St. Paddy’s Day is right around the corner, and you’re probably seeing green decorations, clothing, and food everywhere. The colors of Ireland’s flag are green, white, and orange, but green won out as the color we associate with St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland in general, probably due in part to the significance of the green shamrock, or three-leaf clover. Legend has it that St. Patrick used it to teach converts to Christianity about the Trinity, so it has long been the de facto symbol of all things Irish.
It’s important to remember, however, that a shamrock is not the same thing as a four-leaf clover. While the shamrock may bring positive associations with Ireland, it’s not considered inherently lucky, as three leaves is the natural state of clover. A four-leaf clover, on the other hand, is the exception. It is literally a 1 in 10,000 find, so you can see why you might consider yourself lucky if you come across one. As we contemplate the “Luck of the Irish” this March, let’s take a look at other lucky charms from around the world.
Maneki-neko (Beckoning Cat) – Japan
This wildly popular cat figurine is often found at the front of Japanese homes and businesses. It is usually made of ceramic or plastic and is often white, but can also be gold, red, or black. The maneki-neko always has one arm up. In Japan, the motion to tell someone to “come here” is made with the palm facing out and the fingers moving downward, much like Americans might wave “bye-bye.” Some maneki-neko have a free-moving paw that moves and continually beckons a welcome. Some say that if the right paw is raised, the cat will bring good fortune, and if the left paw is raised, it will bring wealth. Some figurines have both paws raised, just for good measure!
Hamsa (Five) – Middle East
The hamsa is a palm-shaped good-luck charm found on jewelry, home decorations, and even key chains. It signals good fortune in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities alike. Its form is an open right hand that serves to protect the owner from harm. Because it is also believed to stave off the evil eye (a malicious glare that causes injury or misfortune), depictions of the palm often include an eye as well. And because of the five fingers on this talisman, the number five is considered a lucky symbol as well.
Chimney Sweep – Europe
From England to Germany to Hungary, the chimney sweep is a sign of good luck. The legend holds that in 1066, King William of Britain was saved from a runaway carriage by a chimney sweep and then declared all chimney sweeps lucky. He invited the chimney sweep to his daughter’s wedding, and today it’s still considered a good omen to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day. In Germany, friends exchange small chimney sweep ornaments and figurines to start the New Year out right.
Pysanky are colorful Easter eggs covered in intricate designs made with melted beeswax and special dyes. Eggs have long been considered a symbol of fertility, life, and good luck, but these eggs are believed to bring even more good fortune because of special colors and geometric designs intended to ward off evil. When handling pysanky, however, be extremely careful. Some are made with raw eggs and others are created from fragile hollowed-out eggshells!
Nazar (Sight) – Turkey
A nazar is an eye-shaped good luck charm. Usually made of glass, it is traditionally pictured on a cobalt-blue background, with the iris of the eye a lighter shade of blue. Those who hold this amulet are offered protection against the evil eye, as it is believed in many cultures that a simple look can cause harm to befall someone. The blue eye of a nazar will reflect any malicious intent back away from its owner.
Indalo (Messenger of the Gods/Rainbow Warrior) – Spain
The Indalo is a prehistoric (2500 BCE) cave drawing found in Andalusia, Spain. It depicts a man in wide stance holding a bow, believed to be a rainbow, over his head. The rainbow is often seen as a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds, and so it is believed that the Indalo brings blessings to all who are around him. Since the figure’s discovery, it has been incorporated into jewelry, clothing, and souvenirs to bring about good fortune.
Buckeye – United States
Since Ohio is the “Buckeye State,” it should be the luckiest state in the union. A buckeye is the seed of the tree by the same name. It is dark brown with a light brown “eye” in the center. Buckeyes are toxic if ingested in their natural form, but Native Americans cooked them to remove toxins and used them as a food source. Rumored to cure arthritis and other minor conditions, buckeyes also supposedly bring good luck if you carry one in your pocket.
It doesn’t take luck to learn a language with Rosetta Stone
You will, however, consider yourself lucky for having chosen Rosetta Stone as your language-learning resource! Rosetta Stone offers thirty languages, superior voice recognition technology, and one-on-one sessions with our native-speaking Tutors. Take our free demo or choose your new language today!