Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time


Now that’s a word I’d never seen before.  At least not until today.  But there it was, on the front page of USA Today, saying that this would be a bad year for paraskevidekatriaphobics.  Rattle that word off 20 times in a row after drinking a few beers.  Heck, I can’t say it once.  Way too many syllables.

What does it mean?  A paraskevidekatriaphobic is a person who’s afraid of Friday the 13th.  If you recall, we had one of those yesterday.  In fact, we’re going to have 3 of them this year.  One yesterday, one on April 13th, and the last on July 13th.  Usually we only get 2 per year.  Last year (2011), we only had one of them.

What’s kind of interesting, though, is that the 3 dates this year are exactly 13 weeks apart.  That’s kind of spooky.  I wonder how often that happens.

All I know is that yesterday’s edition of Friday the 13th wasn’t all that great for me.  First, we had our first snowstorm of the year.  We didn’t get a whole lot of the white stuff (about 5 inches), but the wind was blowing a zillion miles an hour and road conditions really sucked.  My plans were to stay in.  But then a problem with a broken tooth forced me to go visit one of my least favorite people – a dentist.  That was fun.  And I have to go back on Monday.

Am I superstitious?  No, I don’t think so.  At least not much.  I don’t think anyone can say that they have absolutely NO superstitions.  We all have at least a few strange habits in that regard.  But my question is:  what happens to a person with a really severe case of paraskevidekatriaphobia?  Do they not venture out at all on a Friday the 13th?  Not even go to work?  Do they hide?  And is there a “treatment” for it?  A pill?  Are there support groups?

Anyway, it’s a neat word.  One you don’t hear very often.  Or more likely, never.

And what does the picture have to do with Friday the 13th?  Not a damn thing.  But I found that I haven’t a single image in my collection with the number “13” in it.  None that I could find, anyway.  But I do like old walls.  And this one’s been around for a lot of Friday the 13ths.


7 Responses to “Paraskevidekatriaphobia”

  1. John - Visual Notebook

    That’s an excellent shot with the mottled light on the wall and manhole cover. I would probably have walked on by and not even noticed.

    Fortunately, Friday the 13th’s for me are just another day – and I’m glad about that, because I’d hate to try to tell people I’m a paraskevidekatriaphobic. I’d have to have training just to learn to pronounce it!

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, John. I’ve always been fascinated by freestanding walls. The New England countryside is full of them, as is parts of the south. This one is in Charleston, SC.

      No, I don’t pay much attention to Friday the 13th either. And I’ve always wondered why a lot of buildings don’t have a 13th floor – they just go from 12 to 14. Obviously, some people do “pay attention”. But that word – by my count, it’s 23 letters. Who coins words like this?

  2. Cedric

    If we are to define superstition as “A widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief” then I don’t think I could consider myself superstitious about anything since I don’t see how anything can be “super” natural. However on a side note, by this definition, I do consider all religious beliefs as superstition.

    Anyway, just don’t go stepping on that manhole on any Paraskeví dekatreís (Friday 13), just in case. And avoid ladders and black cats. I’m just kidding. Or am I? 😉

    • Paul Maxim

      It’s interesting that you mention religion, Cedric. If you don’t follow American football, you may have missed the controversey over here surrounding Tim Tebow, quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Tebow is intensely religious and has polarized a good portion of Americans (kind of like the politics here). Some believe he’s actually “guided” by Jesus Christ and some believe he’s just another religious crackpot. His onfield demonstrations of faith inspire those who “believe” and infuriate those who do not. One recent poll said that 43% of Americans believe that his actions on the field were guided by “divine intervention”. To me, that’s a scary statistic, even if you’re a “believer”. Why in the hell would God favor one quarterback over any other? Why would he care about football at all? Or anything else, for that matter?

      I bring that up only because it speaks to the idea of “superstition”. If religion is just superstition – and I agree with you that it is – then there are an awful lot of superstitious people out there. I don’t care what other people believe, but when they start telling me that someone’s actions or thoughts are being guided or directed by a supernatural power, then I start to worry. Talk about absolute power corrupting absolutely. But everybody wants a piece of Tim Tebow. Sooner or later they’ll have him running for office. Then the real fun will begin.

      Having said all that, I have to admit that I never step on manhole covers. Even if it’s not Friday the 13th.

      • Cedric

        As it turns out I do know about Tebow. His name is all over Twitter so I had to look him up. I find the whole thing scary and amusing at the same time. Growing up I had two uncles who were Catholic priests and as an inquisitive youngster I had some heavy theological and philosophical discussions with them. One conclusion I came to was that no one actually believes in religious gods. At best people believe they believe in some god. There’s a difference. I mean how many Christians or Muslims do you know who so truly believe that they live their lives in accordance to all the rules and rituals set out in the associated scriptures. If a person truly believed they would also believe that every action of theirs will be judged and will have consequences and their lives would be lived quite differently. Of course this doesn’t make it any less scary. Throughout the ages gods and religion have been used as excuses for all sorts of atrocities. And it succeeds in doing so because humans are so susceptible to superstitious belief. On the plus side, I’ve often said that superstition can’t stand up to science which has been killing off gods for some time now and any remaining ones are simply living on a prayer.

  3. Paul

    Well, regarding this word: I would say that you’ve added a new word to my vocabulary because I’ve never seen this before, but then that would imply that I will even remember the damn thing when I leave this page! 🙂 It’s funny how that number is superstitious, even in buildings. When I worked in Bank of America Hearst tower, they didn’t label a 13th floor. I worked on the 13th floor, but it was called “Mezzanine”. The elevator went 12, Mezzanine, 14. Whatever! LOL Yeah! That will fool them. However, when I was in Australia, there was no such nonsense. In fact, my room was 1308, too bad it that it wasn’t 1309, then I would have had 13 two ways, floor and sum. 🙂 Lastly, I most certainly would have to agree about religion being superstition, or more towards myth.

    • Paul Maxim

      Yes, when I was working for MGM in Las Vegas, none of the big hotels had floors labeled “13”. They just went from 12 to 14. Of course, in a city where “luck” is kind of an important commodity, I suppose that makes at least a little sense. If you’re a gambler, anyway.

      Don’t feel bad, Paul. I won’t remember the word, either! Like I said, way too many syllables……..


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