5 Famous Lucky Charms That Get More Baffling With Research
Humans have been superstitious for about as long as we've had the capability of higher thinking. It takes a fair amount of brain power to think you can harness the soul-crushing randomness of life, however futile a feat that may be. Many people have lucky objects that mean a lot to them personally, but throughout different cultures and times there have always been objects almost universally believed to bring good luck.
But how? Why these specific objects? Why in the holy hell did people think everything would work out just fine for them as long as they had a ...
Rabbit feet are popular enough that you can buy them in vending machines, and they even come in a fashionable array of colors, because the severed foot of a dead animal on a keychain should definitely match your outfit.
"Glad my orange right-rear paw goes so well with your purse."
There are a lot of ideas about where the rabbit foot as a talisman originated, but the strongest one in terms of modern rabbit feet is Hoodoo, a spirituality that evolved from African folk magic mixing with Western influence during the slave trade. Like a lot of folk magic, Hoodoo occasionally calls for the use of bones. When practices called for the use of human bones and no one was willing to chop a dude up for his skeleton bits, Hoodoo practitioners would use animal bones as a substitute.
Folklorist Bill Ellis speculates that during a time when America was doing everything in its power to blatantly fuck over black people, many black people may have found courage in the rabbit, which is traditionally a clever character in a lot of African folklore.
White people, in a shocking move that's never happened before or since, appropriated the idea of a rabbit foot as a powerful good-luck charm and began selling them, attaching all sorts of rules to ensure the foot was imbued with evil magic that made them lucky. The "logic" being, if you crammed enough evil into it and carried it with you, evil would ignore you. Like when zombies ignore Rick and the gang on The Walking Dead when they slather themselves in zombie guts.
Wearing human guts is still somehow less horrifying than chopping off a rabbit's foot for luck.
And the more evil, the better. Cutting off the leg while standing on the grave of a particularly evil person on a Friday the 13th is a good start.
"Lucky" pennies are generally only pennies lying face-up on the ground. But, apparently, there are plenty of people who don't care and pick them all up with reckless abandon.
I understand finding a penny being lucky back when you could pick up enough pennies in a day to go buy yourself a pop or candy buttons or something, but pennies are pretty goddamn useless today. In fact, a bunch of countries have eliminated their penny-equivalents because nobody likes the idiot holding up the checkout line as they fish through their pockets for pennies to make exact change.
A jar of dirty, disgusting, fecal-laced luck.
Despite the fact that all of that makes picking up pennies sound like the unluckiest shit ever, this tradition/superstition dates back to when we thought metal was a gift from the gods. Out of that, all the fun rhymes your great-grandparents invented started showing up: "Find a penny pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck" and "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a penny in your shoe."
The shoe penny is supposed to guarantee prosperity in your marriage. Why anyone would use the most worthless of coins as a good-luck charm is a mystery best explained with a dismissive shoulder shrug.
There doesn't seem to be a completely concrete story about penny luck other than, "It's money, so obviously I'm going to pick it up." However, I did find this website, the Penny Priestess, where a woman answers penny-related questions, posts stories about the Penny God, and seems to know more about pennies than anyone should.
For seemingly no obvious reason at all, the number 7 is seen as a universally lucky number. If you Google "meaning of lucky number 7," you will get a trillion-million hits about astrology and your aura and other such things con artists make up and charge you money to hear. Google doesn't immediately come up with why 7 is lucky because people are infinitely more interested in figuring out what it means for their other superstitions.
What does it meeeeaaan?!
In fact, the best Google gave me was the fact that 7 has been significant to humans since pretty much forever. The classical planets, i.e. the planets visible to us before we got better at looking at planets, formed our days of the week and created our calendar. According to this guy, 7 is a recurring number in religion. God rested on the seventh day. The seven deadly sins. The seven sacraments. King Solomon won a round of Texas Hold 'em with a pair of 7s, and so on.
"C'mon! Daddy needs another 200 wives!"
But 7 is also a frequent member of the "unlucky shit that will fuck you up" club. Breaking a mirror is seven years of bad luck. A friend I was visiting in Germany a few years ago almost ripped my wrist off when I didn't make eye contact after a toast, which would have apparently meant seven years of bad sex. In China, the number 7 is straight-up associated with death. In other words, the human race can't even agree on the silly symbolic meaning of a single digit. That's comforting.
Tossing a horseshoe is a fun activity if you ever find yourself on a Wyoming cattle ranch in 1850. Alternatively, you can hang a horseshoe on your wall and the mystical powers that control the universe will stop whatever they're doing (creating planets and life and such) and immediately focus all of their efforts on providing you with luck ... assuming you've got the horseshoe pointing the right direction. The "U" up is good luck. The "U" down is back luck.
Left: Win the lottery. Right: Family dies in a fire.
For lucky horseshoes, we go back to metal being a gift from the gods, except more hardcore. Apparently, blacksmiths used to be considered super lucky. They worked with fire and magic God metal. Think about it: If you were a blacksmith, people believed you could bend and shape the materials handed down to man by God himself. So, of course, people figured horseshoes had to be lucky by association.
And the pure sex of 1,000 gods.
Additionally, horseshoes were originally made from iron, which has always been a Special Snowflake metal because it can withstand high temperatures and looks really cool when it's all glowy. The cherry on top of this lucky horseshoe sundae brings another familiar idea back around: the number 7. Like I mentioned earlier, people have had a hard-on for the number 7 since forever. So when it came time for people to nail their horseshoes to walls, they doubled down on their luck and used seven nails. Now if only someone made horseshoes out of rabbit feet.
Four-leaf clovers are pretty much the ultimate symbol of good luck. The universe is a random assortment of events that we have no control over, and our individual existences are swimming in the empty, meaningless void of it all, but for some reason a shamrock knocks the shit out of those fears with Tyson-like haymakers. The rarity of four-leaf clovers hugely contributes to their reputation for luckiness, obviously. When the odds are small enough, we like to imagine that fate intervened for us specifically.
Combine that with the biblical story of Eve taking a four-leaf clover with her out of the Garden of Eden, and you've got a stupidly lucky plant.
After getting booted from Eden, Eve became a master thief.
The Druids thought four-leaf clovers had special powers with regard to warding off evil. In the Middle Ages that belief warped into the idea that four-leaf clovers would help people spot fairies. As far as I can tell, the Middle Ages was basically mixing children and death, so the former used four-leaf clovers to hunt for fairies.
"Get this WEED and you'll totally, like, see FAIRIES, man."
Also, fun fact: Despite drunk people's insistence otherwise every March, four-leaf clovers have nothing to do with Saint Patrick, who, according to legend, used regular, three-leafed clovers to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish. The four-leaf clover allegedly represents fame, wealth, health, and love, half of which are things Jesus, his ghost, and his dad aren't huge fans of. But, really, who cares? It's not like the drunkards decked out in four-leaf clovers on St. Patrick's Day are kicking back a row of whiskey shots to honor Jesus to begin with.
For more from Alice, check out 4 Things You Only Learn from Exercise if You're in Bad Shape and 5 Creepy Dating Site Messages Every Woman Has Received.
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