Tag Archives: folk item

Turkish Good Luck Charms 

Background Information: 

The informant is a residential real estate developer who learned a lot of traditions and superstitions from their mother. They currently live in Detroit, Michigan but emigrated from Turkey. 

Main Piece: 

ME: Hey GD, would you mind telling me a bit about what you would do for good luck when selling your homes?

GD: Well… what I would do when initially trying to sell a house… elephants are supposed to be good luck. It’s a set of seven elephants from Turkey, and they are like a graduated size, starting from a big one all the way down to a baby one. I would always put them together in a room in one of my spec houses to bring good luck in selling the home. 

ME: Do you have any idea where this comes from or how you found out about it?

GD: Well I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but uh I imagine it is cross-cultural. Only because we have friends from India and they do the same thing. Uh but I got it from my mother who is Turkish. And obviously seven… seven is a lucky number too right, so. 

ME: Would you do anything else to try and sell your homes?

GD: So whenever I present any of my new homeowners with their keys, I always put their keys on an evil-eye keychain that I buy from Turkey. 

ME: So what’s the significance of the evil eye?

GD: So the evil eye… it’s basically like a mirror. If there are, you know, legend has it, that if there are people that give off bad vibes their vibes can affect things, and the evil eye will reflect their bad vibes and give it back to them… It basically reflects evil back to the evil person.  


This interview happened a month ago at my home. 


It is interesting to me that the informant does not seem to know a ton about the origin of their superstitious beliefs, yet they still use them in their business, and partially credit their successes to these artifacts. It is also interesting how the informant brought up aspects of multiculturalism through folk artifacts. According to the informant, the seven elephants signify good luck in their culture as well as the culture of their Indian friends. The origin of the elephant as a good luck symbol actually does not originate from Turkey at all, but instead comes from Hinduism and the god Ganesha, and elephants are commonly used in Feng Shui practices as good luck. For more information see here: Cho, Anjie. “Uses of the Elephant Symbol in Feng Shui.” The Spruce, The Spruce, 24 Feb. 2022, https://www.thespruce.com/use-of-the-elephant-symbol-in-feng-shui-1274686. Looking at the evil eye, it’s origins surpasses even those of the Ottoman Empire. Researchers think that the first evil eye amulet was created in 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, or what is now Syria. The origin of the modern-day blue evil eye beads first appeared in multiple locations around the Mediterranean at around 1500 B.C. For more information see here: Hargitai, Quinn. “The Strange Power of the ‘Evil Eye’.” BBC Culture, BBC, 19 Feb. 2018, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180216-the-strange-power-of-the-evil-eye. It is very interesting that these two charms, which are very widespread in Turkey, are neither original to the region, nor originated in the region. 

Giving babies ”Ojo.”

A is a 59-year-old Hispanic American female originally from La Junta, a small town in Southeastern Colorado. A currently works as a background detective in Phoenix Arizona.

A informed me of this folklore over a dinner discussion. We were on the topic of family superstitions, and I asked A if she had any superstitions that she remembered her family believing in.

A: I was thinking about this a few days ago. I remember Nana and my aunts talking about giving a baby “ojo” by looking at them and falling over how cute they are it makes them sick if you do it too much. And then I read about it and I laughed because this is exactly what I remember hearing them talking about it, when I was little. I also remember in order for them to come back from the baby getting that, when you’re born they put a little bracelet on the babies made out of coral. I will call Nana to make sure but that’s what I remember. To help babies ward off the evil eye or “ojo” the babies would wear a little string with a piece of coral red coral. And then the mothers would put an egg in a cup of water near the bed to help them heal from the evil if they got it laughs.

Reflection: This folklore seems to be associated with the idea that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. It brings greater context into my own family, as I remember my grandmother scolding my cousins for fawning over a baby, and I never knew quite why. I find it interesting that specifically coral and eggs in water act as deterrent. Perhaps they both have an absorbent property that draws evil away when placed in the immediate proximity of a baby.

The Catholic Cross and its Influence


Background: H is a student at the University of Southern California who’s experienced this traditional ceremony from her transition into womanhood. She’s lived in California her entire life and is a first-generation American and her family keeps many of their traditions from Mexico alive in her life.  She believes that the way her Quince was conducted is very traditional but also has a few twists that are uncommon to the format. The topic was brought up during lunch while discussing our family roots and how important religion is to their family. 


H: Continuing on with the religion in my household above my bed and the bed of parents which is the holy cross which is a great symbol for us especially the religious part. Its another reminder of religion to us and we sometimes pray with them or pray while facing them. 

P: Are they blessed or have you taken them to a church? 

H: Yes, we took them to the church where I was baptized to get them blessed by the priest of the church who is a nice friend of ours, and then we hung them where we did. It’s a nice symbol because it also gives us a lot of hope when we’re down and shows us there are better days ahead, especially during this lockdown. 


