We could all do with a bit of luck from time to time. Since ancient times people have associated certain items and animals with bringing good luck and over the centuries since these items have become invaluable symbols of good fortune and cultural identities.
- Maneki-neko (‘The Beckoning Cat’) – Japan
Chances are you have seen one of these in a shop, often by the till or in the window to beckon in customers and bring the shop owners good luck. These lovely cats originated back in the Edo period and are based on the Japanese bobtail. They come in a variety of colours, each with its own specific meaning: White cats – the cat’s original colour – are for general good luck, gold cats are for wealth and money luck, pink cats are reputed to bring luck in love, red cats bring in health luck and black cats ward off evil.
Which paw the cat has raised also has meaning: in general, those with their left paw raised and beckoning are bringing in customers so tend to be used more for businesses while those with their right paw raised and beckoning are bringing in luck and tend to be used in the home.
- The Four-Leaf Clover –
One of the most commonly used symbols of luck, images of the four-leaf clover can be found all over the place, as company logos, as keyrings, etc – far more commonly than finding the real thing! In nature there are apparently around 5,000 three leaf clovers for every one that has four leaves. Four-leaf clovers are reputed to bring luck and happiness, and to enable people to see Faeries.
According to folklore each leaf of a clover has a specific meaning and there are at least two versions of this. The first states that the first leaf is for hope, the second for faith, the third is for love and the fourth leaf is the one that brings luck to the finder. The second is an old Irish rhyme that says:
“One leaf is for fame,
And one leaf is for wealth,
And one is for a faithful lover,
And one to bring you glorious health,
Are all in the four-leaved clover.”
- The Nazar Stone or Turkish
Evil Eye Amulet – Turkey
These handmade stones of coloured glass featuring a concentric circle resembling an eye are reputed to scare away negative energies and attract positive energies. In particular they are said to deter the effects of the evil eye – effects of malevolent glares or general malevolence aimed our way. The Nazar Stone originated in Turkey, but is now a very popular symbol over a far wider area including Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nazar Stones are popularly can be found on keyrings, hanging from rear view mirrors, hanging from nursery mobiles, on t-shirts and are often purchased by tourists as souvenirs.
- Torito de Pucará (‘The Bull of Pucará’) – Peru
Legend tells us that many years ago in the area of the fortified town of Pucará in Peru there was a terrible drought in which even the wells and spring dried up. To appease the Gods in the hope of breaking the drought the locals decided to sacrifice a bull on the top of the Pucará hill, only the bull was not happy about this (and who can blame him)! As he resisted his fate, the bull twisted and turned trying to wrench himself free from the ropes the locals were dragging him by and as he did so his horns drilled into a nearby rock, from which a new, reliable spring suddenly sprang. As a result of saving the locals, the bull became a revered animal and a popular symbol of good fortune, fertility, happiness, protection and the Incan identity.
Today Pucará Bulls are made from orange clay and are decorated with spirals. They can frequently be seen in pairs on rooftops where one watches over the wife of the household and brings her luck, while the other bull does the same for the husband. They are often sited alongside a cross demonstrating a mix of Incan and Christian religions.
- Hamsa –
Mesopotamia and Carthage
The Hamsa is known by many names, as the Hand of Fatima, The Hand of Mary, the Hand of Miriam and the Hand of Venus, reflecting its adoption and appreciation by many of the main religions of the world, but its origins are far more ancient as it was originally an amulet of Inanna, the Mesopotamian Goddess of Love, Fertility, War and Power who was also known to the Phoenicians as Tanit.
The Hamsa shows an open right hand, sometimes with an eye in the centre of the palm. It is a symbol of protection, especially from the effects of the evil eye. Amulets of the Hamsa were also used to help women with their femininity, fertility and marriage. It is only more recently that the Hamsa has been associated with good luck, but nevertheless it has become incredibly popular, especially throughout the Middle East.
The Hamsa can have different properties depending on how it is shown, when the fingers are placed upwards it is reputed to be warding off negative energies and when the fingers are down it is said to be bringing in good fortune.
- Scarabs –
Scarab Beetles were considered sacred creatures in Ancient Egypt and were associated with Khepri, the God of the Rising Sun and of Transformation. In fact, the Scarab Hieroglyph, hpr, means ‘to come into being’ or ‘transformation’. To the ancient Egyptians the Sun was reborn anew each day and Khepri rolled the Sun across the sky, just as the Scarab rolls his dung ball along the ground.
Scarabs came to symbolise strength, determination, courage, rebirth, renewal and resurrection and Scarabs were frequently depicted in religious and funerary art. Scarab amulets, carved from gemstones, were placed over the heart area of the deceased and were believed to help that person to be reborn into the afterlife. Another reason for these funerary Scarabs was that of protection, interestingly protection of the deceased from themselves: part of the process of resurrection into the Afterlife involved the heart being judged, by placing a Scarab on the heart it was thought that it would prevent the heart bearing any negative witness against its owner.
