Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rabbit's Feet

I am always thinking about topics.  I am looking for topics that I can write about on my personal and business blogs.  I am looking for topics that I can speak about at my local Toastmaster’s meetings.  Sometimes the topics are abundant and there are plenty to choose from.  Other times it is like looking for water in the desert.  

Yesterday, April 24, 2011, upon sending out my monthly letter I made a mental note that I would like to have another posting before month’s end.  The ink was barely dry on that mental note when an idea just popped into my head.  The idea was Rabbit’s Feet.  I am not sure why or how that idea bubbled so quickly and easily to the surface.  I am guessing it may have been do to the slight fever signaling an oncoming head cold.  No matter what the idea came and I am running with it.

Upon thinking about Rabbit’s Feet, the first thing that came to my mind was that I had not thought about Rabbit’s Feet for a long time and I could not remember the last time I actually saw one.  They were quite popular when I was growing up in Detroit.  I remember several of my friends and schoolmates having them.  These white or gray furry things mounted on a key-chain were a common site hanging from the belt loops of boys pants.  I cannot remember where the girls put them.  No school children used backpacks in those days or they would have been hung on those.

While many had Rabbit’s Feet, I never had one and never cared to have one.  I never valued lucky charms, amulets, or talismans.  I valued more something that belonged to an ancestor in the family.  Being Armenian and given how we ended up in the United States made such relics rare.  I suppose that rarity made the few things that were around all the more precious.  

So, what is a Rabbit’s Foot and why is it a lucky charm to some?  A little web search uncovered the following:

  • In Western Europe, prior to 600 B.C., man considered rabbits to be sacred, because of their belief that spirits inhabited the bodies of animals, and also because of their belief that man directly descended from a select few of these animals.
  • In some cultures, the foot of a rabbit is carried as an amulet believed to bring good luck. This belief is held by individuals in many parts of the world including Europe, China, Africa, and North and South America. It is likely that this belief has existed in Europe since 600 BC amongst Celtic people living in Britain. In variations of this superstition, the donor rabbit must possess certain attributes, or have been killed in a particular place, or killed by a particular method, or by a person possessing particular attributes (e.g. by a cross-eyed man).
  • Also from Wikipedia:
    The belief in
    North American folklore may originate in the system of African-American folk magic known as hoodoo. A number of strictures attached to the charm that are now observed mostly in the breach:
  • First, not any foot from a rabbit will do: it is the left hind foot of a rabbit that is useful as a charm.
  • Second, not any left hind foot of a rabbit will do; the rabbit must have been shot or otherwise captured in a cemetery.
  • Third, at least according to some sources, not any left hind foot of a rabbit shot in a cemetery will do: the phase of the moon is also important. Some authorities say that the rabbit must be taken in the full moon, while others hold instead that the rabbit must be taken in the new moon.
  • Some sources say instead that the rabbit must be taken on a Friday, or a rainy Friday, or Friday the 13th. Some sources say that the rabbit should be shot with a silver bullet, while others say that the foot must be cut off while the rabbit is still alive
I am too much a statistician to believe in amulets or charms to influence the probability of certain outcomes.  I believe opportunities come along everyday to almost everyone.  It is the rare few that a actively on the lookout for such and ready, willing, and able to act when one is presented.

Growing up, I never thought the Rabbit’s Feet my chums had were real.  I just assumed they were fake furry things.  I do not believe I actually ever touched or felt one.  I was a little surprised when I did that I could feel the bones or the plastic core shaped like a bone.  I also believed, until yesterday, that Rabbit’s Feet were a thing of the past.  A quick internet search dispelled that rumor.  Rabbit’s Feet are easily and economically available.  You can buy them in various primary and secondary colors for $.99 each or two for $.99 in natural colors.  I find it hard to believe that they were any cheaper back in the 1960s.

Seeing these products on, I wondered who is still buying them and why? Do people still carry them around?  I do not think I have seen anyone carry one around.  Maybe they are still popular among the school children.  I have no idea since I am not often around that age group.  

For the life of me, I never understood why every other kid had a Rabbit’s Foot when I was in elementary school.  Was it a fad?  Was it family tradition?  I have no idea.  I just know I never had one and never wanted one.  Somehow, the prevalence of this amulet back in the day was fascinating enough to  reside in the recesses of my memory all these years.   Why it popped up now is a mystery to me.  

As stated above, I am too much of a statistician to believe that luck, or rather probability, is influenced by an amulet or talisman of any kind.  Baseball pitchers are notorious for having a favorite hat, glove, and other routines that they believe are part of their winning streak.  My paternal Grandmother believed in numerology and had several books on the subject to help her pick the winning lottery numbers.  I have friends that go to casinos all the time.  They all think they can beat the odds and each one of them has a mental Rabbit’s Foot they call a system.

People often claim about having luck or not having luck.  Much of what is called luck are opportunities afford to almost everyone... those with luck simply see the opportunities and seize them.  Success breeds the confidence to keep it up.  Success comes from hard work and perseverance.  

Let me finish this posting with two quotes that sum up how I look at luck.   The first is from Thomas Edison who said “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."  Another Thomas, Thomas Jefferson, said:  “I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."

1 comment:

  1. The Celts also believed the rabbit was sacred because of its prowess in the field of reproduction. Is that why when a female says, "the rabbit died", to a male, it's not luck, but sure probability? lol
    Animals have often been a part of a spiritual culture to explain human behavior. Animals possess certain attributes, when magnified makes that particular animal seem to possess great powers. I suppose in those terms, humans want to believe they possess such powers and maybe by possessing such object (such as a rabbit's foot) it will bring that luck of greatness. I think we all at some points in our life to think we can be greater than what we are and hope, dream, envy the luck.

    But why the rabbit's foot started long ago is strange because I am sure it did convey the philosophical notions as above. I never liked them when I was growing up. To me it was too gross to carry any part of a dead animal around. lol But I have to think, whatever works for you go for it. All of us need all the luck we can get. And maybe a prayer or two.