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Lucky Charms

Advertising cards issued by W.G. & H. O. Wills of Bristol & London 1923.

Page 5 of 5

The Lucky Charm series was very Euro- and Egypto- centric. Only a few charms from the rest of the world were included.

Part Five: Charms of Other Cultures


Cards 40, 47 and 24

Charms from the East

Left to right. Tibetan charm-box, a variation on the charm case.
Jade Hei Tiki from the Maori of New Zealand. A Swastika, an old Sun symbol and the mark of Ganesh in Hinduism.

Tibetan charm-boxes are often made of precious metal and, as here, encrusted with turquoise and coral. They contain charms written and blessed by Lamas.

The Hei Tiki was carved from nephrite jade by the Maori of New Zealand. Men wore them throughout life to protect them from witchcraft. They were given to the eldest son at the death of the father or buried with a man if he left no sons.

The Swastika is a very ancient and virtually universal symbol of the Sun. Some people associate it mostly with Hitler, but he just appropriated and disgraced the symbol. In India it is usually associated with Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, son of Siva.


Cards 50, 49 and 48

Three Charm Pendants

Left to right. Old arrowhead strung for luck or protection. Miniature jade axe from China. A "grotesque figure" from New Guinea.

The arrowhead is strung to bring health and keep the Evil Eye at bay. This example is European, but old stone tools are treated this way in many places.

The nephrite jade axe was for long an important Chinese amulet to protect from diseases and witchcraft. Jade is the "Stone of Heaven" and was used in many ways in ancient China. The axe shape symbolized strength.

Wills says the "grotesque figure" was worn as a pendant in New Guinea. I am no expert on this island (now independent Papua New Guinea and Indonesia's Irian Jaya), but I have never seen anything like this. Asmat men do wear a slightly anthropomorphic figure made of bamboo when they have taken at least one head. Does anyone know more about this "Lucky Charm"?


I am missing card 42. I have an extra 47 (Hei Tiki). Does anyone want to trade?

I bought these cards in Rochester, England in 1979. I first reported them in my column, "Bead Report" in Ornament 7(2):36, 1983.

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