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 former slave residences 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.
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.
- Angelle, Amber. "Superstitions Bring Real Luck, Study Reveals." LiveScience. July 12, 2010. (Jan. 5, 2015) http://www.livescience.com/8392-superstitions-bring-real-luck-study-reveals.html
- 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) http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/index.cfm?p=exhibits.virtual.hairball.index
- Ellis, Bill. "Why Is a Lucky Rabbit's Foot Lucky? Body Parts as Fetishes." Journal of Folklore Research. Vol. 39, No. 1. Pages 51-84. January-April 2002. (Jan. 5, 2015) http://www.jstor.org/stable/3814831
- 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) http://sites.psu.edu/hollershakeshout/2014/10/27/gator-paws-doll-babies-and-ugly-mugs-material-culture-in-american-folk-magic/
- Marshall, Leon. "Gamblers Fuel Trade in 'Lucky' Vulture Heads in Africa." National Geographic. Feb. 25, 2003. (Jan. 5, 2015) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/02/0225_030225_SAvultures.html
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). "The Collection Online — Fish Amulet." 2015. (Jan. 5, 2015) http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/546742
- Murrell, Deborah. "Superstitions: 1,013 of the Wackiest Myths, Fables and Old Wives' Tales." Amber Books. 2008.
- Patrick, Bethanne and John Thompson. "An Uncommon History of Common Things." National Geographic Society. 2009.
- Petersen, Georg G. "Mining and Metallurgy in Ancient Peru." Geological Society of America. 2010.
- Russell, Aaron E. "Material Culture and African-American Spirituality at the Hermitage." Historical Archaeology. Vol. 31, No. 2. Pages 63-80. 1997 (Jan. 5, 2015) http://users.clas.ufl.edu/davidson/arch%20of%20aa%20life%20and%20culture/Week%2007-08/Russell%201997.pdf
- Smith, Eleanor. "The Good-Luck Charm That Solved a Public-Health Problem." The Atlantic. Dec. 22, 2013. (Jan. 5, 2015) http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/01/an-iron-fish-in-every-pot/355742/
- Struthers, Jane. "Red Sky at Night: The Book of Lost Countryside Wisdom." Ebury Press. 2009.
- Webster, Richard. "The Encyclopedia of Superstitions." Llewellyn Publications. 2008.
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