How to find lost items

“It goes back a few generations, I know my grandmother does it still, because I walk into her apartment and I see the shot glasses still on the counter. The tradition is that if you’ve lost something and you can’t find it, and you’ve looked in all the unusual places, all the places you like don’t think of, and everything, that you finally get out a shot-glass, and you pour a shot of vodka, and you just leave it on the counter, just out. Let it evaporate and everything as it goes, and then what you’re looking for will turn up after you’ve done this at some point. I’ve definitely done it many, many times, I know that my mother does it, cuz I’ve walked into the house and seen shot glasses of vodka on the counter, and I know my grandmother does it too, so it’s kind of a funny thing, obviously, because we’re leaving out vodka in a way to find something. But I learned it from my mother, and I’m pretty sure she learned it from her mother, and I would assume the same happened with my grandmother. And the second half of the tradition is that once you find the thing, you have to, basically, as close to immediately, drink whatever’s left of the shot in the shot glass. If it’s been a long time and it’s evaporated and everything it’s fine, you don’t need to drink anything, you just wash out the shot glass and put it away, like normal. But if you find it like 10 minutes after you take it out, you have to drink the shot. But it works, I believe it, I’ve found stuff before, like I couldn’t find it, and then like it’ll turn up, and I’ll be like, ‘ya, I don’t know how I could have ever found this before.’”


My informant has practiced this folk-belief for as long as he can remember, and has consistently used it every time he loses and object and can’t find it after looking around for it, because he believes that the shot works to help him find whatever he lost. He also continues to practice this practice because it’s a sort of family tradition that’s been passed through the generations, thus tying him to his family and his heritage. Also, the informant’s background is Polish Jewish, both his grandmother and mother are from New York City, and his great grandmother came over from Poland, so it makes sense that the practice involves vodka, which is one of the most common forms of liquor consumed in Poland.


The shot of vodka serves two purposes: when the shot is first poured, the performer’s belief in the guarantee that the item will show up allows them to relax and stop fixating over the possible locations of the lost item, so they stop panicking and are more susceptible to subconsciously remembering where the put the item; the second purpose of the shot is a means of celebration or self-congratulations after having found the missing object, though it could also be consumed as a way to keep the object from disappearing again. In either way, this fun folk-belief is an example of both a magic and a conversion superstition. It is a magic superstition in that the performer undertakes the action of pouring the shot of vodka to cause the lost item to reappear, and a conversion superstition in that pouring the shot also undoes the bad thing of the item getting lost in the first place, and hypothetically keeps it from happening again.