Chances are you’ve heard the old saying ‘knock on wood,’ but do you know the origins of this common phrase? For centuries, trees and wood have symbolized protection and prosperity. Cultures all over the world have been using this common superstition to bring good luck or ward off bad spirits.
One of the oldest known uses of this term has been traced all the way back to the Celts, who believed that their gods and spirits lived in trees. Celts would call on their gods and spirits for protection from battle, severe weather, or any other harm that could come their way. They also believed that knocking on the tree trunks of their gods was a way of showing gratitude, so they would turn to the trees whenever they were in search of good luck. Another theory about the origin of this superstition focuses on Christianity. Many Christians believe that they are referencing the wood from Christ’s crucifixion when they knock on wood. This is meant to symbolize calling on Christ for protection or good fortune.
The practice of knocking on wood has evolved over the centuries of its use in some interesting ways. In Medieval England, the term ‘knocking on wood’ referred to people who spoke in secrecy. People would meet in a wooded area and knock on the surrounding trees to protect their communication from being heard by anyone with ill intentions. During the 18th century, men in the United States would knock on the wooden stock of their rifles to allow the gun powder to settle properly, which ensured a clean shot. The term ‘knock on wood’ evolved to mean that someone wanted to ensure their efforts would yield positive results as opposed to backfiring.