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Knock on wood.

Posted by ESC on January 01, 2006

In Reply to: Knock on wood. Posted by Jim McCracken on January 01, 2006

: Knock on wood.

: Origin given as:

: May be the association that wood and trees have with good spirits in mythology, or with the Christian cross.

: The version I heard was that churches in medieval times were places of sanctuary but disputes arose as to when sanctuary was reached, entry onto church grounds, actual entry into the church etc. It was then supposedly decided that sanctuary was reached when one touched the door of the church, thus touch (or knock on) wood.

: I obviously don't know if it's true, but it sounds plausible.

In churches that I attended while growing up in West Virginia, a common picture was Jesus knocking on a door. The door to our hearts. Doesn't have anything to do with this phrase. Just sharing.

Another theory from the archives: Charles Earle Funke, in "Heavens to Betsy!" says: "...No one knows how the superstition arose, but George Stimpson, in 'A Book About a Thousand Things,' which the publishers Harper & Brothers, permit me to quote, presents some of the numerous theories that have been offered. He says:

'...Some attribute it to the old game known as 'touching wood' or 'wood tag,' in which a player who succeeds in touching wood is safe from capture. Others hold that this game and 'knocking on wood' had a common origin in primitive tree worship, when trees were believed to harbor protective spirits. To rap on a tree -- the dwelling place of a friendly spirit -- was to call up the spirit of the tree to protect one against impending misfortune. Later, people would place the hand on a wooden statue of a deity for the same purpose...still others believe the superstition is of Christian origin and that it is in some way associated with the wooden cross upon which Jesus was crucified..."