Nugget of Knowledge: Knock on wood superstition

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Cultures all over the world knocked on wood for good luck

(WYTV) – When we knock on wood, or in Britain it’s called “touch wood,” tradition says we’re trying to rouse the spirits and call on their protection, or a way of showing gratitude for good luck.

Another theory holds that people knocked on wood to chase away evil spirits.

The origin may come from Celtic or German folklore: spirits lived in trees and people got their attention by tapping on the tree.

Cultures all over the world did this.

In Medieval England, knights going into battle would visit the wooden statue of a knight in Southwark Cathedral and touch its nose for luck.

In Brazil, it’s three knocks to keep something bad from happening.

In Greece, you just say the words “knock on wood” to protect you from bad luck.

In Italy, it’s called tocca ferro (touch iron), especially after seeing an undertaker or something related to death.

In Poland and Russia, you must knock on unpainted wood to prevent bad luck.

In Sweden, the expression is “pepper, pepper, touch wood.” You throw pepper over your shoulder and touch a wooden object.

In Turkey, when you hear about someone else’s misfortune, you gently tug on one earlobe, and knock on wood twice, which means “God save me from that thing.”

However, other researchers say knocking on wood comes from a 19th-century children’s game in Britain called “Tiggy Touchwood.” The game is a type of tag in which players were safe whenever they touched anything wooden.

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