Friday the 13th

Superstition surrounding Friday the 13th may not be justified

Friggatriskaidekaphobia. This jumble of letters may sound like gibberish, but in fact it describes the fear of Friday the 13th. The human mind can certainly convince itself of improbable things, but does this phobia have some form of justification?

Aside from the obvious numerical uneasiness that an odd number may cause, the number 13 has historically been associated with unluckiness or unfortunate events.

One theory comes from a Norse myth where the 11 closest friends of Odin joined him at a dinner party (making their guest count exactly 12). Then, Loki, the god of chaos, crashed the party and caused Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and happiness, to die. The thirteenth guest (Loki) brought trouble and death. Not unlike Judas, the thirteenth guest at the biblical last supper, betrayed Jesus.

Maybe the case is that 13 isn’t all bad, maybe 12 is just difficult to follow. There are 12 hours in a day and 12 months in a year and 12 is considered to be a pseudoperfect number (a positive number where the sum of at least two of its divisors equal itself). Adding one to this seemingly perfect integer is bound to make any individual in our modern society uncomfortable, considering that 12 seems to be the basis for our concept of time, but is it a truly unfortunate number as it’s stigma seems to indicate? There seems to be no mathematical claims against the number 13, other than that it comes after 12, but it still creates unrest.

This seemingly irrational fear is not only a concept of the western world. In China, the number 4 is often avoided such as the number 13 here in the United States, but in that case, the phonetics of the language are such that the word for the number ‘4’ is the same word as the word for ‘death’, but with different tonal expressions. There is no phonetic justification in the English language for the avoidance of the number 13, yet less than 5 percent of mid and residential high-rise buildings in Brooklyn and New York have a 13th floor, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

While there may not be any solid reasons to be afraid of the number 13 or more specifically, Friday the 13th, it still remains as a valid and legitimate fear throughout the United States.

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About Dominique Hlavac

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