The History of Luck Charms, Amulets, and Superstition

Four-leaf clover
Legend has it that even Eve knew that having a four-leaf clover in hand would be good luck, so she took it out of the garden with her. (Image:

“See a penny pick it up, all that day you’ll have good luck. Find a penny let it lay, and all day long you’ll have bad luck.”

This old children’s nursery rhyme signifies a long-standing tendency for human beings to believe in luck and maintain the tradition of such. To this day, many people – gamblers in particular – have become so particular that it isn’t enough to find a penny on the ground, but also to note whether it lays heads up or tails up, as the difference matters to their luck for the day. Many will not even pick the penny up if it happens to be tails up.

Whatever you hold dear as your luck symbol or superstition, you are not alone in the world. But remember, just as the penny has two sides, so does luck.

Looking Back

Human beings are by their very nature superstitious creatures. It is the explaining away of the unexplainable and, in many cases, the feeling that one has control over their outcomes. So it is only natural that when it comes to gambling in particular that charms, amulets and, yes, superstition are present. Some of the earliest known activities to ward off evil or bad luck can be traced back to 1500 B.C.E., and anthropologists confirm that early cave writings also indicate the desire of human beings to keep bad luck at bay.

Scientists such as Skinner discovered that even pigeons have superstitious tendencies. Superstitions are born out of intuition and memory of past experiences. For example, that every time a wife walks up to the craps table, a seven is rolled. While we know that this is more than likely a hyperbole, the reality is that when a seven is rolled, such occurrences stand out in players’ minds. The long-standing tradition of supernatural influences on our luck is still at play.

Throughout Africa, people would carry with them lucky bags of mojo for good luck. In the bag would be artifacts from loved ones, or items that represented something good that happened in their past. To have some “mojo” on you will only help to increase your chances of walking on the lucky side of the street. Additionally, many people do not realize the difference between amulets, lucky charms, and talismans.

Amulets are items worn for protection, such as metals, carvings, stones and other items reflective of both culture and desired outcome.

Lucky charms were originally songs that were sung to cast off evil and invoke luck. When it was feared that the effect of the songs would not last long enough, many people began to believe that the song could be cast upon the charm, resulting in a longer lasting effect.

Talismans are items that can be charged with supernatural powers so as to bring about luck and positive outcomes in one’s life.

Symbols of Luck From Around the World

Four-Leaf Clovers

It is easy to understand why a four-leaf clover would signify luck, as there are very few and they are very difficult to find. Today many people will wear amulets depicting the four-leaf clover symbol.

Red Lanterns

Red is the color of good luck and prosperity in the East. From prehistoric times, red has been associated with fire and blood. In the church, red or rubrics are indicative of laws and guidance. So it is that red lanterns are used to ward off bad luck and light the way for good luck and positive energy to reign supreme.


Long before there was paper, plastic, or PayPal, there was only one form of currency, and that was coins. They were commercial life-blood, and those who had the gold had the power. Coins are a sign of good fortune and prosperity.


In Japan, three keys worn together are a very powerful good luck charm or amulet as they unlock the door that leads to love, health, and wealth. Wearing one key signifies that you are opening the door to whatever you seek. It is no wonder that dignitaries are given a key to cities, and no wonder that those who hold the key can unlock the doors to a kingdom or a treasure chest.

Whoever is the keeper of the keys holds the power. (Image:

The Number Seven

Whether you are familiar with Japanese mythology and call upon the Seven Gods of Fortune, or you are familiar with Judeo-Christian traditional texts, you know that the number seven has a strong influence. It is no surprise to see red sevens throughout a casino. But whatever you do, don’t say the word ‘seven’ around any craps players!

Cat’s Eye

Those who carry a Cat’s Eye stone in their pocket in India do so because they believe that one who carries this stone in their pocket will never have their good fortune leave them. Cat’s Eye stones protect individuals from unexpected loss, and guard financial decision making.

Cat's Eye
Cat’s eye – like Tiger Luck – symbolizes personal fortune and wealth (Image:


In many Native American cultures, the turtle represents fertility and a link between man and Mother Nature. Also, the idea is that longevity and hope are nice to have when going up against the house.

When it comes to having good luck, having Mother Nature on your side is a pretty good thing. (Image:

Alligator’s Teeth

For lovers of chance in Africa, an alligator’s tooth is a pretty important item to have in your pocket. Aside from the obvious fact that having an alligator’s tooth suggests that you’re pretty lucky, they are also said to bring wealth and good fortune.


Dolphins at sea are known to bring protection to wayward sailors. Ancient sailors knew that riches were before them when dolphins would begin to circle their ships, as it was a sign that land was near.


A horseshoe is a symbol of protection and longevity for the horses that are fitted with the strong iron attachment. When it comes to human beings, those who wear the talisman or amulet are sure to capture any good luck floating by, provided they remember to keep the open end up. Those who allow it to hang upside down run the risk of losing all their luck to passers-by.

A person with a lucky horseshoe might want to fit it with a strong magnet to draw in even more luck. (Image:


More Symbols of Luck

Buddha Rubbing Buddha’s belly is known to bring great positivity and good luck.
Bamboo Bamboo is known for its longevity, vitality and growth.
Cricket Cultures around the world view the cricket as a symbol of good luck. The Chinese believe crickets bring harmony and peace.
Elephants Symbols of longevity, happiness, and prosperity.
Acorn Acorns protect against loss and are an emblem of good luck.
Pig Pigs are a sign of prosperity and good fortune in many cultures around the world.
Rainbows The sign of a new beginning. Associated with what is at the end of the rainbow… a pot of gold, perhaps?
Rabbit’s Foot The story goes that the ancient Celts believed that because rabbits burrowed underground, they were closer to the gods and underworld, and thus carried luck with them.
Frogs In China, the frog is a symbol of yin and considered as good luck.
Horn The horn of plenty is a sign of wealth, abundance, power, and that a beast was defeated.