October 28, 2013
The Habits Of The Lucky Rabbit
So far in my series on superstitions, I have focused on the bad luck: the black cat, knocking on wood, Friday the 13th, and broken mirrors. I thought it was about time to focus on some superstitions that bring good luck. Since I started this series with an animal superstition for bad luck, I wanted to continue that for good luck and talk about the lucky rabbit’s foot.
So, just what is the origin of this superstition? Well, that is a good question. In fact, historians, scholars, and the layman (or woman) interested in superstitions only have speculation. In my research, I found a Yahoo article that outlined three possible origin stories for the lucky rabbit’s foot. I will summarize them here:
- The first theory has to do with rabbit’s habits. Because rabbits burrow, many thought that their time spent underground made them privy to some secret communication to the netherworld that humans did not have. Another sort of habit that leads to the good luck of a rabbit’s foot is that they are born with their eyes wide open thus they witness more of the pre-natal life mysteries.
- The second story connects the luck of the rabbit’s foot to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christian Bible makes no reference to the rabbit and Christ; however, older Northern European beliefs claim that the rabbit is the escort to Eastre, the fertility goddess. Christians seemingly have incorporated the traditional symbols of rabbit and eggs into its own Easter celebration due to this.
- The final story discussed in the Yahoo article discusses how the animist belief systems connect the rabbit to spiritual powers. In the words of the article: “Then, the people believed that whoever carried part of the rabbit would in term possess its strengths such as the ability to run swiftly from danger and to improve fertility. Such strengths were derived from the inherent powers of the speedy fertile rabbit.”
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry explains that the luck of the rabbit comes also from their relationship to spring. Spring brings the return of life: plants, trees, flowers, and even mammals, birds, fish, and animals. Spring is a time of fertility and birth. And the rabbit has a reputation for fertility. In fact, a rabbit seen running through a field or yard meant that the next year would be good for having children or would produce good crops from a garden.
The foot specifically has a couple of explanations. According to the Yahoo article, “But why the foot? It was said that ancient man, in his cave drawings and stone sculptures, showed the foot as a phallic symbol, a totem to foster fertility in women and a cornucopian harvest. That seemed to explain why the foot.” The rabbit never strays too far from fertility, does it?
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry further purposes its own explanation for the foot:
“The manner in which rabbits run gave birth to the superstition about rabbit’s feet. Apparently their unusual stride makes the back feet touch the ground ahead of their front feet and so the back feet were considered especially lucky.
For luck to had, however, the original owner must give their rabbit’s foot away and it would be the receiver of the gift that would also be the recipient of the good fortune. If the owner kept the foot for himself, he would be visited by bad luck. If the recipient of the rabbit’s foot lost his lucky charm he would also be visited with bad luck.”
I must admit, I have never been a fan of this particular superstition. I have already explained that I am not particularly superstitious myself, but I do find them interesting. However, carrying around a dead animal’s foot to invoke good luck just baffles me. It is a bit morbid and gross. I am not judging here. Carry around your lucky rabbit’s foot. I am just saying that I could not do it.
Image Credit: Thinkstock