Why Are We Afraid of Friday the 13th?

Review Weekly Staff

We, as Americans, love to place our fears on the silliest things. We’ve invested a lot into our superstitions. Only pick up pennies that are heads up. Think twice before walking under ladders. Avoid stepping on cracks lest we break our mama’s collective backs. But ask around and you’ll find not many know the history behind Friday the 13th becoming something to fear.

Different cultures from around the world and throughout the ages have something to add to the phobia of unlucky days. Let’s take a deeper look at how these phobias were formed so we can get a better understanding of why millions of Americans have a fear of this silly day:




Jesus the 13th

Perhaps not surprisingly, many attribute the contemporary spookiness of this day to Jesus. Christians believe thirteen men attended the last supper. Jesus and his twelve apostles. The meal took place Thursday night. The following day Jesus was crucified. History tells us that this Friday was a good day, yet somehow superstition with a certain amount of cultural appropriation led us to fear Friday the 13th.




Greece and the Hispanic Culture: Paraskevidekatriaphobia

There’s a greek-rooted scientific word to describe the fear of Friday the 13th, paraskevidekatriaphobia. Broken down Paraskevi means Friday, dekatreis means thirteen. Though the greeks have a word for it, it’s Tuesday the 13th that is feared as unlucky; a fear shared with the hispanic culture.

The reason there’s a split between cultures is fascinating and deals with Gods and the fall of an empire. Ares, the god of war (in Greek mythology) was known to be the dominant influence on Tuesdays. Tuesday is also the third day of the week and in Greek culture bad luck comes in threes. Also, Constantinople fell on Tuesday, April 13, 1204.




American Culture: Jason’s Revenge

But, why do fear-obsessed Americans disregard all the Tuesday the 13ths that litter the calendar? Well, for starters, we’ve got a long-running horror franchise that focuses on Friday the 13th, which keeps this day in our social consciousness. In fact, the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina reports that an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the U.S. are markedly affected by the fear of Friday the 13th. Leave it to Americans to manifest a real fear in a superstition based in pop culture.




Italian Culture: Nix the Vixi

In Italian culture, Friday the 17th is considered unlucky. This may be due to the fact that the Roman numerals for 17 is XVII, an anagram for VIXI, which means “I have lived” in Italian. That does sound spooky, like a message from the other side.

Of course, the widespread influence the American culture has over the world is now shifting the younger Italian fears towards Friday the 13th.




Friday in Norse Lore: Oh My Goddess

It’s easy to place the majority of blame on the number 13, which gets a bad rap more than Friday. Friday on it’s own in American culture is exciting, and signals the beginning of the weekend. But in Norse lore, Friday was dedicated to honor the Norse goddess Frigg, the goddess of love, beauty, wisdom, war, death and magic. This honor made the day unlucky for wedding, but not for the reason you might think! Since Frigg was the goddess of love and beauty, the Norse felt the man’s love of this goddess might supercede his love for his soon-to-be wife!





It’s all too easy to get swept up in the fear of superstitions. If you’re one of the 17 to 21 million Americans who suffer from stress and fear over this day, take a deep breath. Remember that much of our culture is built upon silly stories from the past. If you want to live by the Norse lore and avoid getting married on this day, do so out of your respect to Frigg, not a fear of a hockey-masked lunatic named Jason. Evil knows no holiday and doesn’t keep a calendar. Happy Friday the 13th!


Review Weekly Staff

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