A study of paraskevidekatriaphobia & its adherents . . .
Paraskevidekatriaphobics; wow, there’s a word for your next pub quiz if ever I saw one! Its definition is as simple as the word is complex. Or so I thought initially. Simply put this tongue-twisting piece of lexicography means; “Person or persons suffering from an irrational fear of the date Friday 13th”
Many are the superstitions that are attached to this innocuous date on the calendar. It’s supposed to be a harbinger of doom; a bringer of misfortune and malicious happenings. Throughout most of Western Civilizations, that is. History has it that the Great Rossini, composer and writer of opera died on Friday 13th. It is a pity then that in Italy Friday the 17th is the bug-bear date. It’s also more frequently encountered, occurring in every month which begins on a Wednesday which would have given us three months to fear and not just the two that we have with Friday 13th.
Trawling through this year’s calendar I notice that we are blessed – or cursed – with not one but two causes for paraskevidekatriaphobia. The one which I have already mentioned happened on Friday 13th January and the second of these plagues is set to befall us in October. That’s five months away yet. So get prepared, whatever it is that one does to prepare for a Friday the 13th happening. Funny how paraskevidekatriaphobic just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as “Friday the 13th happening”.
I just avoided the first Friday the Thirteenth of this year by hiding behind Thursday the 12th and then adroitly skipping to Saturday 14th. I don’t think anyone noticed which is a relief! Explaining the intricacies of these occult manoeuvres can be quite embarrassing.
But why are we in Western culture – if you can still call it that – still so obsessed with medieval superstition? It’s not as if it’s driven by the “Hallmark” Brigade of greetings card manufacturers in the way that they shove February 14th down our throats every year. I ask you; St. Valentine’s Day? Famous only because a bunch of American gangsters massacred a group of rivals by shooting them with Thompson sub-machine guns and the event has since been known as “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”. And here we are in the 21st century spending billions of dollars, dinars, Pounds and Rands on greeting cards and flowers for our paramours to celebrate the day! Little wonder then that marriages don’t last.
But I digress; this is about Friday 13th and not Valentine’s Day. It would appear that Fridays have long been held as inauspicious days whilst the number 13 has both fans and detractors alike. But, sometime in 1955 something happened, which is unclear, and Friday and the number 13 were lumped together as being harbingers of bad luck. Like black cats and witch’s hats, walking under ladders and any one of a host of other superstitions. But, there is no empirical evidence to support these superstitions so I say “Bah! Humbug!” to the lot of them.
There is one anecdote about Friday 13th which I wish to leave you with. There was a gentleman, let’s call him Joe Bloggs, in Britain around the 1970s or so who had accumulated such a procession of misfortune on Friday 13th during his lifetime that he decided to do something proactive about it.
So, on the following Friday 13th Joe stayed in bed, thermos of tea by his side and decided that he was going to have the final say in the matter. After all, what can go wrong whilst lying in bed for the day?
Quite a lot, it would seem as the unfortunate Joe discovered. The roof of his semi-detached house collapsed and Joe was crushed to death by the beams and hot water cylinder which had been located directly above his bed! Now, was that just random bad luck or Friday 13th having the last word?
Peter Mark Wells-Garnett © 16 May 2017; all rights reserved