Myth Buster 27: Knock On Wood

Hand knocking on wood

Hand knocking on wood

In the western world and even here in the Philippines, you might be literally living under the rock if you’re not familiar with the phrase “Knock on wood!” One usually says this if one said something or thought of something that is not very pleasant. To avoid what was said from happening, one utters the phrase ‘knock on wood’ while literally knocking on wood.

But where did this belief come from?

In the olden times, unlike now where most cities are highly urbanized, people lived amongst the trees, and they believe that inside the trees dwell some spirits. So if they think something bad may happen, they knock on trees to ask for the help of spirit or spirits dwelling inside the tree. Remember houses were not big then and people usually discuss things outside amongst the trees.

As a lot of places got highly urbanized and trees are cut down, this became ‘knock on wood’ because (1) trees are no longer that accessible and (2) wood comes from trees.

But is there truth to imploring the help from the spirit of trees? And also does it work with ordinary woods that have turned into furniture?

To the first question, my answer is yes. However, the biggest mistake here is how to discern whether the spirit residing in the said tree is a good or bad spirit. And if it’s a good spirit how to discern whether it is strong enough to help. So better not to ask help from tree spirits unless you really know that they are good spirits.

When it comes to the second question. The answer is most wood whether they are turned into furniture or not doesn’t carry a spirit anymore, but having said that some antique wooden furniture may still be inhabited by a spirit or soul. Usually in this kind of situation, they are bad spirits. So better not to ‘knock on wood’!

For questions, suggestions, comments please email sanaakosirickylee@gmail.com

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