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Eight Unusual Good Luck Charms

February 8, 2018 in History

By Evan Andrews

Gold Buddha figures at Longhua Temple, the oldest temple in Shanghai. (Credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

“Luck,” the playwright Tennessee Williams once wrote, “is believing you’re lucky.” That may be true, but people around the world have always tried to boost their good fortunes with talismans, symbols and trinkets—including a few that may seem bizarre today.

From phallic charms to chimney sweeps, discover eight of the most unusual good luck charms from history.


Gold Buddha figures at Longhua Temple, the oldest temple in Shanghai. (Credit: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

ORIGIN: Prehistoric

The ancient swastika, which translates roughly to “wellbeing” in Sanskrit, has long been a sacred sign in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Starting in the 19th century, new archaeological discoveries saw the bent cross emerge as a good luck symbol in the West, and by the early 20th century, it appeared on everything from Coca-Cola advertisements to Boy Scout merit badges, food packaging, airplanes and jewelry—even the uniforms of Canadian hockey teams. The swastika’s meaning began to shift in the 1920s and 1930s, when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party appropriated it as a symbol of their belief in an ancient Aryan race. The association transformed the swastika into a hated emblem of fascism following World War II—it was even banned outright in postwar Germany—but it continues to function as a religious symbol to many around the globe.


A 7th-6th century BC tintinnabulum at the Archaeological Museum in Bologna, Italy. (Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

ORIGIN: Ancient Rome

The ancient Romans were staunch believers in the powers of amulets, pendants and other good luck charms, but few talismans are as unusual as the tintinnabulum. Ostensibly a wind chime, the tintinnabulum typically featured a collection of bells surrounding a bronze carving of a winged phallus. When hung from a doorway or window and rustled by the breeze, the tintinnabulum would create a jingling sound that was believed to ward off bad spirits and bring good fortune to the household. The tintinnabulum wasn’t the only Roman trinket to feature a winged phallus, or “fascinus.” The design was a recurring motif in Roman art, thought to offer protection against the “evil eye.” According to the ancient writer Marcus Terentius Varro, Roman boys were even known to wear fascinus amulets around their necks to prevent harm from coming to them.

Chimney Sweeps

<img class="size-Horizontal wp-image-202107" src="http://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2018/02/Chimney-Sweep-GettyImages-161891216-Horizontal.jpeg" alt="Newlyweds keeping alive …read more


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