Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Luck & the Things That Attract It.

Luck is probably one of the most debated ideas in the history of humankind. One way or another, all of us subscribe to a notion of it, but we differ radically on the source and meaning of it. To some, good fortune is the blessing of a benevolent deity, to others the result of hard work and preparation, and to still others it is a mysterious "force" that must be courted.

If we want good things to happen, we try to repeat what we were doing the last time something good happened to us. And if something bad happens, we want to avoid doing whatever might cause a repeat of that difficulty. Sports figures are notorious for courting "luck" in bizarre ways.

This leads us to concoct all kinds of rituals and subscribe to all kinds of fetishes involving "lucky" items or symbols. Some --like the ones on the prayer bead bracelet pictured above-- we inherit from our families and the culture at large. Some we develop all on our own-- from our thinking, our experience, and our own spiritual orientation. LUCK is all about belief.

I am a big fan of butterflies. Every day I wear a small gold butterfly charm that was given to me by my mother as a symbol of hope. It's not flashy, but it is so steeped in meaning for me-- hope, rebirth, resurrection, change-- that it has almost religious significance. I use the butterfly motif in my house (prints on the walls and pillows and linens) and whenever I'm outside, I watch for butterflies and feel blessed and connected to something bigger than myself whenever I am near one.

Circles have special meaning to me. I frequently wear round hoop earrings and am drawn to art and furniture and fabrics that have circles in them. Circles embody the classic themes of inclusion and wholeness. . . but also bear more recent interpretations of community, natural geometry, the cycles of nature-- life cycles, rain cycles, seasonal cycles, and planetary cycles. Circles catch my eye and make me smile. . . I surround myself with them whenever I can.

(You know where hoop earrings came from? The old gypsy belief that circles trapped "luck" and that to wear metal hoops in your ears meant having good luck around at all times. Interesting, eh? And bangle bracelets. . . bring 'em on!)

A cool variation on the circle is the spiral. I have long pictured life's journey as a spiral. . . we travel through the same territory again and again, only on a little higher plane and with a different perspective. I look for spirals in art, in nature, and in everyday objects. . . you'd be surprised, they're everywhere! Each time I encounter one, I am reminded to make the most of the lessons I learn in life. . . the good and not so good.

Animals are a favorite, especially dogs. But I also have a fondness for cranes, herons, and egrets. . . partly because the name "Krahn" is German for "crane," and partly because I never saw them when I was growing up. I learned to appreciate them while living in Minnesota. They're sort of the family totem now. (Like eagles are for the Eagles?)

Pretty standard stuff.

But I also have a thing about ladders. They remind me of the story of Jacob's Ladder. . . and that when "wrestling with angels," you need to hold out for a blessing. . . and the blessing will come. It speaks to the value of persevering through trials and difficulty.

With bendable uprights, a ladder can be twisted into corkscrew shape that becomes the famous double helix of DNA. One of the great mysteries of the universe is embodied in that marvelous shape: we are connected to every other living thing on this planet by our chemistry. . . by the blueprint for life written in every microscopic cell of our bodies.

The double helix is a symbol of the unity that binds all of nature together in a way that crosses and crescents and mandalas and prayer wheels cannot do. I think churches, synagogues, mosques and temples should all adopt it as a symbol of the unity of creation.

Other precious images, totems, and "good luck" charms?

Oak trees. Lady bugs. Lilies. Polished stone hearts. The color red. Smiling animals. Bells of various kinds. Wind chimes. Celtic knots. Houseplants-- green, growing stuff inside my house-- (not in the refrigerator!) Palm fronds. Honey bees. Each reminds me of a lesson I've learned in life and in love.

What about you? What are your lucky charms? What symbols or shapes or items make you feel connected?

Do you have a motif or image that you look for in the fabrics, art works, and furniture that upholster your life?

Anything special around your neck or on your key chain?

One more thing: A video that just came out of the soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan showing what totems and lucky pieces they carry with them into harm's way. Pretty moving. Here's a link. . .


Kylie said...

Betina, I'm not much for superstition or luck (nor am I lucky--coincidence???) But there are certain pieces of jewelry that I feel bare without. My son has a green rabbit's foot that he always takes with him when he's competing. Maybe I should borrow that...

Terry Odell said...

I've never been into the talisman sort of thing. Your opening paragraphs reminded me of my animal behavior classes in college. They had caged pigeons and would randomly reward them, not requiring any specific behavior (as they would have if they were 'training' the birds). Eventually, each bird picked up a 'superstitious' behavior, be it pecking, or wing-flapping, or hopping, or whatever--because they'd been doing it when the food came down the chute.

ARCyndi/Dr. Cynthia Morgan said...

We have butterflies everywhere in our house (see, I KNEW I was your other sister). For me, I can't really think of anything I feel is a lucky talisman.

Christie Ridgway said...

I don't have a personal, specific talisman/motif, though I will sometime select something that represents the book. For example, one hero wore a religious medal and I had one around me while I wrote the book.

Right now, on my desk is a bottle of champagne (actually blanc de blancs, a sparkling wine) that is similar to a "wedding wine" produced at my imaginary vineyard, Tanti Baci (Many Kisses).

Kathleen Eagle said...

Eagles for the Eagles--absolutely! Throughout the Eagle family, we hold this magnificent bird in high esteem and celebrate its magnificent comeback from the brink of extinction.

