Who hasn’t heard of luck charms? Mention a rabbit’s foot or a horseshoe nailed over the door and our minds make an immediate association to luck. These symbols of good fortune come in all shapes and sizes, are made of all manner of materials, and represent generic or personal beliefs. For the next few days, I’ll be delving into these interesting and curious symbols.
For fun one night, my husband and I went to a local bingo game (first and last time. People take it far too seriously. lol). All around us were players with luck charms of all sorts piled on top of their bingo games. I saw everything from bobble-head devils and rabbit feet to Smurfs and angels. Why do people like luck charms? I suspect they’re just a fun way to believe there are good forces working on our side in an existence that’s filled with curve balls. From simple to wacky, I enjoy them for the symbols they are.
When I was a teen, my mother had occasion to go to Italy. I’d asked that she bring back a cornicello. (It has nothing to do with corn or cellos) I still have it. It’s a little luck charm in the shape of a horn made of red coral. Thousands of years before the onset of Christianity, the horn was worn on behalf of the goddess in all her aspects in the hope she’d shine a little good fortune your way. I’ve read the cornicello, or cornuto/corno, as the horn is sometimes called, has ties to the Celts. It makes sense if you know the Celts were all over Europe, and parts of Asia and Africa and not just on the British Isles. This amulet is a popular talisman in southern Italy and is supposed to bring good luck. My grandfather came from Sicily so I figured the charm was a nice nod to the old country.
As teen, I used to wear mine on a silver chain strung alongside my mano cornuto — another Italian charm. Those curious little charms come in a range of styles, mine is basically a small silver fist with the first and pinky fingers extended. The idea here is — upright it’s supposed to look like a devil’s head with horns sticking up. Now before you peg me as an Illuminati or witch or some such thing I’m not, the little hand is worn upside down and therefore works as an apotropaic luck charm (from the Greek apotropaios meaning averting evil.) Upside-down is often interpreted as the opposite of something. In Italy they’re also known as a malocchio or mal occhio (Latin for bad eye).
What is that exactly? Well, it’s the evil eye — just about every negative or malicious thought anyone can glare your way from envy to death wishes. Luck charms like these protect against the evil eye. As mentioned above, the Maloccio comes from Italy, but it was known as oculus malus among the Ancient Romans. The evil eye belief is found all over the world. In Scotland it’s known as the droch shuil. In France it’s the mauvais oeil. In Germany, the evil eye is called the bösen Blick. And it’s known as ayin harsha in Arabic, and ayin horeh in Hebrew. If you’ve ever seen blue eyes made of glass on pendants, beads, rings, etc, you’re looking at an apotropaic luck charm to keep the evil eye away.
Every Christmas for years now, I give an apotropaic luck charm to my friends on a card explaining where it comes from in the world and what it symbolizes. I call them wishes — an intentional wish for my friends to have good health, prosperity, vitality, happiness…you get the picture.
Tomorrow ~ More!
Another 100 Things Blogging Challenge! For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Words on the Verge of Extinction. There are 71 entries to come.
Here’s one for today:
Bimarian (adjective 1731)
pertaining to two seas
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People really take their evil eyes seriously. We can’t keep them in stock here in Texas. Just like prayer, I think this is another way we humans ask for help from our guides, angels, and unseen helpers.
Perhaps because we like to think we’re not just a cork bobbing along on the stream of life. It’s a very old old symbol. I wonder why it’s blue. Is your shop online?
Rose…you constantly amaze me with your knowledge in general, but best of all you relate it to living in this sometimes cruel world, and in terms ordinary people can understand.
Oh Mike, what a nice compliment. Thank you.