I know some people fear me because they fear my beard. Such people are called Pogonophobics, from the Greek words pogono (for “beard”) and phobia (“fear”). But while only a few Pogonophobics fear my beard, many more suffer from an affliction called Paraskevidekatriaphobia [pair- uh – SKEV – vee – day – CAT – tree – uh – FOE – bee – uh]. Paraskevidekatriaphobics harbor a deep, morbid fear of Friday the 13th. If today’s date is upsetting you, you may be among the world’s estimated 21 million Paraskevidekatriaphobics.
Paraskevidekatriaphobia comes from the Greek words paraskevi (meaning “Friday”), dekatreís (for “thirteen”), and phobia (“fear”). For those who suffer from this widespread fear, 2013 has been a particularly difficult year as there was also a Friday the 13th in September…exactly 13 weeks ago!
This superstition likely dates back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors and their fear of the number 13…long believed to be mysterious, ominous, and unlucky. The ancient humanus Gongawarians counted to the number 12 using their 10 fingers and 2 feet, but anything beyond 12 was a scary, impenetrable puzzle. (Apparently the earliest Gongawarians lacked toes.) That dread of the portentous 13 is why to this day many buildings lack a “13th floor”…or at least the elevator does not acknowledge its existence. Cities skip over having a “13th Street.” The Nordic Vikings thought if you gather 13 people together for dinner, one will die within a year. And then there’s the curse of having 13 letters in your name, e.g. Theodore Bundy, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack the Ripper, and the spurned Yankee Alex Rodriguez (who wears #13). Are you counting the letters in your name right now?
But why does our favorite day of the week…Friday…get wrapped up in this sordid mess? Let’s remember the 13 dinner guests at the Last Supper, one of whom betrayed the Host…ending in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on a Friday. Adam bit into the apple on a Friday. The Great Flood began on a Friday. Chaucer alluded to Friday as the day on which bad things happened in the Canterbury Tales. Many ships that sailed on a Friday were never seen again. Execution Day in ancient Rome was on a Friday, as was Hangman’s Day in Britain. The priests of the Middle Ages proclaimed that the Witches’ Sabbath was on a Friday. And, is it just a coincidence that there are exactly 13 witches in a proper witches’ coven?
If you have an irrational fear of Friday the 13th, I offer this list of superstition-based “Don’ts” for your own peace of mind. No need to thank me.
- Don’t cut your finger nails on a Friday. Doing so will bring you bad luck. (Superstition says you should cut your nails on a Wednesday for health…or on a Thursday for wealth.)
- Don’t get together for dinner with 12 of your friends tonight.
- Don’t sit in Row 13 if traveling by air, and try not to begin your trip on a Friday.
- Don’t change your sheets on a Friday…it’ll prompt bad dreams.
- Don’t go see the movie about Jason and the ill-fated summer camp at Crystal Lake.
As for me, I’m spending the day locked in my house with my fingers crossed and the blinds closed. I’ll be avoiding black cats, ladders, and mirrors. I’m also dreadfully aware that there are only 13 days until Christmas!
What are your phobias? (No need to fear the beard.)
By Tom Gongaware (General Sales Manager, Triangle Region)