Knocking on wood: the quirks of superstitions

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Bobby Verhey

Senior Ethan Asis "knocks on wood" in order to not jinx his good luck.

Superstitions can vary from one to another, and something that might seem ordinary to one person may be the opposite to someone else. Superstitions can be done both to have good luck and avoid bad luck. They can also vary in subjects, as superstitions can occur in sports, before tests, and as daily rituals.

For junior Eric Bottern, superstitions are intertwined in his daily life.

“Every day when I wake up, I read Psalms 27:1. It helps keep my life in perspective and makes me thankful for the people in life who support me,” Bottern said.

Bottern also believes in using deep breaths to calm himself while in an academic setting.

“Whenever I have a big test or exam, I take a couple of deep breaths to relax before I start. This has definitely helped me,” Bottern said.

Sometimes I knock wood when things are going well. I don’t want to jinx it. I believe in net neutral — when something good happens, I don’t want it to end”

— Senior Ethan Asis

Sophomore Niko Liepens also has superstitions that he does every day. However, most of his superstitions have been ingrained in him over time.

“None of them have been completely chosen by me, but instead they are innate. It’s not really something I think about; it’s just something that I do […] There are only two big superstitions that I can think of. First, I hold my breath under tunnels, and then I also pick my feet up when I go over railroad tracks,” he said.

Superstitions are pretty common in the US, as a Gallup poll found that 25 percent of American adults considered themselves superstitious. One of the main venues for superstitions occurs in athletics.

Sophomore Rashmi Raveendran, who plays on the girls’ basketball team said, “During games, I’ll knock on my chin twice, and then I knock on my forehead twice. It started this year during the soccer season. Whenever I get stressed in a game, it just kind of keeps me calm […] It’s sort of like a substitute for the superstition of knocking on wood. I don’t know why it started.”

Bobby Verhey
Sophomore Rashmi Raveendran knocks on her forehead and chin whenever an opposing team takes a free throw in basketball.

Not only can superstitions keep people calm, but they can also serve as good luck.

“When other teams take free throws, I’ll cross my fingers and release them when the player shoots the ball [in the hopes they’ll miss]. Somehow, it seems like it actually works,” Raveendran added.  

A common superstition is knocking on wood.

“Sometimes I knock wood when things are going well. I don’t want to jinx it. I believe in net neutral — when something good happens, I don’t want it to end,” senior Ethan Asis said.

Sophomore Levi Mellin also believes in knocking on wood.

“I think it helps, I kind of do it subconsciously, because I have just done it so much […] I also believe in karma, so I believe that what goes around comes around,” he said.

Superstitions can also be precautionary, as walking in dangerous places can be said to give bad luck.

“I don’t walk under ladders; ever since I was little I’ve been scared that they would fall on me,” ninth-grader Emily Gisser said.

Sophomore Alek Radsan said, “I don’t walk over sewer gates, because I don’t know how well constructed they are.”

While superstitions can help understand or explain an otherwise chaotic world, others don’t. Quoting Steve Carell’s character Michael Scott of The Office, sophomore Sean Ege Stephenson said, “I am not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.”