Knocking on Wood

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American, Ancestral: Scottish + Germanic
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Scotland
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/27/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese

Main Content:

M= Me, I= Informant

M: So you said you grew up with a lot of fairy folklore?

I:  Yeah, um, you know like the knock on wood, that’s the most common one.

M: so what’s… what’s the background behind that? What happens if you don’t knock on wood? You know, why is it knock on wood?

I: Well knock on wood, uh you do it when you say something like that might not happen. Like uh  let’s so you want to get a good grade on a test and you are like “I.. I’m pretty confident, like, I’m gonna ace this test,” then you knock on wood. *knocks on wood* Sorry I shouldn’t have done it. *both laugh* You knock on wood because fairies live in the wood

M: Uh-huh (In agreement)

I: And if they hear you saying something that you want to happen, they’re gonna make it not happen.

M: Ohhhhhh, okay. That’s cool.

I: ‘Cause like fairies used to live in trees and stuff, so you would like, so it would… it would be like outside kinda stuff. 

M: Yeah

I: But since we don’t see trees *laughs* a lot anymore. It’s just become any wood. 

Context: Her parents passed this folk practice to her by simply doing it around her and when she asked why, they told her it so that the fairies don’t stop good things from happening. She was very little when she first learned this so she did believe in this initially. But even though she continued the practice as she grew up, she did not continue truly believing that the fairies were responsible.

Analysis: Given how prevalent fairies are in Scottish and Irish, it makes sense how her parents would pass down this practice to her. This is quite a common practice in the US and even if people don’t fully believe in it, they may do it in order to ‘not risk it’ or even to comfort others fears who do believe in it. This is common with many superstitions as while there may not be scientific evidence to support a superstitions, people still ‘believe’ in them or ‘don’t want to risk it’ because we learn beliefs from those around us. This practice is also consistent with other/earlier portrayals of fairies as they are often portrayed as mischievous creatures in lore and not the sweet and fragile creatures that has been popularized by the media, particularly by Disney.