Tag Archives: good luck charm

Clothing Superstitions in Sports

Background: The informant is a 22 year old male currently living in San Luis Obispo, California. He attended CalPoly-SLO and is currently working as a manager for a boy and girls volleyball club. He played volleyball and basketball throughout high school, and played and coached volleyball while in college.

Context: The informant shared the information over the phone when talking about his new job and was asked about superstitions in sports.

Text:

Me: So, throughout your career with volleyball, did you notice any superstitions that followed you?

WC: Yeah, for sure. I mean, there’s a lot of good luck charms in sports. For example, like, players will wear the same clothes for every game. A lot wear the same jersey every single time, instead of switching out for a newer one, Also, they, like, wear the same socks for every game.

Me: Why would they do that?

WC: It’s believed that if you, someone, wins with a certain piece of clothing then that will bring them good luck in the upcoming games and season. So, like, if you take off that piece of clothing, you will be bringing bad luck onto yourself.

Me: Did you participate in it?

WC: Yeah, most people I know do. I always wore the same jersey for every game, and if I played different sports, I would try to get the same number for good luck. It reminds me of, like, if a sports team is doing really well, and then you turn on the TV and start watching them, and then they start doing bad, it feels like “Oh, I caused them to do bad” so you’ll turn off the game. Or, like [friends] attended a few baseball games and the team lost every time. So, it felt like they were the bad luck charm for the team and that they shouldn’t go to games anymore. 

Analysis:

Informant: As the informant has both participated and heard about the tradition, it is clear that he believes in the good luck superstition placed onto the objects.

Mine: The function of the jerseys and the socks is basically a lucky charm for the team. It’s interesting because it shows how a piece of clothing can be obtained with no meaning, but once the team starts winning, the clothing slowly gains the lore of being good luck. And, the object doesn’t solely affect the individual wearing it but affects the whole team, like it’s a large net of good luck. It likely provides a sense of safety and solace for the players, especially if they are heading into a nerve wracking match, at least they have their good luck charm to rely on. It’s similar to how people may pray to God before a match, but in this case, it’s “praying” to an object. In addition, good luck and bad luck can be imbued into a person. However, it seems more like assigning blame to someone else, rather than the team itself, who was the one performing in the game. Yet, this does keep morale strong in the team.

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.  

Context:

This interview happened a month ago at my home. 

Thoughts: 

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. 

Mezuzah Little Magic/Ritual

SB is an 18 year old college student from the East Coast. He says he has practiced this ritual/superstition for at least 10 years. Informant identifies as culturally Jewish and does not consider himself very religious.

Context: This ritual is performed inside his family’s home. He is strongly connected to it and has one attached to his door frame.

Transcript:

Collector: Can you tell me about the Mezuzah ritual?

SB: So basically a Mezuzah is a piece of scripture on paper in a protective case that is hung up by your door frame. You kiss it, my family kisses our fingers and touch it, and it gives you good luck for the day. You do it before you leave the house; my family does this whenever we pass it.

Collector: What does the Mezuzah mean to you?

SB: It makes me feel connected to my culture. It’s special to my family and it’s a part of what represents us as a people.

Analysis: The Mezuzah ritual, specifically being used as a good luck charm instead of to honor God, is strongly tied to Jewish culture. The scripture being written on paper compliments other Jewish magic rituals in which written magic is used. This is more of a little magic ritual rather than one done for religious purposes.

For other variations of the Mezuzah ritual, see:

Cohn, Yehudah B. “Mezuzah .” Shibboleth authentication request, October 26, 2012. https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.libproxy2.usc.edu/doi/10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah11167.

Cleland, Patrick. “Kissing The Mezuzah.” USC Digital Folklore Archives, May 14, 2013. http://folklore.usc.edu/kissing-the-mezuzah/.

Treasured Daughters – India

“A general idea shared by Indians is that daughters are the most important in the family. Like they bring prosperity and wealth for families, so they are sacred. So for me as a daughter, I’m not supposed to touch anyone’s feet. Another thing for daughters is blessing new things like when we bought a new house, my parents are super Indian and did prayers. But I was the first one to walk into the house because I bring good luck.”

 

I was surprised to learn that daughters of Indian households are so valued.  Although my informant said her family practices and observes a lot of traditional Indian customs, she could not find an explanation for why Indian daughters are so treasured. They are treated like goddesses because they are considered as the Goddess Lakshmi—goddess of wealth, fortune, and prosperity. Despite this elevated status, sons are still preferred over daughters. When daughters get married, they get passed along to a new household; however, when sons get married, they don’t leave and remain in the same household.

