Today is Friday the 13th, a date considered cursed in many cultures… but why?
Friday the 13th is definitely a special date. It’s no coincidence that Sean S. Cunningham used it as the name of the proudest representative of slashers in cinema; in many cultures, this day is very regularly associated with the misfortune and bad luck. The opportunity to take a closer look at this phenomenon deeply rooted in popular culture.
For some, the mere mention of Friday the 13th is enough to trigger a real anguish. We then speak of paraskevidekatriaphobia. A term at least as barbaric as the eponymous film, and which comes directly from the Greek. According to Wiktionary, it derives from the words Παρασκευή (“paraskevi”) which means “friday”, δεκατρείς (“decatreis“) which means “thirteen”.
And surprisingly, this phenomenon is more widespread than it seems. Indeed, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute of Asheville in the United States, more than 15 million Americans would be terrified of Friday the 13th! So is there any pragmatic basis that would explain this phobia?
Tracks all based on religion
Hard to say since even the exact origin of the myth remains uncertain. The most common explanation is deeply rooted in the Bible. The text states that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. The number 13 would be a reference to Judas, the famous thirteenth guest at the last meal, whose betrayal led to the crucifixion of Jesus.
Other more diffuse explanations also explain that Friday the 13th could find its roots in one of the most important episodes of Norse mythology. According to historian Donald Dossey, 12 deities were having dinner in Valhalla when Loki, a god known for his propensity to sow discord, unexpectedly arrived.
This 13th guest would then have distinguished himself by pushing Höðr, the blind son of Odin, to kill his own brother Baldur. An episode that could effectively explain the reputation of the number 13 in this culture, even if the link with Friday remains unclear.
A mere superstition with no demonstrable effect
Still, as it stands, unsurprisingly, no serious scientific data has succeeded in documenting this alleged curse. And it’s not for lack of trying. In 1993, TJ Scanlon and his colleagues from the Department of Public Health in West Sussex, England, were among the first to publish a paper on the subject.
Their conclusion: the risk of hospital admission would increase by 52% on Friday the 13th! “Staying at home is recommended”, can we even read in full in the paper. But as you might expect, the rest of the community soon realized that the post was suffering big methodological concerns that rendered the study obsolete.
And since the subject is not one incongruous, in 2008, Dutch researchers even came to the opposite conclusion! But at the same time, when we review the most cited papers among the 102,000 referenced works that include the terms “Friday 13”, this is another observation that stands out: unsurprisingly, the majority of the papers conclude that the effect of this “cursed” date is not significant from a statistical point of view.
Common sense therefore suggests not to worry; but phobias are by definition difficult to control, even when they seem completely irrational. We therefore wish good luck to paraskevidékatriaphobes to get through this day; You will then have several months of respite until the next Friday the 13th, scheduled for January 2023.