People in most cultures believe in superstitions. From earliest times, the English, for instance, have believed in certain symbols and customs which could bring good fortune as well as ward off evil spirits. Old customs seldom die, so don't be surprised because some of these customs are still practiced daily in today's society.
The horseshoe is considered a lucky symbol in English customs. It resembles the other symbols associated with good fortune in other cultures such as the crescent, half circle or "U". Crescent or "U" shapes are often said to be the symbol of fertility and also possesses power to ward off evil spirit. As it is made of iron and used for horses, horseshoes are also linked to strength and power. As such, combining all these signs of good luck, the horseshoe is regarded as a powerful device to bring fortune and keep evil spirits away. It is usually nailed to the front door to protect the household from uninvited visitors like witches and evils. However, the horseshoe must be placed in an upright "U" position so that the good fortune will be retained6) by the household.
Rabbit's Foot 兔脚
In the old English custom, the hare (not rabbit) was said to have an evil eye), whose glance can only be countered by people who own a hare's hind foot. In the olden days, it was said that the warrior Queen Boadicea of Norfolk, East Britain, brought a hare with her to ensure luck in battle against the Roman Empire who had invaded her kingdom. This brought people to believe that the hare had miraculous) powers. However, the pagan) practice of worshiping the hare eventually stopped after most Britons were converted) to Christianity in the 6th century by the first Archbishop) of Canterbury. Nevertheless, many Britons carried hare's feet in their pocket or purse. Later, rabbits were introduced in Britain from the other European countries, and since rabbits can be caught more easily than hares, the rabbit's foot replaced the hare's foot as a lucky charm).
Wishing upon a wishbone is an ancient custom. It involves two people who would break the wishbone and the one with a bigger piece makes a wish. The wishbone is actually the forked bone from a fowl's breast, better known as the "furcula". In many cultures, fowls are regarded as special creatures which can bring luck and good fortune. The wishbone shape itself is good luck symbol of life and fertility.
Old Boot 旧靴子
In ancient days, old boots or shoes were said to hold the good spirit and courage of their owners. Therefore, it was a common belief that an old boot was a good luck charm. For instance, if a fisherman caught himself an old boot instead of fish, it is believed that at the end of the day he would be able to catch and take home a huge amount of fish. In north England for instance, the wives of sailors would usually toss old boots or shoes at the departing ships to ensure their husbands' safe journey. Old boots were also left on the roofs of old houses to fend off evil spirits.
Back in pagan times, trees were considered as sacred symbol of immortality. Touching the tree was a sign of respect to the gods after a favor has been requested, or thanks to the gods for a request that had been fulfilled. After the English embraced Christianity, the people retained their belief that wood is holy as Christ died on a wooden cross. People at that time wore wooden crucifixes16) and often touched them as a sign of penitence17). Even now, people who are superstitious will try to touch or knock on wood after gloating18), talking bad things about other people, making any rash19) statement of intent or so on, so that the action will get rid of any bad lucks during the day.
Coins, especially gold coins, were said to bring good fortune to the person who possessed them. Gold, like in any other culture, was always a symbol of wealth. In the past, "lucky" gold coins were turned into rings to be worn as a remedy20) for many types of illness. Sometimes, brides put them in a shoe to ensure a good married life. The English also dropped coins into wells to protect themselves from being bewitched and to make a wish in hope that their dreams would come true. This is due to the fact that people at the time believed there were good spirits who lived in the wells, fountains or springs.
Four-leaf Clover 四瓣三叶草
Clover is actually a type of wild plant with flowers shaped like cotton balls and usually has three leaves on each stem. In fact it is very rare to find a four-leaf clover. It is believed that to accidentally find a four-leaf clover is a sign of good luck. Moreover, the shape of four-leaf clover resembles the symbol of the crucifix. There is also an English saying "to live in clover" which basically means "to have enough money to be able to live comfortably".