Where do lucky charms come from?

Small objects that have the power to keep bad luck away. Worn around your neck, put in a specific corner of the house, in your pocket, in your bag: there is something for everyone. Especially when it comes to facing difficult and important challenges in one’s life, we all get a little superstitious. There are those who are superstitious only in special occasions and those who always surround themselves with amulets hoping to shed bad luck. 

Every country has its own. There is the shamrock in Ireland, the golden toad in China, the painted horse in Sweden, the scarab in Egypt, the red horn in Italy. In addition to being associated with supernatural powers, good luck charms are above all fascinating cultural symbols. 

According to psychology professor Richard Wiseman, “the fact that they come up in every culture through time shows how much luck and superstition is embedded in our DNA”. “People become superstitious when they have to face uncertainty in performance, such as athletes and actors” he explains. When faced with a difficult situation, man feels the need to cling to something greater than him, and above all, something that is on his side. 

Some lucky charms are linked to the tradition of a place, others stem from faith. The evil-eye and the helping hand are among the latter. The first is the characteristic eye in the center of white and blue circles, widespread in the Mediterranean regions and in Arab countries and which would have the power to protect against the evil eye. It comes in many shapes: bowls, bracelets, doormats, pendants and much more. The helping hand, known as hamsa, is found mainly in the markets of Morocco and Israel. It can be made in many different materials: from brass to tin, from wood to enamel. Iranian-American collector and entrepreneur Maryam Montague argues that traditions and beliefs ” follow the trader paths—so people were sharing culture”.

Lucky charms don’t have to be tangible, they can also be abstract. For example, it belongs to the Spanish tradition, the custom of wearing red underwear and eating twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, as a good omen for 12 months of good luck. Other superstitious rituals from the world include knocking on wood, pronouncing the word “rabbit” as soon as you wake up on the first of each month and throwing a pinch of salt behind your left shoulder.

Very common among the auspicious objects, there are those depicting animals. In Thailand the elephant is a sacred creature and is linked to Buddhism, the most widespread religion in the country. It is a symbol of peace and power. Even more famous are the Japanese “lucky cats”, whose original name is maneki-neko. These are mostly found in restaurants and shops to bring them wellness and luck. 

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