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Got a case of Triskaidekaphobia?

Today is Friday the 13th. Apparently this is cause for alarm. It's unlucky, they say. Well, as someone whose lucky number is 13 (more on that in a bit), I wanted to get to the bottom of this unfounded superstition. What does it mean? According to Wikipedia, Triskaidekaphobia (from Greek tris meaning "3", kai meaning "and", deka meaning "10" and phobia meaning "fear" or "morbid fear") is fear of the number 13; it is a superstition and related to a specific fear of Friday the 13th, called paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia. The term was first used by Isador Coriat in Abnormal Psychology.

Where does it come from? Triskaidekaphobia does not fit into a clinical definition of a specific phobia. The number 13 is not an object or a situation, and it can be impossible for the sufferer to avoid. Moreover, in order for a phobia to be diagnosed, it must significantly impact the sufferer's life. Since this fear arises only on that day, it doesn't qualify.

Regardless of its scientific classification, triskaidekaphobia is an age-old and pervasive fear. It's commonly linked to the early Christians, as the number 13 appears in certain Biblical traditions. For example, there were 13 people present at the Last Supper, Jesus and his 12 Apostles. Some say that betrayer Judas was the 13th to join the table. However, the number 13 is also presented positively in the Bible, so there is some question as to the origin.

The oldest known reference can be found in the Mesopotamian Code of Hammurabi, a Babylonian code of law that dates to approximately 1760 BC. The laws are numbered, but number 13 is omitted (along with numbers 66 through 99). Therefore, it's possible that triskaidekaphobia was widespread even among the ancient peoples.

Looking fear in the eye In 1881, an influential group of New Yorkers led by U.S. Civil War veteran Captain William Fowler came together to put an end to this and other superstitions. They formed a dinner cabaret club, which they called the Thirteen Club. At the first meeting, on Friday 13 January 1881 at 8:13 p.m., 13 people sat down to dine in room 13 of the venue. The guests walked under a ladder to enter the room and were seated among piles of spilled salt. All of the guests survived. Thirteen Clubs sprang up all over North America for the next 40 years. Their activities were regularly reported in leading newspapers, and their numbers included five future U.S. presidents.

13, schmirteen When I was 13 years old I asked my mother what her favorite number was. She told me it was always how old she currently was. So I chose 13 and it's stuck ever since. I think I liked the idea of flying in the face of fear and claiming ownership to something always portrayed negatively. And honestly, nothing bad has ever happened to me on the 13th, Friday or otherwise. That said, I'll knock wood now, just in case...

Do you have a fear of Friday the 13th? What are some of your other fears? Tell us!

Image courtesy of terast

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