What is Paraskevidekatriaphobia?

Published Nov 13, 2009

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By Nondumiso Mbuyazi

People who believe that Friday the 13th brings bad luck have had a triple whammy this year - but it could also be a third shot at luck for those who think the day brings loads of good fortune.

Today marks the third Friday the 13th this year, a day which superstitious people - worldwide - regard as a day that holds either good or bad fortune.

This date occurs at least once in a year, but at most three times. This year this happened in February, March and November. The next time you'll have a hat-trick of angst to look forward to will be in 2015.

A fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, derived from the Greek words for "Friday" and "13".

Also used is the term triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) from the Greek words meaning "three" and "ten".

Professor Anand Singh of the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Anthropology department said the day has "a mixture of everything".

"Many believe the day brings bad luck, while some believe good things actually happen on this day. There is, of course, a group of people who believe that this is just a load of hogwash," said the professor.

Singh said the number '13' was considered an unlucky number in many corners of the world.

In Chandigarh, India there is a complex of 22 housing units without a unit 13 as no one would buy a house in it.

Singh said he hoped the day would bring good fortune for him.

"I'm going to play Powerball, so hopefully the day will bring good news for me," he laughed.

While millions of people in the US have great fear of this day, South Africans are not as superstitious.

Zinhle Mchunu of Berea said she knows about the day, but does not regard it as a day of bad luck.

"Bad things happen to people whichever day of the week it may be. I must say though, it would be great if bad things only happened to you on that day, because that would mean bad things would happen to you only once or twice or three times in a year," she chuckled.

Megan Smith of Glenwood said: "I can be a superstitious person sometimes, but I don't buy into the whole Friday the 13th concept."

According to Wikipedia, there is no written evidence of a "Friday the 13th" superstition before the 19th century.

The earliest known reference in English occurs in an 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini.

The Italian composer regarded Friday as an unlucky day, and 13 as an unlucky number. He eventually died on Friday, November 13 1868.

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