Thursday, August 21, 2008

The History and Mystery of Lucky Charms

by Ron Peterson

The ability to achieve luck, or have things go one's way, is a long-held belief and sought after experience. Since the dawn of time, humankind has sought after symbols they believe would bring luck or afford protection. The act of carrying a lucky charm or talisman has been an integral part of many cultures throughout history. These charms and talismans serve to lend the owner luck and to ward off evil.
Ancient African cultures carried an animal's foot, or other parts of a swift beast which was supposed to help the individual escape or flee danger with the speed of the animal represented. In fact, the "lucky rabbit's foot" charm was handed down and assimilated into American culture by enslaved Africans brought to the New World. Also borrowed from centuries of African tribal ceremonies is a Mojo or luck bag which could contain lucky objects, or a spell meant to bring about a particular effect. Particular items, such as spices, teeth and feathers placed in a bag and blessed or "charged," were believed to produce a magical effect for its owner. Mojo bags can still be found in popular culture in magazines and web sites.

Europeans have also produced their share of lucky charms. Legend credits St. Patrick with having banished snakes from Ireland, although it has been suggested that the term snakes may have referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids. Followers of St. Patrick adopted the Shamrock, or the four-leaf clover, as a symbol of the "luck of the Irish." Each year, the symbol becomes prevalent in American culture with the celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

During the Crusades, Nordic countries employed their magical alphabet known as 'the runes' for protection, carving symbols of battle success into stones to be carried on a soldier's person.

During the Middle Ages in Eastern Europe, stories of the undead or vampires were prevalent, due in part to the number of plague deaths, as well as a Romanian price known as Vlad the Impaler. Stories were told of Vlad who tortured and killed his victims by impaling them. To ward off such evil vampires, charms and talismans were created which were believed to deflect the advances of evil. Another well-known tool for vanquishing vampires was a chain of garlic worn around the neck. At the time, garlic was also an effective antibiotic, so it is no wonder it seemed to bring about good health.

Horseshoes are also considered a good luck charm in many cultures. A common tradition is to hang a horseshoe on a door with the two ends pointing up to incur good luck. Other cultures believe a horseshoe hanging with the points hanging down will allow the luck to pour out onto the recipient. Whichever way it is positioned, a horseshoe hanging on a door is regarded as a protective talisman across many cultures.

The tradition of a Cake Pull has long been practiced at weddings in the Southern United States. Tiny silver charms are placed inside part of a wedding cake and during the reception, female attendants (typically single young women) are invited to gather around the wedding cake and simultaneously pull the charms, which are attached to ribbon, from the cake.

Lewis Jewelers is proud to carry the full line of Pandora Jewelry. Pandora bracelets, Pandora charms and Pandora beads are only a part of the collection. For more information, Lewis Jewelers, 2000 West Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48103, 877-88-LEWIS or visit the website.

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