I have a question regarding a possibly Jewish tradition that I learned from my mother. My mother is from Iraq; back in the 70's Jews used to inhabit Iraq, and she said that this is who she learned it from. I suppose they still do since there is but 7 left.

So whenever I lose something, my mom tells me to tie a knot from a towel, paper towel, maybe it doesn't matter, maybe it does. You fold the towel diagonally, and then you fold the outside tip to the crease, and then continue folding likewise until you get some type of thing that looks like a string. From that, you make a knot. She heard that this ties up the testicles of Satan, causing him pain and he'll concentrate on the pain rather than making trouble in your life, or something to that effect.

I'm wondering where does this belief come from? Is it specific to Iraqi Jews? Does anyone else know about it? My mom said that there are some people in Iraq who know this that are not Jewish, but they learned it from the Jews as well. I recalled my mother saying a specific word for this type of "fix" if you will.

EDIT: Another part to the belief was that as soon as the item that was lost is found, you must untie the knot, because (again, I'm not quite sure if I heard this correctly, or even if my mother remembers it correctly) the demon may cry out loud, and cause another demon to show up to break the charm. So then it was bad luck to keep the knot going.

As to it solely concerning Eastern Jews (I assume it's meant Jews in the Middle East), I think that some of the family married into the European side of Jewry, since the family (who we still keep in contact today) has 40 and 50 year old relatives with both their last name (it's Arabic sounding) and the last name common among European Jews. However, I do not claim that I know that for a fact. It could have very well been that there were Jews in Iraq with European sounding names.

Another Edit: I think I may have found something. Initially, I ignored this source because it said "Jewish Magic", as it could prove to be written by an anti-Semitic person as it was printed before the Holocaust, but according to the book Jewish Magic and Superstition, on page 127, it states that this type of "segulah" is a sort of binding (which I weakly referred to as it "ties the testicles of Satan" and "prevents him from doing harm"), and it also lists the Talmud as a source and goes as far as to say the Islamic prophet Muhammad was bewitched by this type of binding.

  • Very interesting. There is definitely a Jewish tradition associating tying of knots with witchcraft and demons, but I never heard this one in specific. I will try to look into it and see what I can come up with. Aug 29, 2014 at 7:30
  • Witchcraft is still avoda zara because it is worship of self..."I have the powers to change and affect things with my spells and charms".
    – user9592
    Jun 11, 2015 at 6:31
  • Rivka, Witchcraft is most certainly not idolatry- but is rather a related prohibition.
    – Ephraim
    Jun 11, 2015 at 18:25

3 Answers 3


The practice of tying a knot to find a lost object is found in wiccan practice , and may have originated in ancient Greek culture

Furthermore, even if these foreign practice somehow snuck into Jewish forklore, doing 'spells' , or 'charms' , or anything of the sort, is inconsistent with the Torah:

When you have come to the land the Lord, your G-d, is giving you, you shall not learn to do like the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, a soothsayer, a diviner of [auspicious] times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, a pithom sorcerer, a yido'a sorcerer, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations, the Lord, your G-d is driving them out from before you. Be wholehearted {tamim} with the Lord, your G-d. For these nations, which you are to possess, hearken to diviners of [auspicious] times and soothsayers, but as for you, the Lord, your G-d, has not given you [things] like these.

Deuteronomy 18:9-14

Don't mess around with practices like this. At best, they're nonsense, and at worst, they're a form of idol worship. Just be tamim (wholehearted, simple in approach) with G-d. If you lose something, simply ask G-d to help you find it, no need for any other ritual.

  • 1
    Slight suggestion. Maybe change the warning about idol worship to a warning against Kishuf?
    – user6591
    Sep 30, 2014 at 2:27
  • @user6591 You don't think that following a Wiccan practice counts as avodah zarah?
    – Jake
    Oct 6, 2014 at 17:11
  • The link you provided was to a witch not a god:) It can be hard to define but I think an occult object or power which is worshipped is by definition avoda zara, idol worship. A power which is accessed through a practice would be more along the lines of kishuf, magic. It gets weird when someone says something like zeus told me to hop on my left foot and then I'll win this war. And he hops on his left foot. How do we quantify that?
    – user6591
    Oct 6, 2014 at 17:18
  • Btw I had voted up. I liked your answer, but that was my one suggestion.
    – user6591
    Oct 6, 2014 at 17:20

I assume that the link between knots and oversight was a bit distorted.

From the book Lev Haarie from Rabbi Yehuda Arie from Modena, chapter 9, quoting a stuff of the Sefer Haakeda from Rabbi Yitschak Arama.
The Berayta says in Menachot regarding tsitsit: and you will see it, and you will remember all commandments of G-d. Watch on this commandment and remember other commandments, what is it? Kriat Shema as says the Mishna regarding morning kiriat shema: "from the time in which you can distinguish between white and blue wool yarns. An other Berayta taught... What is it? mixture of wool and flax, because the next verse after shaatnez addresses tsitsit. {I want just remember that tsitsit are a kind of knots on garments}

Afterward RAYM quoted a Midrash Rabba addressing explicitly knots (Bereshit Rabba paragraph 90) The Sar Hamashkim did not remember Yosef. ... he was tying knots and an angel was unraveling them... to tie knots is an example of the mnemonics based on linking the memorization to sensory.

So, the function of the knots is rather to avoid oversight.


Some people I suppose do this in Jamaica. My grandma always does it and she tells my mom to do it. She tells me and my mom reminds me to do she says because grandma said to do it. So it's known elsewhere. It might have been from Jewish traditions that we learnt it. My grandmother would say tie the devil when you can't find something and of course she'd say untie it when you find it! Thank you for sharing!

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