O is a Pre-med biology major at USC, currently a freshman. O is a Vietnamese American who grew up in Vancouver, Washington — a short drive from Portland, Oregon.
Me: Do you have anything you collect or do for good luck?
O: Yeah, actually I collect coins. Not just pennies, but like all kinds of coins.
Me: Really? How do you find them?
O: It’s really ridiculous, I just pick them up from the ground and keep them in my pocket, because I think they will bring me good luck.
Me: From the ground?
O: Yeah, they would be lying on the ground while I’m walking and I’ll pick them up, put them in my pockets.
Me: Do you keep the pennies forever?
O: No. I take them out and put them back on the ground once I think I don’t need the luck anymore. Like, the luck can go to someone else.
O demonstrates some form of sympathetic magic. He connects receiving luck to picking up coins from the ground, both how lucky he is to find the coin and the luck the coin itself gives him. The luck O has that initially gives him the coin is somehow transferred into the coin, where there is some exchange between him and the coin that gives him luck with the penny as a conduit, collecting and releasing luck for anyone to pick up. The idea of quantifying luck or magic seems like contagious/contact magic, where magic or superstition can transfer from one person to the next with the penny is added as a middle man. Keeping the coin is somehow magic that ensures the luck will be sustained in him while giving it away is also magic, ensuring that luck will be passed on to the next person. If luck was the contagion of magic, the coin would be patient zero.