From this, it seems that this cross has the ability to bring families together and connect them through faith almost a magical power. This Folk Item represents the Hispanic ideals of carrying the catholic faith and continuing to practice it even in the home. The fact she mentions they blessed the cross as well shows the blending of a folk item and magic since the blessing requires an enchantment or a prayer to be said to be blessed. This folk item holds a lot of significance since it’s in multiple rooms and it was mentioned that this item is taken down and used when prayers are said especially prayers for a lost one or for one to feel better. This powerful item is a clear part of their family’s traditions and will continue to be for future generations. She also mentioned that the cross in her mother’s room belonged to her great-grandma so it been around for a while.

Fita do Senhor do Bonfim

Abstract: The incorporation of a bracelet with the magical power to grant wishes to the user who wears it. The bracelet is always decorated a certain color representing a spirit or a feature of Brazil and it always has a catholic prayer or saying listed on the outside of the bracelet. It was made out of cloth and woven together with the phrase placed on top.  The goal was to wrap up the bracelet somewhere on your body and then perform a few steps to ensure your wish comes true.

Background: MC is a Brazilian currently living in Florida and is a student at the University of Southern California. She’s an advocate for Brazilian culture and expresses it by speaking highly of their myths and legends and even partaking in the semi-religious activities such as wearing bracelets with powers to grant wishes to the wearer. She describes one of the few stories heard from parents when she was younger and details it below.

To gain a wish:

MC: First you take the bracelet and you figure out a spot where to tie to your person. 

MC: Next you have to come up with 3 wishes before you start to tie it on.

MC: Now you wrap it around you so, for example, I’m using my ankle and you have to make 3 Knotts with it, each symbolizing your wish and basically knotting it to you so you don’t lose it.

MC: Make sure you say each wish in your head before you start the next Knott and then once it’s tied up you leave it. The bracelet will fall off over time and when it does, your wishes will come true.


It interesting to see that the catholic faith has overtaken the traditions and meaning of items in Brazil. An item that grants wishes but has a verse from the Catholic bible written on it is a blend that shows the mix of Brazilian ideals. The idea of tying this to your person could be a way of carrying the faith and trusting in the Catholic God and as time progresses and the bracelet “matures” or gets old, so does your feeling of being used to having the bracelet on you. Shows that you can grow in the faith just like you grew into wearing a bracelet on you. From this burden of having the bracelet and it eventually falling off shows how your bond exceeds that of Knotts and you’re rewarded with having your wishes come true. 

Purple Fuzzy Bear

Informant H is 19 years old and was born in Inglewood CA. She moved to a place near Valencia just outside of LA soon after she was born. After 5 years, her little sister was born, then her little brother, and then her youngest sister. The family then moved to Bakersfield. H homeschooled for many years and then transitioned into a public high school.


H: So the very first people who started Xpressions started this um I guess its like a pre-show ritual where they have this little purple fuzzy stuffed animal and he’s about, I don’t know, he’s very small like this size, like a small ball. And we stand in a circle um backstage before its time for our show and the director holds the little fuzzy bear and he goes around and he puts it in front of everyone and everyone has to kiss the fuzzy bear for good luck.

Me: That’s really cute. Do you think people believe this will actually give them good luck and if they don’t do it like maybe they wont have a good performance that night?

H: Not necessarily. I think we know that the amount of effort and time we put into it is what’s gonna make it a good show but I think its just something that everyone has done every semester. So just knowing that from the very first group of people who did it now were doing it its cool that connection to the people who started it.

Me: So it’s about the history and the tradition more?

H: Right.

Me: Do you think the bear itself has any significance? Other than it was picked sort of randomly, do you know why it’s purple…?

H: I don’t know why its purple, I think its just a personal article, I don’t know any other significance to the bear.

Me: Do you believe personally that if you had done this or if you don’t, do you think something is going to happen?

H: Nope! I just think it’s a cute tradition.

Me: Do you think that’s why people do it? They just do this because it’s a nice bonding exercise?

H: Yes, I think it’s very much like a bonding exercise.

Me: Do you think it serves any other function besides a bonding thing between you guys?

H: I feel like bonding is mainly…and just that you know that that’s something you have in common with the Xpressions people because I know its changed over the years. So that’s something you have in common with someone who is an alumni of Xpressions, like oh you remember when you kissed the fuzzy bear?

Me: Is this like a secret thing? Do you guys talk about it very much?

H: Um no its just something we do like right before the show just like oh remember guys kiss the bear.

Me: And all the new members everyone together…?

H: Yeah everyone.



This dance group uses this fun tradition and ritual to bring all its members together and prepare them to work together as a unit for the show. Like other rituals, it ties them to the past and the origins of the group while keeping them in the present as they are about to perform. Also like other rituals, this takes place on a liminal moment in time, right before the dancers perform and is used to bring the dancers good luck.  This ritual also includes a kind of folk item, the fuzzy bear.