The History & Superstition of 'Touch Wood'
Few people know why they do it, but still today when we mention something good that we would like to see happen in the future, many of us touch or knock on wood twice to keep from jinxing the expected good fortune. Where this tradition comes from is a long debated argument, however, below we have cited a few possible theories.
One explanation states that the tradition derived from the Pagans who thought that trees were the homes of fairies, spirits, dryads and many other mystical creatures. In these instances, people might knock or touch wood to request good luck, or to distract spirits with evil intentions. When in need of a favour or some good luck, one politely mentioned this wish to a tree and then touched the bark, representing the first "knock." The second "knock" was to say "thank you." The knocking was also supposed to prevent evil spirits from hearing your speech and as such stop them from interfering. Alternatively, some traditions have it that by knocking upon wood, you would awaken and release the benevolent wood fairies that dwelt there.
The idea that knocking or touching wood would ward off evil or bring you good luck, may have been adapted by Christians, as were many early pagan beliefs. In a number of Christian communities, the belief is that by touching wood, you are touching the wood of the Cross and as such are seeking the protection of God. On this same token, there were people who believed that by carrying pieces of wood or the true cross, that this would bring you good luck.
One of the most interesting elements of this particular superstition is that regardless of nationality, religion or geography, there seems to be a similar phrase in many cultures across the globe. For example, in the Arab world "امسك الخشب" (imsek el-khashab) is said and means to “knock on wood”. In Brazil, this expression exists: "bater na madeira", which also has the exact same meaning. Again, in Czech the saying is "klepat na dřevo". In Finland the saying is "koputtaa puuta" and in Greek "chtipa xilo". Despite being on opposite sides of Europe, the phrase is used for the same purpose and it also means exactly the same as the English equivalent. In the USA the expression used is knock on wood. In Sweden, the phrase "ta i trä" (touch wood) is commonly used as a part of the phrase "peppar peppar, ta i trä" (pepper pepper, touch wood), the double "pepper" also being used to ward off a temptation of fate. It's often shortened to just saying "peppar peppar" while knocking on wood. Both Trinidad and Tobago have a similar phrase for the same act. It seems that no matter where you are, it might always be better to touch wood for luck - just in case!
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