In both European and African traditions, body parts like hair and bones took on powerful symbolism. Europeans believed witches could transform into animals, including rabbits, so a rabbit's foot could represent a dead witch [source: Ellis].
Another European superstition is the Hand of Glory, a hand cut from a dead man and pickled, then turned into a candle. Thieves could light the hand of glory while committing crimes, preventing the people in the house from waking up [source: Simpson].
The graveyard rabbit’s feet sold in New Orleans likely stood in for the more dangerous (and taboo) practice of using human body parts as potent talismans. Placing the rabbit’s foot in a bag with dirt from a "sinner's grave” was another way to give the foot power [source: Ellis].
The rabbit's foot was a counterculture talisman, able to take the worst kinds of evil and subvert them by its very existence. While people still carry rabbit's feet (often as a keychain), many nowadays are made from synthetic fur, which is certainly good luck for rabbits.