Friday the 13th Phobia Rooted in Ancient History

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There is also a biblical reference to the unlucky number 13. Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest to the Last Supper.

Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.

Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist in the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Center at the University of Delaware in Newark, said the number 13 suffers because of its position after 12.

According to Fernsler, numerologists consider 12 a "complete" number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus.

In exceeding 12 by 1, Fernsler said 13's association with bad luck "has to do with just being a little beyond completeness. The number becomes restless or squirmy."

This fear of 13 is strong in today's world. According to Dossey, more than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor. Many airports skip the 13th gate. Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.

On streets in Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 and a half. In France socialites known as the quatorziens (fourteeners) once made themselves available as 14th guests to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate.

Many triskaidekaphobes, as those who fear the unlucky integer are known, point to the ill-fated mission to the moon, Apollo 13.

As for Friday, it is well known among Christians as the day Jesus was crucified. Some biblical scholars believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on Friday. Perhaps most significant is a belief that Abel was slain by Cain on Friday the 13th.

Phobia Cures

So, what are triskaidekaphobes to do?

Dossey said "practical" cures are as simple as learning to refocus one's thoughts from negative feelings to positive. His mantra: "What you think about, you begin to feel. What you feel generates what you do. And what you do creates how you will become."

In other words, those stricken with negative thoughts about Friday the 13th need to learn how to focus on pleasant thoughts. Those, in turn, will create pleasant feelings that make one's fears less overwhelming, according to Dossey.

"They haven't lost their mind. They've lost control of their mind," Dossey said of triskaidekaphobes. "They are focused in the wrong direction. In their mind they have a big, large, looming picture of something horrible that could happen."

Wiseman, the University of Hertfordshire psychologist, offers similar advice to those stricken with the fear of Friday the 13th.

"They need to realize that they have the ability to create much of their own good and bad luck," he said. "And they should concentrate on being lucky by, for example, looking on the bright side of events in their lives, remembering the good things that have happened, and, most of all, be[ing] prepared to take control of their future."

Folklore offers other remedies, however. One recommendation is to climb to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burn all the socks you own that have holes in them. Another is to stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle.

So if you fear the 13th, take your pick of remedies and let tomorrow bring its luck—good or bad.

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