You Already Have This Surprisingly Simple Good Luck Charm

By: Bambi Turner  | 
A ladybug has landed on someone's thumb.
A ladybug landing on you will bring you good fortune — as long as you let it leave on its own accord. RMRayner Photography / Getty Images

It's easy to dismiss lucky charms as wishful thinking — after all, how can an inanimate object determine whether you'll have a good day or one plagued by bad luck? Well, it turns out that a so-called good luck charm might have more sway over your success than you think, whether that's acing a test or navigating a tough day of work.

The secret ingredient? Your belief. It's your faith in the charm that infuses the talisman with power, bolstering your self-confidence and enabling you to perform at your peak [source: Angelle]. It's a bit like the placebo effect. Even if there's no scientific evidence or logical reason why a charm should attract luck, your belief in it might just be enough to subtly influence your actions and boost your chances of success. Or, at the very least, leave you feeling more positive about the outcome, whatever it may be.


The beauty of it all is that any charm will do. Why? Because the real power isn't in the object itself, but in your mind. Need some ideas? Here are five bizarre good luck charms that might just help you attract Lady Luck.

5. Ladybugs

Can a ladybug predict how many children you'll have? Or maybe, if you're even luckier, it'll fly away and take your problems with it.

Ladybugs are popular lucky charms among a variety of cultures and regions, but the origins of this good luck symbol are shrouded in mystery. Some believe it was inspired by the Virgin Mary, or "Lady Bird," but the ladybug is lucky even in areas where Christianity isn't the dominant religion, such as Asia.

No matter its origins, it's said that simply having a ladybug land on you will bring you luck as long as you let it leave on its own accord — no brushing it away. If you must send the ladybug flying, preserve your luck by gently blowing it away and reciting the poem, "Ladybug Ladybug." Supposedly, a ladybug landing not only brings luck, but also allows the bug to carry your problems away when it takes flight.


Beyond basic luck, ladybugs are also said to predict the future. Some say that counting the spots on a ladybug will tell you how many kids you'll have. Others believe that the number of spots reveals the number of happy months ahead. While it's difficult to carry a ladybug in your pocket for luck, the ladybug's lucky reputation makes it a popular choice for clothing and décor, particularly in Asian cultures [source: Webster].

4. Fish Amulets

Egyptian fish amulets, called nekhau, were thought to protect people from drowning.
Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Amulets, or small charms made from metal, bone, stone or gems, have long served as protective charms throughout many parts of the world. The ancient Egyptians gave young girls a fish amulet called a nekhau, which they wore around their necks or tied to a lock of hair to help prevent drowning [source: The Met]. Variations of this amulet can be found throughout different cultures, but what's interesting is that each culture changes the design slightly, modeling the amulet after local fish species.

One modern researcher, epidemiologist Christopher Charles, took advantage of these charms' power to benefit one Cambodian village's population. In 2008, Charles handed out tiny iron fish amulets — made in the likeness of a popular local fish species — to the village's residents. By urging the residents to cook with the lucky fish in the pot, the researcher virtually eliminated anemia, which had once plagued a large percentage of villagers [source: Smith].


It was the fish design itself that spurred his success: When Charles had previously tried to distribute shapeless lumps of iron for the same purpose, the villagers had been less than enthusiastic. But when the iron took on the form of a lucky fish, the villagers were hooked. The fish amulet had once again proven its worth, improving the health and fortune of an entire community.

3. Vulture Heads

Vultures might not be too pretty to look at, but their skulls are prized by many superstitous folks.
Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Believe it or not, the severed and preserved heads of vultures are believed to attract luck in some parts of the world, leading some luck-seekers to pay hundreds of dollars or more to obtain one of these gruesome objects. Because they feed on carrion, vultures have long been seen as bringers of death, but many believe they can also foretell it [source: Webster].

This sense of clairvoyance has spelled doom for many vultures, leading to a surge in poaching. Despite the birds' endangered status, eager buyers in Africa and other parts of the world line up to score these good luck charms. Gamblers and lottery players, in particular, value them for their supposed future-predicting abilities [source: Marshall].


Of course, even if you can come up with the cash to score one of these valuable lucky charms, there's no guarantee that any reputable casino is going to let you hang out at the poker table cradling a dried-up bird head — buyer beware, indeed.

2. Bezoars

This gross good luck charm, found in a goat's stomach, was once used to ward off disease and cure poisoning.
SSPL/Getty Images

If you're a Harry Potter fan, the term "bezoar" might ring a bell. Remember when Harry saved Ron from a poisoned mead with a bezoar in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"? While J.K. Rowling brought the bezoar to the limelight in her series, this peculiar charm has a history that predates the wizarding world.

A bezoar is a stonelike mass that forms in the stomachs of certain animals, including goats and deer. It's not just a curiosity of nature; it's a symbol of good luck. Throughout history, people have believed in the bezoar's protective powers. Some cultures would crush the bezoar into a powder, a supposed antidote for poison. Others would drop the bezoar into a drink to test for poison before taking a sip [source: Webster].


Simply carrying the stone is thought to offer protection against illness and bad fortune, while some still use the bezoar as a remedy for hangovers and other maladies [source: Petersen]. In China, people crush bezoars to use as medicine, especially for oral health issues [source: Barbian and Schierkolk].

If you're wondering where to find these lucky charms, look no further than cud-chewing animals like cows, sheep and deer. Occasionally, you might stumble upon a bezoar that an animal has regurgitated. In rare instances, bezoars have been surgically removed from animals without causing them harm. And here's a fun fact: Humans can also produce bezoars, although it's a rare occurrence in people with normal digestive tracts [source: Barbian and Schierkolk].

1: Raccoon Bacula

Sorry, buddy. One of your prized possessions is someone else's lucky charm.

The baculum, or penis bone, of the raccoon is another lucky charm that seems to have been awfully unlucky for the animal itself, though it's said to bring good luck to people who own one. Also known as a Texas toothpick, the baculum is removed from the raccoon and boiled clean. Some users drill a hole in one end and wear it around the neck or wrist, while others simply slip it into a pocket.

The lucky raccoon baculum tradition likely comes from the American South, where it's popular in hoodoo — American folk magic [source: Russell]. Carrying the baculum is said to bring luck, especially for gamblers, while some use it as an aphrodisiac or fertility charm.


Artifacts found near residences of former enslaved people suggest these charms were popular among early African Americans, who some sources suggest picked up the practice from Native Americans. While purists will want to stick with the real thing, more casual believers may be satisfied with the large array of synthetic (mostly plastic) alternatives available in modern shops — much to the relief of raccoons everywhere.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.

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Author's Note: 5 Bizarre Good Luck Charms

I spent hours searching through fields of clovers as a child, hoping to find a four-leaf clover. After all that work, I never managed to locate one, leading me to believe that they were just a myth. It wasn't until I sat down to research this article that I learned four-leaf clovers are not only a real thing, but they're really not all that rare. Not only that, but botanists figured out how to produce the seeds for these special clovers long before I was born, which means I could've had one anytime I wanted if I'd only been looking in the right place.

Related Articles

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  • Barbian, Lenore and Andrea Schierkolk. "Hairballs: Myths and Realities Behind Some Medical Curiosities." National Museum of Health and Medicine. Oct. 21, 2014. (April 1, 2015)
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  • Hutcheson, Cory Thomas."Gator Paws, Doll Babies and Ugly Mugs: Material Culture in American Folk Magic." Pennsylvania State University. Oct. 27, 2014. (Jan. 5, 2015)
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