Happy Friday the 13th!
How are you spending yours? Is it just another day, or are you hunkering down with your paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th) to make sure Freddy Krueger doesn't get you?
It's not perfectly clear just why Friday the 13th is such a superstitious day in some Western cultures, but records of the fear have been around since at least the 18th century and there are plenty of theories to explain it. Since Friday is considered an unlucky day by some and 13 an unlucky number, today is an especially fright-inducing amalgamation of the two.
There's numerology to consider, as the number 12 is seen as especially divine and organized (think 12 months in a year, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 Apostles of Jesus). Meanwhile, 13 is thought to bring nothing but bad luck. A Norse myth, for instance, says that Loki joined a party with 12 guests that ended in the death of Balder, the god of "light, joy and reconciliation." Hence the superstition that if 13 dine together, one will die within a year.
In Christianity, there were 13 people present at the Last Supper. That 13th guest was Judas the betrayer, and Jesus died soon after. Let's not forget that Friday was also the day on which Jesus was crucified, while others believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday. As for pre-Christian religions, Friday was the preferred day for executions in pagan Rome.
There is some evidence, including one 2008 Dutch study, suggesting that Friday the 13th actually sees a lower rate of accidents, theft, fires, and car accidents. Of course, there's the possibility that people are just more careful due to their superstitions, so take that as you will.
Even if you don't suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia, here are 13 other phobias you may experience...or might not even know existed.
If you do, we wish you good luck today. Then you can breathe easy until the next time this unlucky day rolls around in June 2014.