Friday, August 19, 2005

Touch Wood

Many of us must have used this expression, do we know its origin ? So i decided (one more of my knowledge quests) to find out. Here is some of the little tidbits that i found.

Def: To touch wood or knock on wood is a superstition action to ward off any evil consequences or bad luck, perhaps because of some recent action you’ve taken or untimely boasting about your good fortune.
  • The custom is thought to originate from Pagan times when trees were held in high esteem. People believed that 'wood spirits' inhabited the trees and woodlands. To touch a tree with respect is thought to indicate that the person was in search of protection from the particular wood spirit.
  • It is thought also that the action may be a result of the Christian belief in The Crucifixion. Christ was crucified on a cross made of wood and hence touching wood may now be a sign of this belief, and a sign of deep compassion and reverence for Christ's resurrection. This would of course have no connection with the Pagan reasoning, but perhaps the action may be seen as result of two distinctive belief systems.
  • Pre-Christian rituals involving the spirits of sacred trees such as the oak, ash, holly or hawthorn.
  • An old Irish belief that you should knock on wood to let the little people know that you are thanking them for a bit of good luck.
  • There’s also a belief that the knocking sound prevents the Devil from hearing your unwise comments.
The phrase itself is relatively modern, as the oldest citation for the British version of the phrase, touch wood, that I can find dates only from 1899. The American equivalent knock on wood is roughly contemporary, with my first example from 1905. One Dutch tradition that is said to still be practised is the touching of the underside of a wooden table when such a thought is muttered, perhaps to divert the attention of the evil eye and negative influences.

9 Comments:

Blogger Venkat said...

hello sir,

i read your blog often and i really like it. very nice articles which i like to understand. keep it up sir. i am really enthralled.

http://blogpur.blogspot.com

ps.== i have added you to my contact list .

19 August, 2005 17:42  
Blogger Aatma said...

thanks venkat, i'll visit your blog soon

19 August, 2005 18:49  
Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

Interesting.! I didn't know about all this...though we use it all the times.!

If you look at Hinduism, we cremate using wood.! Any link there?

20 August, 2005 09:29  
Blogger Aatma said...

No Narayanan Sir, we have our own seperate set of supersitions

21 August, 2005 11:39  
Blogger Arjuna_Speaks said...

Narayanan sir - we have to burn the body right :)..so we need wood :)

21 August, 2005 12:53  
Blogger Venkat said...

hi aatma sir
maybe you might be interested in this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagan_beliefs_surrounding_Christmas
have a good day

21 August, 2005 15:22  
Blogger Ram.C said...

good research...

reminds me of 'kodi maram' which is still being used for our village festivities and 'kumbhabishegams'

21 August, 2005 21:54  
Blogger Preethi said...

A good one Aatma...sometimes we just don't realize how often we use a phrase without even knowing its meaning. "Touch wood" is a classic example! Thanks for giving some insight on it.

21 August, 2005 22:06  
Blogger Aatma said...

thanks venkat, I'll look into the link.

Thanks Ram, hmmm maybe it has some similar connection

Thanks Preethi

22 August, 2005 10:19  

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