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Knock on wood

Posted by ESC on May 26, 2000

In Reply to: Wood posted by jessica kite on May 25, 2000

: I have heard "knocking on wood" and "touching wood" both used for good luck. Why? And why did the act become more agressive as it crossed the Atlantic?

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..."