The Scarab Beetle is a really powerful symbol for modern environmentalism, reminding us of the important work that Scarabs, and insects in general, do for Mother Nature. Scarab Beetles and some other bugs bury and consume dung. This massively improves nutrient recycling and soil structure, and help spread seeds. It also helps stop dung becoming a breeding ground for diseases and pests that might otherwise affect other creatures. As well as being a popular emblem of good fortune, the Scarab also symbolises us realising that blessings are everywhere around us, even in strange and surprising places. As the British say, somewhat bizarrely, “Where there’s muck, there’s brass.”
- Horseshoes – Europe
Many old houses and buildings proudly display a horseshoe over the door to protect the house or barn and all those within. Occasionally they can be found in bedrooms, hanging over the bed where they were believed to protect people from nightmares.
The horseshoe is a ward against bad Faeries or evil Witches who are said to despise iron in all its forms, they literally cannot go near the stuff. Others say that it works by distracting small and mischievous Faeries from causing harm because they are so distracted by swinging on the horseshoe. According to one old English legend, the Devil once asked a Blacksmith called Dunstan to shoe his horse. Dunstan knew exactly who this unusual customer was, but pretended not to, and instead of nailing the shoe to the horse’s hoof, nailed it to the Devil’s own cloven feet. Screeching in pain, because the Devil can’t abide iron either, he begged for the shoe to be removed. Dunstan agreed, but on one condition: that the Devil would never enter any household with a horseshoe above the door. Dunstan went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury and a Saint.
Horseshoes are considered to be a vessel into which passing luck falls and is stored. There’s a lot of debate to how to hang a horseshoe. Many say that the horseshoe should always be sited with the points upwards to catch the luck and keep it in, to hang it upside down would simply let all the luck fall out. While others say that it is meant to be hung upside down because the luck is showered on people as they walk under it.
- The Happy Buddha – China
The Happy or Lucky Buddha is a very popular lucky charm that is often given as a housewarming present. There is a superstition that it is far better to be gifted a Happy Buddha than to purchase one yourself, although it is still lucky to some extent to buy your own. It is respectful to place the Buddha in a commanding position, at height and never on the floor, so that he can see and be seen as much as possible, that way he can bring his luck to you far more efficiently.
The Happy Buddha is in fact based on Budai, a semi-historical Chinese monk who is venerated in the Buddhism of China and Japan, he is not Gautama Buddha. Budai or Pudai was famous for his jovial attitude and eccentric personality. Just like Budai, the Happy Buddha is rotund and smiling. Smiles are infectious, and so too is the joy of the Happy Buddha, for he is said to bring not only luck but also happiness to the home.
Many people rub the belly of their Happy Buddha to ‘activate’ him into bringing them blessings of wealth, health and good luck. The Happy Buddha also reminds us to see the luck, wealth, joy and blessings that we already have and are gifted with each day, no matter how large or small they may be.
- Indalo Man – Spain
A very popular good luck symbol from the region of Almeria in Spain, these little stick men holding a rainbow over his head are often worn, carried or placed in the home to bring luck and protection. They are considered to be like little Guardian Angels. Tourists also often buy them as souvenirs. When I moved into my current home, the very lovely previous occupier left her Indalo Man behind as a gift to bring us luck. It was a beautiful gesture and one that my partner and I really appreciate.
The first depictions of the Indalo Man date back something like 4,500 years, to cave paintings from Spain. So who is/was the Indalo Man? In almost all of the usual explanations the rainbow he carries represents the bridge between man and the Divine.
* He is an Angel.
* He is a ghost carrying a rainbow.
* He is a mortal man who hid from a terrible downpour in a cave and that when he emerged once the rain ceased out came a beautiful rainbow and the symbol stayed there over his head.
* He is San Indalecio, a Christian Saint from the 1st Century A.D. who was sent by Rome to Christianise the Iberian Peninsular. His name means something like ‘Messenger from God’.
* He is an ancient Sky or Rainbow Deity.
* He represents Mankind reaching for the Divine.
- Coins – Throughout the
Wherever you are in the world, metal coins are considered lucky, although some coins are traditionally luckier than others. They represent wealth and good fortune. Finding coins is always lucky, there is an old saying: “See a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.”
Coins have long been used as offerings to ‘pay’ for blessings, wishes and for prayers to be granted. Even today we throw coins into wishing wells for just this reason, and today those coins are often collected for charities which helps spread the blessings and good karma. Lucky Chinese coins, often in groups of 3, 6, 8 and 9, are frequently used in Feng Shui to bring luck.
The luck in question can depend on the colour of the coin:
* Gold coloured coins bring abundance and happiness.
* Silver coloured coins bring protection, especially spiritual and psychic protection.
*Copper coloured coins bring blessings of health and luck in love.
The type of luck can also depend on when the coin was minted:
* To carry a coin minted in the year of your birth allegedly brings you a long and happy life.
*To carry a coin minted in the year you were married reputedly blesses you and your partner with a long and happy marriage.
* Coins minted in leap years are supposedly especially lucky.
* In China coins minted in either the year of your Zodiac Animal, be it the actual year you were born or years in increments of 12 up or down from your birth year, are very lucky. So too are coins minted in Dragon Years.
If you are interested in purchasing any of these lovely lucky charms here are some links to them on Amazon. By using these links, you can help support my blog and give me the opportunity to create inspiring free content as I receive a small percentage of each purchase.