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. Symbols of good fortune represent generic or personal beliefs and come in all shapes and sizes. From simple to wacky, I’ll be delving into these interesting and curious talismans over the next few days.
Once just for fun, my husband and I went to a local bingo game. It was our first and only time at the bingo table. Everywhere we looked, seasoned bingo players surrounded themselves with luck charms– everything from bobble-headed devils and rabbit feet to Smurfs and angels. People take it far too seriously! lol
Why do people like luck charms? I suspect because our existence is filled with curve balls. Who wouldn’t want to believe good forces are working on our side? I enjoy them for the symbols they are. My mother went to Italy when I was a teen, and I asked her to bring back a cornicello for me. The cornicello is a popular luck talisman in southern Italy. My grandfather came from Sicily so I figured the charm was a nice nod to the old country. I still have it.
Thousands of years before the onset of Christianity, the horn was associated with the Goddess in all her aspects. It was worn on her behalf with the hope she’d shine a little good fortune on the wearer. My little horn-shaped luck charm is made of red coral but they also come in bone, silver, and gold. The cornicello, also known as a cornuto or corno, has ties to the Celts who weren’t just located in the British Isles. They were all over Europe as well as parts of Asia and Africa.
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. In Italy they’re also known as a malocchio or mal occhio (from the Latin for bad eye. In other words evil eye) The evil eye equals every negative or malicious thought anyone can glare your way from envy to death wishes. Upright, this little hand is 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.) Symbolically, upside-down is interpreted as the opposite of something.
The maloccio comes from today’s 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 bulls eyes made of glass on pendants, beads, rings, etc, you’re looking at an apotropaic luck charm.
Each Christmas I give an apotropaic luck charm to my friends. It comes on a card explaining its history and where it comes from in the world as well as what it symbolizes. I call them wishes — an intentional wish for my friends to have good health, prosperity, vitality, happiness… You get the picture.
Authors, imagine the fun you can have with this. 😀
Tomorrow ~ More!
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~George-Louis de Buffon
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