With St. Patrick’s Day upon us we decided to use this week’s list of 40 to explore the luck of the Irish. One of the first things we learned, however, is that this ironic phrase, most often used to indicate good luck, was actually coined due to the fact that the Irish have historically terrible luck. Oh well. We’ll have to rely on the following tokens, superstitions and symbols to keep us lucky instead!
- Crickets: A Cricket on the hearth has been a sign of household luck for thousands of years. This belief could stem from prehistoric times, when a Cricket’s chirping provided a kind of companionship. In China and other Asian countries, the cricket served as a watchdog: at any sign of danger, the chirping will stop. In the Far East as well as across Europe, it is considered very bad luck to kill a cricket, even by accident.
- Ladybugs: The Ladybug is considered a harbinger of good luck and prosperity. It shall free you from day-to-day problems. Wearing a Ladybug amulet or having a live one land on you will brighten your day, give you patience with those around you, and most importantly, lessen your burdens.
- Dragonflies: As a creature of the wind, the dragonfly represents change. As a creature of the water, they represent the subconscious, or “dream” state. Other symbolic meanings associated with dragonflies, are prosperity, strength, courage, peace, harmony and purity.
- Lucky Charms: “For each petal on the shamrock this brings a wish your way. Good health, good luck, and happiness for today and every day.” – Irish Blessing
- Acorns: In Norse folklore, both the Acorn and its bearer, the oak tree, bring good fortune.
- Rainbows: Rainbows are considered lucky, because we all know, if we find the end of the Rainbow, there will be a pot of gold.
- Eggs: In traditional folk religion,the Egg is a powerful symbol of fertility, purity and rebirth. In England, a gift of a white Egg is considered lucky, but a brown Egg, not only brings luck, but happiness as well.
- Dolphins: Dolphins are considered lucky in many different cultures, including the Ancient cultures of Greece, Sumer, Egypt, and Rome
- Pigs: German-natives have a saying “Schwein gehabt (had Pig)” which literally means “Good Luck is at Hand”. Good Luck tokens in the shape of Pigs are believed to bring Good Luck, as they are a Symbol of Wealth, Good Fortune & Prosperity. Among the Chinese and the Europeans, charms in the shape of Pigs, are believed to have the power to bring Good Luck, as they are a symbol of riches and wealth.
- Tortoises: Tortoises are considered a good luck symbol in Feng-Shui decorating. They are also one of the 4 sacred animals (among the Dragon, Unicorn, and Phoenix)
- Turtles: Turtles are believed to have Power over all kinds of Bad Magic. A Turtle symbolizes the primal mother and Mother Earth. Turtles are also said to symbolize Longevity and one’s Hope and Wish for a long life.
- Red Bats: In China, Red Bats are symbols of long life, and amulets are worn as lucky charms to bring happiness. The red bat is thought to ward of evil. Five red bats can also represent the “five good fortunes” of health, longevity, love, wealth and virtue.
- Tigers: Tigers are considered lucky in Chinese astrology. The Tiger is also considered a protector against certain evils, including theft and fire.
- Elephants: Due to its long life, Elephants are a Symbol of overcoming death. Elephants are good luck in Feng Shui and the Ganeshsa is the Hindu God of Luck. Elephant figurines placed on shelves or by doorways are said to ensure longevity and luck.
- Frogs: The Frog has been a symbol of prosperity, wealth, friendship and abundance in many cultures. In the Native American culture of the Southwest, the Frog carries a piece of wood in its mouth, because the Mojave people believe Frogs brought fire to humans.
- Alligator Teeth: Alligator teeth are said to bring luck to gamblers in Africa.
- A Rabbit’s Foot: The hind foot of a rabbit has been a good luck symbol for the common man for ages.
- Chimney Sweeps: A Chimney Sweep is a sign of good luck, wealth and happiness. The Chimney Sweep is said to be “the ultimate bringer of good luck”.
- Buddha: A Buddha charm or statue is thought of as being lucky, especially if you rub the Buddha’s belly.
- Kachinas: The Pueblo, Hopi and Zuni nations of the American Southwest, place great faith in the luck-bringing properties of these dolls.
- Saint Christopher: As the patron saint of travelers.
- Dreamcatcher: Dreamcatchers, from Native American culture, are considered good luck, because they catch the negative images from dreams.
- Red Chinese Lanterns: These Lanterns are a symbol of luck in the Chinese culture.
- Horseshoe: A Horseshoe symbolizes good luck, power of evil, good fortune and fertility.
- Coins: “See a penny pick it up and all day long you’ll have good luck. Leave it there and you’ll despair.”
- A Pot of Gold: A Pot of Gold is what you will find at the end of a Rainbow, making it doubly lucky.
- Nautical Star: The Nautical Star, or North Star, is seen as providing guidance, and it is a good luck symbol for sailors.
- The Evil Eye: Unlike other sources of good-luck, where good fortune resides in the possession of the object itself, the power of the Evil Eye Amulet resides in its capacity to ward off the misfortune cast by the Evil Eye.
- The Number Seven: The number Seven is considered lucky by many different cultures and religions. In the mythology of Japan, there are also Seven Gods of Fortune.
- Four Leaf Clover: The Four Leaf Clover is a popular Western symbol of luck, probably due to its association with St. Patrick’s Day.
- Bamboo: A gift of bamboo is considered good luck, specifically the Dracaena (botanical name) Lucky Bamboo; a member of the lily family that grows in the tropical Rainforests of Southeast Asia and Africa.
- A Wishing Well: A wishing well is a place where you toss a coin (another symbol of good luck) and make a wish. The ancients believed that a token gift to the gods would keep the wells from running dry. They and others also believed that the gods of the sea could be kept happy if a few coins were occasionally thrown their way as a tribute.
- Wishbone: A wishbone is a symbol of good luck. It also is a wish maker.
Two people tug on the wishbone, each making a wish. After the wishbone breaks, the person with the bigger piece will have their wish granted.
- Stray Eyelash: A stray eyelash is seen as a wish maker, much like the wishbone.
If a stray eyelash falls upon your cheek, place it on your finger, make a wish, then blow the eyelash away.
- Falling Star: A falling star or a “shooting” star as it is sometimes called, grants the person lucky enough to see it, a secret wish.
- Amber: Amber is thought to be a bit of the sun with the power to bring good fortune.
The Greeks called this Amber “elektron”, which gave us our word of electricity, and its power to give off sparks when rubbed may be why many people have considered it a lucky charm
- Sapphire: The sapphire has been a symbol of good luck since the most ancient of times. In the ancient Middle East, this blue stone was believed to have supernatural powers. It was said to have been the centerpiece of King Solomon’s ring.
- Cat’s Eye: The Cat’s Eye clears all obstacles and helps one to move ahead in life. It also wards off the Evil Eye, Ghosts, Spirits and negative planetary influences.
- Circle: The circle is one of mankind’s oldest symbols of good fortune. It stands for eternity because it is without beginning or end. It is a sign of completeness, perfection, and wholeness.
- Crescent: Among the most powerful of all lucky symbols, the crescent is especially lucky for young children and their mothers. In ancient Egypt, the crescent moon was the symbol of Isis, the Mother of the Gods. As its symbolism spread throughout the world, it eventually became a symbol of paradise, when represented with a star. It is particularly significant in Islam.
The 2012-2013 school year marks 40 years of education at Marin Academy. Throughout the year we will be commemorating this anniversary with on-campus events for students, special publications (including this on-going series of “lists of 40″), and a community celebration at Bimbo’s in San Francisco on Saturday, April 20 (for more info and tickets visit: www.ma.org/40).