility goddess Frigga, considered by Christians to be a witch. A coven of witches is thought to have consisted of 12 until Frigga joins them, making 13.

Friday has been considered unlucky by many since at least the 14th century for several reasons, not least of which is that many Christians believe Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Added to this was the pagan belief that Friday was thought to be Frigga's day and the witches' Sabbath.

Capital punishment in Great Britain supplied its own set of parameters to the superstition: Hangings were held on Friday and it was long believed that there were 13 steps up to the noose.

No real scientific logic exists, though, to back the fear of Friday the 13th, and most people fall into the trap without seeking out information that would indicate whether the fear is valid. Most of the information that one might gather would be anecdotal anyway, from personal experience. And, as so often happens, when you seek, you find that which you have sought.

Paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia, Christian or pagan, there is something here for everyone. And to take this all just a bit further, in many Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th that is considered bad luck.

In Greece, Tuesday — especially the 13th day of the month — is unlucky. Friday the 17th in Italy — where 13 is generally thought to be a lucky number — is the day of bad luck. Good grief. It is hard to keep up with all of this superstition.

Friday, Tuesday, 13, 17, witches, hangings are all too much for me. Either it is time for a bit of agoraphobia to take over my life, or I will stick with the tried and true and look for the rainbow, the silver lining and the joy of each day. What about you?

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer and director of the Sawdust Studio Art Classes in Laguna Beach. Always fascinated, inspired, and titillated by the beauty and the ever-changing mysteries — and surprises — of life, she can be reached at or by phone at (714) 745-9973.

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