Katie Beirne Fallon and Shaun Donovan knocking on wood in the Oval Office (2015)

Knocking on wood (also phrased touching wood or touch wood) is an apotropaic tradition of literally touching, tapping, or knocking on wood, or merely stating that one is doing or intending to do so, in order to avoid "tempting fate" after making a favorable prediction or boast, or a declaration concerning one's own death or another unfavorable situation.

Origin of use in the English language

There are connections between ancient spirituality and trees influencing fortune. In the pre-Christian beliefs of the Germanic peoples, for example, three Norns send fate up into the universe through a tree. Languages descended from these peoples include concepts such as "knock on wood", "touch wood" or "three times wood", although only the first two expressions are in the descended English language specifically. Meanwhile, the ancient Celtic peoples also believed that the act of touching wood called on spirits or gods of the trees.[1][2] Christians tie the practice to the symbolism of the wood of the cross of crucifixion.[2] Folklore researcher Steve Roud suggests that the widespread, modern use however derives from a form of tag called "Tiggy Touchwood" in which players are safe from being tagged if they are touching wood.[2]

Similar traditions across the world

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  1. ^ Ray (2017-05-18). "Why do we knock on wood?". TED-Ed Blog. Retrieved 2022-08-26.
  2. ^ a b c Andrews, Evan (August 29, 2016). "Why do people knock on wood for luck?". History.
  3. ^ Миливојевић, Зоран. "Да куцнем у дрво".
  4. ^ Fernanes de Melo Santos, Jair (2020). Christ Meets Culture: The influence of Sociocultural Factors on Translation of Gospel in Brazil. Wipf & Sock. ISBN 978-1-7252-7460-0.
  5. ^ "What Does 'Kenahara' Mean?".
  6. ^ "Superstitions in Italy". Lifeinitaly.com. 2007-01-20. Retrieved 2011-12-03.
  7. ^ Supersticiones arraigadas - Selecciones
  8. ^ MB T (26 September 2009). "St. Catherine's Monastery Semantron". Archived from the original on 2021-12-22 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "Постучи по дереву, чтоб не сглазить".
  10. ^ "Откуда пошла традиция стучать по дереву и трижды плевать через левое плечо?". 22 May 2017.
  11. ^ "Sleding and sweet buns on shrove Tuesday...and other quirks of Estonian culture". 22 March 2022.

See also