Superstition – Bad Luck – Marine Corps

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 29
Occupation: Treasury Dept., ex-military
Residence: Austin, Texas
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2011
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Military – Marine Corps – Superstition

“When you’re in combat or even training it’s bad luck to eat the charms in your MRE… It’s something you learn early on so you just don’t do it. Every MRE comes with some sort of dessert.. like lemon pound cake or poppy seed pound cakes. Those are the best, but you never know what you’re going to get.. but if you get these charm candies you aren’t supposed to eat them. You’re supposed to throw them out on the side of the road or into the garbage. I don’t really know why it’s bad luck. But I think it’s just in the Marines. There are stories of misfortunes from Marines disobeying this.”

The informant did not seem to have much of an opinion about the reasoning behind this superstition. In my opinion, it seems to relate to the Marines’ (or other military service members’) experiences with dangerous situations while in combat. Although the individuals play a large part in their own safety, they are living in constant danger, and the potential of death looms over them. In some ways, this superstition seems to be an attempt to alter one’s fate in a dire situation. The Marines have relatively little control over their situation during combat, and must follow orders in every aspect of their lives. In this way, it makes sense that throwing away these candies is a way of asserting some form of control over one’s own fate. It is ironic that these candies represent bad luck because they are charms, which typically are viewed as symbols of good luck. The charms remain symbols of luck in this context, but represent bad luck rather than good. This consistency as a symbol of some form of luck helps explain why these specific candies are associated with bad luck, and exemplifies that this association is not entirely random.

Evidently, this superstition is discussed in this publication:
Evan Wright (2004). Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the new face of American war. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. pp. 83. ISBN 0-399-15193-1.

Furthermore, there are many message boards and online posts regarding this superstition. There are even people who suggest that candy should be entirely removed from MRE’s, supposedly to prevent even the possibility of bad luck stemming from these candies. The informant also stated that he believes the film Jarhead (2005), directed by Sam Mendes, references this superstition.