Folk Beliefs
Protection

Knocking on Wood

Context:

The informant is a student at USC. We began talking in a study session room while we were waiting for other people to come. In this account, he is describing a tradition he and his family does.

In the transcript of our conversation, he is identified as S (storyteller) and I am identified as C (collector).

 

C: So, what kind of story do you want to share?

 

S: First one is pretty simple. Something weird that my family does as like a superstition. It’s that, in my family we always knock on wood to break a jinx. For example, we’d just be talking and discussing the worst financial situations like “Oh, we might run out of money or something” but then we would knock on something to break the jinx.

 

C: So like the whole knock on wood thing that other people do?

 

S: Yea, exactly.

 

Yea. So, I don’t know exactly where it originates, it’s just a thing that we saw in the movies one time so when we see something that happens, we just say let’s knock on wood for that.

 

Analysis:

The notion of knocking on wood is generally well known. It’s interesting to see where this family first found the superstition. People draw stories and beliefs from all sorts of things around them. This particular kind of superstitious belief may also help promote a positive mental attitude by changing what might have been a bad notion into something that will no longer happen after completing the action.

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