Betina, what a wonderful post! I don't see this as superstition. People use symbols to remind them of big things. Every ceremony is full of symbols. One person's superstition is another person's religion, perhaps the remnant of religion from another time.

The older I get, the longer my journey, the better I understand the sacredness of the circle. If there's one thing human life is not, it's linear.

Debra Dixon said...

Huh. Interesting subject.

I believe in luck, in being blessed with luck. I always worry that I've had more than my fair share and the bill is coming due and I won't like it.

I wore (and still have) a pair of ruby slippers my mother had made for me when GMC became "GMC." That necklace was a personal talisman for a long time.

I love the language of symbols, but I honestly have to say as I look around me, I don't see any motifs that repeat (unless you count Wiz of Oz stuff given to me because of GMC). Nothing that I continually buy.

I do like circular occurances and items though.

OH! I have two circles I wear all the time, for many years now. One is my mother's wedding ring (plain gold band) from my father. She gave it to me when she finally was able to let "go" after they divorced many years ago. I wear that on my little finger of my right hand. Then Wayne bought me a simple, thin, engraved-design silver band at an art fair and I wear it on the ring-finger of my right hand.

So...circles. I like simple circles. I often reach for and turn these rings on my hands. They are comforting. They represent my childhood relationships and my adult relationship. And that's where all my luck comes--the people in my life.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Dream catchers. I just finished "deep cleaning" in my granddaughters' room--oh, the STUFF they accumulate!--and had to change the string of lights across the window, which had broken. The new one is a string of butterflies. Suspended from the curtain rod we have several dream catchers. The newest one was made by Grandma Phyllis--Clyde's sister, who died this summer.

The dream catcher traps bad dreams in its web while it allows good dreams to reach the dreamer through the center circle. While the dream catcher itself isn't a Lakota tradition, the circle--the hoop--is sacred.

Symbols play such an important role in Lakota tradition. It is a rich culture, and it was nearly erased by people who thought they knew better. The circle represents many things, not the least of which is survival.

Kathleen O said...

I believe we make our own luck. But if I find a penny I always pick it up on the off chance it just might bring me luck.. I also believe in Guardian Angels...

Kathleen Eagle said...

Kathleen, me too on the found pennies and guardian angels. When I pick up a penny I sing (quietly) "There'll be pennies from heaven." It's my personal gratitude minder.

Michele Hauf said...

dragonflies are my lucky thing.

Michele Hauf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Betina Krahn said...

Hey everyone! Thanks for peeking in and thinking with me for a minute on the whole "luck" thing.

I bet over the next few days, several ofyou will go "duh" when you realize that there is something you keep with your in your purse or pocket or have sitting on top of your computer or monitor. . . something that just pleases you and makes you feel better just to look at it. If you do. . . come back and add a comment.

Meanwhile, interestingly, I have mental pictures that go with each of my fellow blogmates. When I go shopping, I regularly see things that remind me of Kathy(eagles and Barbies), Deb(quilting stuff and sweet tea), Michele (dragonflies and Cooper Mini's), Susan(red purses and fortune cookies), Lois(horses and kilts), Helen(treasure chests and martini glasses), Christie(knitting needles and surf boards), Cindy(smoking pistol and hiking boots)and Kylie(little pirates). Some of you I know better than others, but I visualize you all.

Kathy, the dreamcatchers-- I love those. they embody the circle as a part of the design. . . good stuff there! And Deb, the rings... we all pay tribute to the unending, "circular" nature of love when we put on wedding bands. The circles are such a statement.

Cyndi, we probably have a few genes in common-- lol!

Terry, I thought about that very experiment when writing this blog! Coincidence? Probably not.

Deb, I always think your ID photo here looks like a good luck charm. So bright and vibrant and yet relaxing. . . so very YOU.

Kathleen, I have a little pewter angel I carry in my change purse. . . when I open it, I'm reminded of where my "true treasure" is. Angels are a great touchstone for us, both as symbols and as beliefs.

And I'm wishing you all the luck in the world!

Kathleen O said...

Kathleen E, i think the same thing,, off topic.. I finished your book In care of Sam Beaudry last night and i just loved it... Little Star just tugged at my heart, and Sam is them man..

Debra Dixon said...


Um...the funny thing ? That icon pic is a cut out of a quilt and if you saw the whole thing then you'd realize those red arcs form...wait for it...


Michele Hauf said...

Betina, interesting what you associate with each of us! I have never seen your home, but I do remember once you mentioned you had a pool and loggia. Now whenever I see a fab home on HGTV that has a pool and loggia I always think of you. :-)

Cindy Gerard said...

Hey Betina
For me it's numbers. 3 and 8 are mine. no clue why :o)

Betina Krahn said...

Deb, I might have guessed the circle part. my grans were quilters and I've seen lots of patterns in my day. I LOVE the one you chose for your avatar.

Michele, I now associate dragonflies with you. . . but I might have to alter that a bit after seeing your little fairy cottage. I LOVE that!

Cindy, three and eight? I'm three and seven, myself. . . though according to numerology, I think I'm supposed to be an 8 or 9. Sevens have usually been lucky for me. That includes seventeens!

Anybody have a favorite necklace charm?

Steve said...

Thank you for the nice article. I do believe in luck symbols as well, which is a requirement to make them work.
If you wish, you can take a FREE "good luck trip" at my website:
It really works (but you must believe in it)
Good Luck!