Arts & Culture

Good luck charms from around the world

Just about every culture in the world has some way to promote good luck. For some, simply carrying an acorn in your pocket will be enough to promote good luck. For others, it can be more difficult like finding a four-leaf clover. Do you believe in luck, or do you make your own luck? Whatever your belief may be, here are some tokens that others from around the world say will bring you good luck.

Acorns

Close-up photo of an acorn
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Many different cultures place significance on acorns. The Celts, Romans, and Greeks all had legends telling stories about the mighty oak tree. Curiously, most revolved around thunderstorms and lightning in particular.

Oak trees are commonly struck by lightning because of their large size but do not stop growing. Because of this, many cultures believe there is a connection between lightning and the oak. Typically, the deities related to lightning are the most powerful such as Zeus for the Greeks and Thor for the Norse. In Norse legend, Thor, the god of thunder, was caught in a violent storm and found shelter underneath an oak tree. People would place acorns on their windowsills to protect their home from lighting strikes.

For Celtic people, the oak symbolized strength and endurance. Sacred events such as weddings and worship services were held in oak groves under the sturdy branches of the trees. This belief was passed down through the generations and continues to this day in England. Many people still keep acorns in their pockets for good luck.

Nazars

Photo of blue amulets hanging from a tree branch
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Also known as the blue eye amulet or the evil eye talisman, these are typically worn or used in personal items and are commonly found as beads on pendants, bracelets, keychains, hanging ornaments, or really anything else you can think of. There is even a nazar emoji!

Although it is commonly referred to as the evil eye, it is actually supposed to protect against it. The “evil eye” is the envy of others and is believed to cast dark energy on a person. Nazars ward off any negative energy or bad intentions that come from those who are jealous of your accomplishments.

Nazars are originally from Turkey and the surrounding area. The idea of the evil eye can be found across many cultures and generations, including the ancient Egyptians and Greeks.

Maneki Neko

Photo of a Maneki Neko cat figurine
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Originating from Japan, these cute cat figurines can be found in stores and homes throughout the world. Maneki Neko translates to "beckoning cat" and is supposed to bring good fortune.

Different colors and poses emphasize specific things. If the left paw is raised, it is supposed to attract customers and promote business. If the right paw is raised, it will bring money and prosperity. They can also come in different colors. White signifies happiness, black promotes protection, green brings health, and calico promotes extreme good luck.

Four leaf clover

Photo of a four leaf clover
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The idea that four-leaf clovers are lucky began with the early Celtic people in, of course, Ireland. Priests believed that carrying a three-leaf clover would allow them to see evil spirits, giving them time to escape, and four-leaf clovers would offer protection and ward off bad luck. Sir John Melton referenced the luck of four-leaf clovers in his writings as early as 1620.

No clover variety on Earth produces four leaves, so in order to get luck, you have to be, well, lucky. Only around one in 10,000 clovers produce a fourth leaf. And no, shamrocks and four-leaf clovers are not the same.

Pigs

Photo of a pig holding a four leaf clover in its mouth
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Pigs are considered a good luck charm in Germany, but this belief has spread throughout the globe. During the Middle Ages, a person who had a lot of pigs would never go hungry and would be considered to have good fortune. Expressions such as “Schwein gehabt” meaning “got lucky there” literally translate to “got pig.”

Today, many of the phrases derived from “lucky pig” are still used throughout Northern Europe. Pigs are also commonly found on greeting cards to express well wishes. Because they are believed to promote good fortune, people throughout history have crafted money holders in the shape of pigs: piggy banks!

Cover image credit: FredFroese / iStock