Sold for pennies during the Great War (but now really quite rare), these good luck charms have a wooden component and were given to (or bought by) soldiers heading to the Front. The triangular one pictured here even has the words ‘Touch Wood’ on the metal frame. All of them were likely worn under a sleeve or a shirt to keep the wearer in contact with it. While the charm was probably a measure of desperation on the part of the soldier (or their loved one), it is also testament to the persistence of a belief in luck over a thousand years old.
There are a few theories about its origin. One idea suggests that the phrase originated from pagan beliefs and superstitions. In ancient times, trees were considered sacred and believed to be the dwelling places of spirits or deities. Touching or knocking on wood was a way to call on the protective powers of the spirits or deities residing within the trees.
Another theory holds that the phrase has its roots in Christian traditions. In the Middle Ages, it was common to touch or knock on the wooden crucifixes or relics in churches for good luck or to seek protection from evil.