I don’t recall hearing of this word before, but interestingly enough, I knew its meaning; a fear of the number 13. To be clear, the fear of Friday the 13th is another long word altogether – paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Disclaimer: I’m not a very superstitious person by nature – but sometimes I prefer to hedge my bets and not tempt the gods.

Why did this superstition get started?  Ah, a curious spirit – welcome to the rabbit holes.

History’s first known record of this fear was in the middle ages. And why not. There was so much trouble about, much of it seeming to stem from mysterious and inexplicable causes; life was ripe for superstitions to fill the vacuum of knowledge.

Tarot cards have been around since the mid-1400s, with one of the trump cards, representing death, frequently numbered 13.

Religion was turned to for an explanation of the unexplainable.

At least since 1774, 13 at a table foretold that one of the eaters must die in the next year. My, my, where could that have come from?  Look no further than Jesus at the Last Supper. Twelve disciples plus one more – Jesus.

For a change of pace, let’s look at some historical events. I keep in mind that over 700 years or so, there had to be some interesting coincidences.

On Friday, October 12, 1307, the Knights Templar were ordered arrested by Philip IV of France. Given the first two numbers of that century, maybe everybody had a bad year.

Apollo 13 was launched at 13:13 CST and experienced a tank explosion. It safely returned a few days later. Why wouldn’t that event cause us to think 13 was a lucky number? Just saying.

October 13, 1989, was the date of a mini-stock market crash.

Here’s the one I like best. For those who live in the land of leprechauns, the first 2 digits of vehicle license plates stand for the year of issue. 2013 was a looming problem. Car dealers thought everybody would wait a year before buying a new car. After country-wide consultation, they decided that plates purchased in the first 6 months would start with 131 and those in the last 6 months would begin with 132. I wonder if some folks still decided to wait a year rather than tempt their gods.

Please give this a bit of a think. What is a superstition you have? When do you ignore it? When do you prefer to hedge your bet? How did your superstition first come into your life?

I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think in the comment section below. It will come to me for approval before posting.

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2 thoughts on “Triskaidekaphobia

  1. Gail Benshabat says:

    I’ve never heard of triskaidekaphobia until you mentioned it. I didn’t know it was a medical condition. What a mouthful to say and remember! I counted the number of letters and it has 17. I gave this quite a bit of a think as you say. I found the question fascinating; it prompted me to do a google search and see what’s happening in the world of superstitions.

    In the Italian culture the number 17 is unlucky, especially if it falls on a Friday. Oh..but in Italy the number 13 is considered lucky because it represents the patron saint, St. Anthony, of finding things or lost people. In Spain and Greece Tuesday the 13th is considered a day of bad luck. The Chinese people consider the number 4 and 9 to be unlucky. The Japanese avoid number 43 and 24. The western culture are particularly fearful of the number 13, especially Friday the 13th. Some people skip numbering the 13th floor of buildings. On a side note, many people have no idea how problematic this can be when firefighters show up at a burning building! Anyway, the lists goes on and on.

    We can’t forget about the other superstitions that are a fixed part of the North American culture. Years and years ago I almost bought into the ‘never open an umbrella inside or else bad luck will “rain” upon you. Really? The other ones are just as preposterous: Don’t walk under a ladder or you’ll have misfortune. I can almost understand that one because you don’t know what’s going on above you. If a carpenter is working, you don’t want to upset whatever he’s working on by jiggling the ladder. What about avoiding black cats in your path? Are they really a symbol of evil and bad luck to come your way? I should hope not and I never believed it for a second.

    I’ve never fallen for or believed any of these superstitions. I see them as beliefs that go under the headings of old folk lore, myth and deep-rooted religious beliefs. Many of these superstitions have been perpetuated by long-held cultural traditions. They’re unshakable. I’m sure my parents and my parents parents passed them down, whether they believed them or not. Hollywood hasn’t helped calm the fears by putting out movies like Friday the 13th.

    I understand that and I can appreciate why many people still hold onto superstitions. I’m no exception because I could have “almost” believed a few of them. Maybe. Not really. I don’t avoid anything that’s labelled “bad luck” just because someone said it’s so. I don’t avoid certain numbers because someone said they will bring “bad luck.” I trust my instincts and intuition. If something is going to happen, it will happen. If that particular day is supposed to be so fateful, why is it a blessing somewhere else? Where is the logic here?

    Many Friday the 13ths have come and gone in my life. Nothing happened. What if 13 for everything was a lucky number somewhere else and I lived in that somewhere else? It’s all a matter of perspective, what you’ve been told and what you believe. So, to answer your questions about when did I ignore it, I’m not exactly sure. I think I dismissed Friday the 13th and other ominous events when I was old enough to figure out what’s real and what’s not.

    I prefer to look at the positives of numbers. The analogy of ‘is the glass half empty or half full?’ came to mind. Some people only see the glass half empty and others see it as half full. Like the glass analogy, if we always look at the number 13 with a sense of pessimism and doom and gloom, that’s all we’ll see. At that point we’ve programmed our minds to think and believe only bad will come. People with a severe paranoia of Friday the 13th will probably stay under the covers until Friday the 13th is done.

    Not knocking anyone who feels superstitious. I believe that every negative thing we see, feel an experience on earth is balanced by something positive and beautiful.

    • glenn says:

      Now that’s really a comment. Thanks, you took that hanging thread I leave after each Blog. Those that want to can pull it for all its work. What great fun! Thanks again.

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