Today is the first Friday the 13th of 2023, a date feared by some.
The French word for this fear is…deep breath…la paraskevidékatriaphobie. The English equivalent is not much easier to pronounce, paraskevidekatriaphobia.
The term comes from the Greek paraskevi (Friday), dekatria (13) and phobos (phobia).
Friday the 13th has for a long time been associated with bad luck in France, the UK, the US and many other countries.
The origin of this association could be linked to Christianity with 13 people present at Jesus’ last supper, which is said to have taken place on the Thursday before Jesus’ crucifixion on a Friday.
Another suggestion is that the number 13 is just considered unlucky because it comes after 12, which historically has been an important number in different cultures.
Saviez-vous que la paraskevidékatriaphobie est la phobie du vendredi 13 ? Quelles sont vos phobies ? pic.twitter.com/wmzEaN62rg— Le Robert (@LeRobert_com) March 13, 2020
An additional theory traces it back to a particularly bloody event in French history.
Philip IV, called Philip the Fair, was on the French throne in 1307. At the time, he was heavily in debt to the Knights Templar, a monastic military order who, once the popularity of the Crusades had diminished, transitioned into carrying out banking and commercial activities.
Philip wanted to get rid of the order and on October 13, 1307, which was a Friday, he moved against them. Hundreds of members of the order were arrested and tortured into admitting heresy.
The Templars were supposed to be under the authority of the Pope, but Philip used his influence over Clement V, the Pope at the time, to disband the order. He also used the confessions gained under torture to execute many of the members of the Templars, burning them at the stake.
French author and former culture minister Maurice Druon wrote about this event in his fictional series ‘The Accursed Kings’ (Les Rois maudits), published between 1955 and 1977.
In the series, he depicts the scene of the burning of Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Temple, in 1314. Jacques, according to legend, yells out while burning at the stake:
“Pope Clement! King Philip! Within a year, I summon you to appear before the tribunal of God to receive your just punishment! Cursed! Cursed! Cursed to the thirteenth generation of your offspring.”
Whether Jacques really said this is unknown, but in a spooky coincidence Pope Clement V died one month after the execution, and King Philip died within eight months of it. He did not have an heir, meaning the royal line passed to the House of Valois.
The books are said to have helped popularise King Philip’s feud with the Templars, and could have added to the superstition of Friday the 13th.