Whether luck truly exists is up for debate, but in many cultures around the world, good fortune takes the shape of animals!
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From fish to crickets, many cultures – from India to Egypt – think of certain animals as auspicious, and use them as symbols of good luck. Here, we share 5 of them:
If you’ve read English author Charles Dickens’ The Cricket on the Hearth, you might have an idea of how these little insects have been a sign of household luck for millennia, across Asia and Europe. With their constant chirping on balmy summer nights, crickets are widely considered not just to bring good fortune, but also a kind of companionship.
Fish are associated with health, wellbeing and good fortune in places like Cambodia, where the species called the Try Kantrop is considered to be especially auspicious. In fact, when Canadian physician Christopher Charles was researching iron deficiencies in Cambodia, he observed the importance of these fish in the local culture. It gave him the idea of placing fish-shaped iron ingots into cooking pots – when the boiling water released iron into food, without altering its taste in any way, the ingots helped treat people with short-term iron deficiency. The idea was such a hit that it’s now a well-known reusable product called Lucky Iron Fish.
In China and Japan, especially, red-crowned cranes are associated with luck and longevity, since they are thought to live for 1,000 years (in actuality, they live for about 30 years in the wild). The elegant birds are generally considered auspicious around the world, perhaps because crane pairs bond and remain together for decades, until one of them dies.
A walk down Cairo’s famous Khan Al Khalili bazaar will introduce visitors to thousands of little scarabs, in the form of charms, pendants, earrings or amulets. Modeled after the common Egyptian dung beetle, scarabaeus sacer, the insect was sacred to ancient Egyptians. Images of it were believed to bring good fortune in the next life, if sewn into the wrappings of mummies. In other cultures, the ladybug is thought to be auspicious – for instance, in the US, it is considered to be a good sign if one lands on you. Ladybugs also hold a special place in India – in Sanskrit, the beetle’s name means 'Indra’s shepherd', referring to the Hindu deity Indra.
In India, elephants (pictured above) are valued as lucky since they are associated with the Hindu deity Ganesh, who is considered to be the remover of obstacles, especially at the beginning of an endeavour. In Buddhism, a grey elephant represents the untrained mind that is agitated and potentially destructive. Once the mind is strengthened through years of practice, and becomes serene and in control, it is then represented by a white elephant.