It's Friday The 13th, In October No Less. Here's What That Actually Means

Photo by Jovana Rikalo

Did you know that paraskevidekatriaphobia is a word for the collective fear we have of Friday, the 13th? Say that ten times fast! Historically, there is no one reason as to why Friday the thirteenth has been pegged as an unlucky day, but there is a lot of conjecture that, when taken in context, does seem to point to an uncanny amount of “bad” things that have happened on that day and date.

Why Friday, and why the 13th?

Why Friday the 13th, and not Thursday the 12th or Saturday the 14th? Triskaidekaphobia is a fear of the number 13 specifically. Many sources, including numerologists, believe that 12 is a complete number. A dozen equates to 12, there are 12 inches in a foot, the Gregorian calendar has 12 months in a year, and 12 signs in the zodiac, to name a few instances. Adding to an already perfect number, by this logic, makes it unlucky. 91 percent of apartment buildings in New York City even skip the 13th floor entirely, naming it 14 or PH if it’s the top floor, because it’s believed to be bad luck to live on the 13th floor.

And the other piece: Friday. Why is Wednesday the 13th a normal day, but Friday is believed to be extra unlucky? The nomenclature of Friday can be traced back to Roman goddess of love, Venus. Friday comes from the root Frigg, who was the old English goddess of love and essentially analogous to Venus. Standing for sex, beauty, and fertility, Venus is arguably one of the most feminine symbols of all time. The number 13 is linked to feminine cycles. There are 13 lunar cycles in a year (lunar energy is considered to be yin and feminine), and a woman with a 28-day cycle would have 13 menses. "In numerology, number 13 is a 'karmic debt number,' which means extra effort is required to overcome obstacles. As it is human nature to avoid anything that is difficult, painful or requires effort, the challenge with number 13 is to learn to persevere through anything that causes disharmony in your life," said numerologist Michelle Buchanan. As it turns out, the potent feminine nature of Friday is inherently linked to the number 13, and they're pretty powerful together.

Everyone’s a little superstitious (according to science).

There's a reason this holiday feels spooky and fear-driven, even though there’s clear evidence to the contrary. Fear in general, but specifically fear of death seems to drive everyone's belief—whether you're "spiritual" or not—in the superstitious. Additional research shows superstitious behavior is linked to an external locus of control, or a belief that outside forces drive the path (and therefore, consequences) of one's life. So, the looming fear of terrible things happening, but also having something else to blame, plays a big role in human superstition.

Regardless of whether the fear of Friday the 13th is warranted, it has real consequences. "It's been estimated that $800 or $900 million [U.S.] is lost in business on this day, because people will not fly or do business they normally would do," Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute, told National Geographic. People avoid signing documents, doing business, and even getting married on this date due to fear of bad luck.

Is Friday the 13th charged with energy? Sure—but it's not all bad, and there's little reason to fret. If anything, this day is one to embrace your feminine side and indulge in a little extra self-care. There's nothing wrong with a little magical thinking!

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