Why We Feel the Need to Knock On Wood

Posted on Categories Discover Magazine

Last March, it snowed. And snowed and snowed. It was so heavy that roofs around my town were caving in, trapping pets and trucks and leaving people homeless. My own roof had several feet piled on. One night, flakes perpetually pelting down, I couldn’t sleep. I listened for the creaks of soon-to-collapse timbers. I imagined the porch overhang ripping away from the kitchen. I stared into the dark.

Did I eventually haul myself out of bed to shovel the roof? No. My fear of falling from such a height was too great — as was my love of a warm bed.

Instead, I knocked on wood. Repeatedly. My bedside table is wood, and my knuckles rapped it with each new terrifying thought. A wooden necklace hangs at the head of my bed. I tapped that, too.

This wasn’t a one-time, snowstorm-of-the-century deal. No matter the season or situation, knocking on wood is how I ward off the dangers in life.

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