PARASKEVIDEKATRIAPHOBIA or Fear of Friday 13th
Paraskevidekatriaphobia - from the Greek words paraskeví which means 'Friday' and dekatreís which means ‘thirteen’. The fear of the number 13 itself is called triskaidekaphobia.
By and large this is a Western superstition, where people dislike, fear or have a phobia of Friday 13th. It could even be said it is one of the most dreaded dates in the calendar and has been feared throughout much of history. In Europe and the USA most people are aware of this superstition and many will alter their behaviour or even their routine on Friday 13th.
It can affect people to such an extent that some will remain in their homes or even in their beds for the whole day, for fear that something bad might happen. Others will not do business or travel.
In many ways whether we believe it, fear it, or not, it may well have an impact on us.
Last year I re-launched my website on Friday 13th of May and decided to write a short piece about Friday 13th. I was engrossed in writing when I happened to look up to the top corner of my computer screen and saw Friday 13.13 13th May. A shiver ran down my spine and I paused almost with bated breathe, half expecting something bad to happen. It felt unsettling to have seen the numbers all lined up like that, just at that split second. Yet I do not have paraskevidektriaphobia, neither do I take it too seriously where superstitions or 'signs' are concerned.That’s not to say I’ll casually walk under ladders or not notice a black cat if it crosses my path.
The previous year our family cat died on Friday 13th, no significance to the date, she was very old and had been fighting the inevitable for some time. I also took a flight with my family to Tallinn, Estonia on Friday 13th. Then Friday 13th did affect us; we got really cheap flights, so that was good; then a week before our trip the airline cancelled our particular flight, so that wasn’t so good. The reason given was that there were not enough passengers flying on that actual day.
Perhaps the risk adverse and superstitious had decided that they wouldn't risk flying on that day after all. So another way it had an impact on me and my family, was that we all had to travel slightly later in the day and now the ‘unlucky Friday 13th’ thought was firmly planted in our minds. As we boarded the plane I was just that little more apprehensive than usual. (I also hoped the in-flight film wouldn’t involve anyone by the name Jason). Needless to say nothing untoward happened on our flight, however, I did get a real sense of general unease, which seemed a little more than usual.
However, as we stretched out across the empty seats, and received more of an attentive service than ever before when flying, we decided that Friday 13th might not be so unlucky after all. It is of interest that in mainly Spanish speaking countries, Tuesday 13th is perceived as the unluckiest day, whereas apparently many Italians steer clear of Friday 17th. Thus Friday 13th has no real significance to many people across the world.
Most studies show little or no correlation between increased incidents, accidents or injuries and the fact that it is Friday 13th. Interestingly, many statistics show a decreased amount of accidents and hospital admissions on that day. It could be argued, therefore, that it is the impact of how others act around this day and if they do have paraskevidekatriaphobia; and what they do about it which has the affect.
Subliminally, consciously, subconsciously or simply in advertising and the media it’s there somewhere. Whether or not the impact is bargains and cheap flights or less traffic on the road, or simply that people are extra careful and vigilant on that day; it could be deduced that it is fundamentally the awareness and/or fear (phobia) itself that can affect and impact on different people in different ways. The reasons for fear of Friday 13th and where this superstition came from and how it has continued is a whole other story.
In 2017 we have two Fridays that fall on the 13th, one in January and one in October. I was completely unaware of the January one and it passed me by totally unnoticed. As I have just written this a week or so before the imminent one in October I wonder whether my awareness, which is now more raised will affect my day and my perceptions of it. I certainly won’t be consciously changing my behaviour though.
Happy Friday 13th!
Eleanor Rockell, who runs her own practice, London City Psychotherapy based in Bethnal Green, has been a practising therapist for over ten years. Having worked in the NHS and now running her own private practice, Eleanor is an experienced therapist who holds a Masters of Science in Psychodynamics of Human Development from The University of London and is also
registered with the BACP.