Luck. From lucky rabbit’s foot to a horseshoe nailed over the door, symbols of good fortune come in all shapes and sizes and can be anything really. Some are deeply rooted in culture and represent generic or personal beliefs. Some are there just for fun. For the next few days, I’ll be delving into these interesting and curious symbols of good luck.
What does today’s title mean anyway? Shakespeare coined this bit from Hamlet: Slings & Arrows of Outrageous Fortune. Essentially it means good luck or bad luck, you can’t prevent luck from happening so go with the flow. I prefer good luck.
The origin of the word Luck pops up in old Dutch sometime in the middle of the 1400’s. Back then it was known as luc, gelück, or gelücke. Etymologists believe luck is a gambling term. The interesting thing about luck, to me anyway, is it’s considered a force. Think about that. Forces are the forte of Sir Isaac Newton. They’re gravity and magnetism. Forces are things out of our control. They are the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. They influence good and bad and there’s nothing we can do about it. Except carry a talisman in our pocket and hope for the best!
So how did luck symbols even come into being?
I suppose it’s the same way we figured out which mushrooms were poisonous and which were edible. Experience. Trial and error. I’ll paint you a little story about how it might have began…
Say it’s 10,000 years ago. You’re out foraging and find yourself in a downpour. You decide to take cover under a tree, but a glittering stone on the ground draws your attention and you stop to pick it up. Suddenly, a lightning bolt strikes and explodes the tree right before your eyes. That’s one lucky stone in your hand! From here on out, those glittering stones protect against lighting. And everyone wants one.
I once read a story about a man in Africa whose son lay dying. Feeling hopeless, the father went walking one day and came across a stream filled with water-smoothed pebbles. He stood at the water’s edge and prayed for anything that would help his son. One nondescript pebble caught his eye and he picked it up and brought it home. I don’t know what the son’s illness was, but after receiving the stone, he got better. The man’s neighbors couldn’t believe it and they asked about this miraculous recovery. The man attributed his son’s return to health to the stone he had found. Some people asked him to find them stones for loved ones who were ill. He did, and those people got better. It made the local news, then the regional news. And it eventually made international news (and that’s how I found the story). But get this, people from all over the world send money to this man to go find a pebble just for them. He has a regular cottage industry now — Pebble luck charms. Lucky stones indeed.
Today’s symbol ~ Guiding Stones
The idea that forces are attributed to stones is ancient. I can’t recall the smaller details, but an odd glass-like yellow stone sat in some pharaoh’s headpiece and was considered extraordinarily rare and powerful. The Stone of Scone a.k.a. the Stone of Destiny is the rock upon which the kings of Scotland were crowned. The Black Stone of the Kaaba is a stone set into a tower and devout Muslims circle it in the Hajj pilgrimage. It’s was revered long before Mohamed became a prophet and is considered by some to be a meteorite .
Everyone knows about the Blarney Stone in Cork, Ireland. This awkwardly located (and no doubt germy) stone is set in the battlement of Blarney Castle and kissing it gives you the gift of persuasive speech. In Jerusalem, the Foundation Stone and the site it sits upon under the Dome of the Rock influence three major world religions. Doing research for my magnum opus (my heavy work in progress), I discovered legends that say that huge stone hovers over the Well of Souls and doesn’t touch the ground. All these stones somehow became symbols of force. They guided (and still guide) a lot of people.
On a smaller scale, precious or semi-precious stones have long been considered symbols of wealth and power. Crowns and sword hilts alike were studded with them. Eggs and other trinkets encrusted with them. And peoples around the world conquered for them. The more rare, the more coveted. Giving rare stones was long considered a token of high esteem. A rare gem for a unique person is a symbol of the unique sentiment that person arouses in the giver. Example: It’s thought that when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave a love token of a diamond-studded ring to Mary of Burgundy, he started the “diamonds are forever” symbology that connect diamonds to one’s fiancé today.
Do you know what your birthstone is? Some of the following are more rare than others. The list has me wondering if it goes back to the days of alchemy. I’m curious now so one of these days I’ll do more research.
June: Pearl (does not apply)
Mine is the diamond. It’s supposed to be a stone that brings me luck and good fortune. The person of conscience I am wonders about those child slaves toiling in the world’s diamond mines so someone’s fiancé can have a rock on her finger. I don’t think that sad fact makes for a lucky stone. In the same vein, the rabbit foot may be lucky to the person who owns one, but I’m certain the rabbit had his own opinion on that.
The following link leads to a very interesting site if you’d like to know more about some of the world’s most famous stones. Some are very unlucky. And that’s a post for another day.
Tomorrow ~ More!
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
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