Yoga Wicca Buddha

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Knock on Wood

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I knock on wood from habit and superstition. But lately the act has taken on both a Pagan and a Buddhist resonance for me.


Trees stand up like us but are taller and more grounded. Even so we are intimately linked: trees breathe out what we need to breathe in, and we return the favour. Trees are witness to our short lives and beacons directing our attention both above and below.


They can feed us. Their flesh can shelter and warm us, becoming hearth and home. Ancient Pagans sensed they were inspirited—persons in their own right, with specific powers. 


We knock on a neighbour’s door, asking for help or welcome. The ancients must have knocked on trees in the same spirit.


Today I knock on wood when I’ve made a boast or taken good fortune for granted. I address the spirit within, hoping for protection from my own hubris. The sharp sound is a mindfulness bell, a reminder that I am not in control, that the nature of things is to arise and pass away,continuously. The sound is my way of telling myself (and the powers that be) that I have come to my senses. With a knock or three, I declare my intention to remain humble in the face of fate.


To knock on wood grounds me, forging a connection with something that feels like my brother—but that has the kind of roots I can only long for.

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Archer has been trying to make sense of religion since her parents first abandoned her at Sunday School in the 60s. She’s a mom, yoga teacher and repository of useless bits of information on ancient religion, spiritual practices and English grammar. Check out her column “Connections” in Witches and Pagans.


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