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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: Knocking on Wood
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1339  Tuesday, 1 July 2003

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Jun 2003 17:31:24 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1322 Re: Knocking on Wood

[2]     From:   Matthew Baynham <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 10:20:21 +0100
        Subj:   Knocking on wood


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Monday, 30 Jun 2003 17:31:24 -0400
Subject: 14.1322 Re: Knocking on Wood
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1322 Re: Knocking on Wood

Yes, David: like old hatreds and old prejudices, many superstitions
persist long after the reason for them has been forgotten (e.g. if you
spill salt, you must throw it over your shoulder---Lot's wife, and
before her, Eurydice?). Comparative mythology of the kind Joseph
Campbell studied is fascinating, if only for that reason.

It would be unseemly for a Jew to "knock on wood" for two reasons: one,
because it's a pagan practice, and two, because it indulges in
superstition (prohibited in Deuteronomy). I hadn't known about the
origin of "kike"---and I'm not sure I wanted to---but thank you all the
same for teaching me something new today.

Hate-words are uglier than superstitious ones . . . but knocking on wood
still has nothing whatsoever to do with the Cross. (That association
seems almost blasphemous, in its conflation of the ancient Greek with
the solemnly Christian: did whoever originated it think the Son need to
be wakened from slumber to come to the aid of the faithful, too?)

Best to all,
Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Baynham <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jul 2003 10:20:21 +0100
Subject:        Knocking on wood

David Friedberg asks,

"Is it not true that almost all Christian practices are pagan in
origin?"

Perhaps this is just a throwaway comment. It would be truer, of course,
to say that the most characteristic Christian practices are Jewish in
origin. Thus the agreed sacraments of Communion and Baptism derive from
the Passover meal and Jewish baptism (both prophetic, as of John the
Baptist, and proselytic, as in the Disapora.) The same would be true of
anointing with oil, ordination and monogamous marriage.  Also, clearly,
the ethical teaching of the New Testament is from within the Jewish
tradition, although it is selective from within that range.

David also says, "A Christian cross as you know has one long stem". This
is not always the case. For example, the characteristic Celtic Christian
cross is within, or partly within, a circle which probably represents
the cosmos. (The circle, in this case, may well be of pagan origin,
though.)

Matthew Baynham

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