Sons are probably valued more because they have the title of breadwinner, while daughters are meant to marry and be sent off. These are all clearly religious and socio-economic factors that influence the attitudes toward sons and daughters. To my informant’s family, the belief that having her walk into a new house first will bring good luck is rooted in religious belief. However, to others it may seem like a simple superstition. This made me realize how subjective the process of defining superstitions are, and that religion and superstition can be tied closely hand-in-hand; however, no matter how similar the two ideas may seem, they are still fundamentally two different types of beliefs.

Japanese Customs of Good Luck, Bad Fortune, and Protection

I collected this from a friend who happened to be studying this for another part of a Japanese cultural festival. He learned them from his parents, who had learned it from their parents as well. To him, they originally sounded very foolish and nonsensical. However, after looking into the context of what they were based on, he said that he understood why the people acted that way. To him, words have a lot of power, especially in the Japanese language. By not being careful with what you say, then it could have truly harmful effects on other people. It is very traditional and a part of his culture, so he was glad to share it. It was collected prior to the cultural festival, but it was at nighttime. The lights were on in the room we were in, but they were dim and the air was stale because the windows were closed.

You are not supposed to clip your toenails at night. By doing so, you will be cursed by spirits so that you will not be with your parents when they die. A variant of this is that you are not supposed to clip your fingernails at night. It will have the same effect of cursing you so that you will not be able to be with your parents in the event that they die. This is because it sounds like “yo o tsumeru,” and that sounds awfully like “to cut short a life.”

You are not supposed to do anything related to the number 4, which sounds like the word for “death.” One application of this is that you are supposed to avoid sleeping in a room that has 4 somewhere in the room number. Another is that when giving gifts, you don’t want it to have 4 parts to it, or else it will bring bad luck.

You are not supposed to sleep facing north. Dead bodies are placed so that their head orients to the north. By sleeping in the same way, it invites you to die because you are now in a similar position to the dead bodies. Malicious spirits might attempt to take advantage of that.

When a funeral car passes by, you must hide your thumb. In Japan, the thumb is called the “Oya yubi,” which means “parent finger.” By not hiding your thumb, it means that your parents will be taken away by a funeral car very soon.

You are not supposed to step on the cloth border of tatami mats, because that will bring misfortune to you.

You do not stick chopsticks upright in a bowl of rice. That is symbolically done when you are offering food to the spirits of your ancestors. In particular, this tends to happen more at funerals. However, by doing that elsewhere, it is disrespectful and you are inviting ghosts into your home, which may have a catastrophic effect on your life.

You are not supposed to give potted plants to ill people at the hospital. That will curse them, because it means that they will be rooted to the hospital, extending their illness. As a result, they can be given cut flowers, but not potted plants.

After attending a funeral, you must be sprinkled with salt so as to purify the spirit of the dead that may have followed you home.

Mirrors must be covered in a home, and must not be placed in front of a window. At night, it is possible that a ghostly woman will come out of the mirror to steal your soul or to eat away at your life. By placing mirrors in front of a window, the good energy that is coming in from the sun will be reflected back out, leaving you with no good energy at all.

You are not supposed to be able to see stairs that go up to the second floor when you look through the front door. It means that good luck will fall down the stairs and will continue to stumble right out the door, leaving you behind with absolutely no good luck

By going to a shrine, it is possible to acquire charms that are blessed in specific ways, such as “getting into a good university” or “always having good friends.” They are blessed by the priests, and usually have a lasting power of 1 year before they must be renewed again.

A branch of a peach tree is known to have purification effects. Keeping one with you is said to help ward away evil spirits so that they cannot get close enough to you to harm you.

There is a game called shiritori which requires two people. The last syllable of the word the first person says has to become the first syllable of the word the second person says. The cycle continues as each person takes the previous last syllable and makes that their first. That is supposed to actually be a charm to keep away evil spirits in the night if you are walking with a friend and there is no one else there.

Sea salt is actually a very strong purifying item. Throwing it at evil spirits will make them flee from you or be exorcised.

Some of these traditions are shared with the other Asian countries, so they felt very familiar and understandable to me. They are also part of my own culture as well, which is why they have significance to me. I understand that people act this way, and I understand why. These superstitions do sound silly at times, but they also have good intent. They are warnings to ensure that a positive future can be acquired. Either that or they are ways of gaining good fortune and keeping away evil spirits.