Monday, November 12, 2012

Do you touch wood?

Ever since I started to converse with people around me, there has been one phrase that I used to hear from many of them. It was natural to have conversations about someone related to you or some material possession you have. Good natured comments about these people or things will obviously find its place in between these chit chat.

I’ve observed with a strange phenomenon that each time a complimenting word is spoken about the subject in discussion it will be promptly followed by a frantic search for an article made out of wood so that they could touch it and say the magical phrase ‘touch wood’!

Recently I did some research and Wikipedia gave me some facts about this act. The practice comes from the Greek tradition in western folklore of literally touching/knocking on wood, or merely stating that you are doing or intend same, in order to avoid ‘tempting fate’ after making a favorable observation, a boast, or declaration concerning one's own death.

The bigger question that remains is how this tradition is an oxymoron in view of religious beliefs. Most of us belong to one or other religion that exists in this world. For all those who do not belong to any religion or do not practice a specific religion, this tradition could be an acceptable norm. For the rest of the humankind isn’t this practice anything but a sheer blasphemy?

Almost all religions teach to believe in the existence of a super natural power which guides the world and the events around us. Some people call that God and we have innumerable names given to the concept of ‘God’ across these religions. All these Gods have taught people to believe in them to have a good life. I’m sure no one prays to get a horrible life.

It has a historical aspect that people have been following rituals like these to ward off evil from casting its shadows on their lives. It is fascinating to see people being made to think that a natural grown piece of wood has celestial capabilities to do away with the unnatural being supposedly existing in this world awaiting its turn to strike on those who do not touch wood!

Being an ardent believer or not, there are situations that lead some people to start thinking in these lines. This is especially true when it comes to the little ones at home. Your baby could be all well, kicking and alive making your life one of the most envious to all those who are not that abundantly blessed. One fine day this relative or friend of yours come home, looks at your child and exclaims, “Look at her; she is such a cutie pie. I’m sure this little angel can never give you any trouble whatsoever”.

Soon after the person leaves all the while appreciating your hospitality, the little angel somehow turns into the most violent monster you’ve ever faced! The baby who was sleeping peacefully till that day refuses to sleep, develops some sort of uneasiness, does not take any food given including the forbidden sweets and totally becomes a moron with not even a shade of the angelic tranquility that was attributed a few moments earlier!

It takes all the effort in the world for you to bring back the cutie pie and you almost thought your life is back on track. There comes another friend who will have something similar to say as the previous one and life takes a full circle again.

You become paranoid to such an extent that you start believing in the apotropaic tradition and your hand will be auto programmed to reach a wood as soon as you hear or say something good about your baby!

The irony of life can go to such depths that God himself may start growing a forest to enable people to knock the wood. The heights of such an incident was when the other day a couple was seen reaching out to a blessed wooden rosary when something nice was spoken about their kid, since they could not find anything else made of wood and exclaimed to their heart’s content - touch wood!


  1. Reaching out to a wooden rosary was indeed too much :)

    I believe people like to attribute evil effects whenever their kids starts behaving anything different from normal. Imagine a kid who is having a stomach ache due to indigestion. Rather than analyzing the cause of the disturbance to the kid, the parents will be very much ready to blame the last person who innocently complemented their kid.

    I had my introduction to these small tricks of casting evil from babies only recently. One is 'arti' with salt by circling your hand around the babyfew times with a pinch of salt. And every day I see maids wading off evil aka "Drishti" from my baby. They crack their hand knuckles after circling it around the baby. The amount of "Drishti" is proportional to the sound generated when the knuckles crack.

    The end result is that I am afraid of saying anything nice about anyone's kids lest I will be considered as an agent of evil !!!

  2. @Elizabeth: Certain vices in the world can't be easily removed and the worst part is people become very senstive when we speak about it... Anyways, I'm happy that it helped me with a topic to write after a long time :)


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