CULTURE & ARTS
07/10/2015 09:13 am ET

'The Luck Archive' Documents The Talismans And Rituals All Around Us

Luck is a cultural phenomenon too pervasive too ignore.
Daruma doll
Mark Menjivar
Daruma doll

Luck is all around us. Even if we don't believe in it, the force crops up in our conversations and subconscious anyway, explaining useful coincidences and happy accidents.

Mark Menjivar, the artist behind the new book The Luck Archive: Exploring Belief, Superstition, and Tradition, began to notice the ubiquity of luck several years ago. The book is the result of several years spent asking people about their concept of luck and photographing objects they relate to the idea. In the book's introduction, he remembers talking to an artisan who insisted he didn't believe in luck. Then Menjivar asked him how he came upon the fantastic workshop he used. "The first words out of his mouth were 'I got really lucky!'" Menjivar wrote. "The concept of luck can enter our lives whether or not we believe in it."

In an email to The Huffington Post, Menjivar expanded upon the multifaceted concept of luck: "There are people that actively try to shape and mold luck through their actions. This would most closely tie into superstition," he explained. "[Other people] use the word to describe something that happened, or didn’t happen, to us." 

Over the course of the project thus far, Menjivar has photographed numerous talismans -- rabbits' feet, four-leaf clovers -- but also illustrations of other manifestations of luck. A lotto ticket might represent a belief that your numbers could be the ones called for the jackpot; a copy of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea simply contains a description of luck that one reader found meaningful.

&nbsp;<span>A 4x5 inch black and white contact print made by Menjivar from the original clovers. One is given to each person
Mark Menjivar
 A 4x5 inch black and white contact print made by Menjivar from the original clovers. One is given to each person that participates in The Luck Archive.

The superstitious luck objects that inspired Menjivar's project were classic. "I was in a used bookstore in Fort Wayne, Indiana, some years back and found four four-leaf clovers inside an old book," he wrote. The clovers followed him on his journey, as well: "I photographed each of the clovers and made contact prints of them to give to each person that I met along the way." His journey of curiosity led him to a rabbit farm, where he found piles of freshly butchered rabbits' feet. He photographed lucky coins and dandelions being blown for a wish. 

Other luck rituals and talismans were more idiosyncratic -- and some left Menjivar pretty surprised. "I met a witch in New Orleans who told me to rub my bodily fluids on a High John the Conqueror root and carry it with me at all times," he remembered. 

&nbsp;<span>I bought this High John the Conqueror root from Lady Mimi, a witch in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She told
Mark Menjivar
 I bought this High John the Conqueror root from Lady Mimi, a witch in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She told me this was the thing that would bring me the most luck or, as she put it, mojo. She said to carry it with me and blow smoke on it, pour alcohol on it, and even rub it with bodily fluids. All of this would make it more potent.

He's open to learning from the quirky beliefs of others, though. When it comes to superstitious rituals, he said, "I have come to see that these moments are more about slowing down and reflecting on where I locate meaning in my day-to-day routine." Plus, he admitted, he's tried out some of the rituals others have shared with him, "Like saying 'Rabbit, Rabbit' as your first words, on the first day of each month. I like that there's a certain challenge to that." 

Though The Luck Archive has been published, Menjivar says he plans to continue exploring people's belief and disbelief in luck. "The Luck Archive as a project is ongoing and I don’t see an end in sight," he told us. If you have a lucky bra, tattoo, or secret ritual, it's not too late to share it.

Check out more of Menjivar's luck photos below, and find out more about The Luck Archive (Trinity University Press) here.

  • The four clovers Menjivar found in a book in Ft. Wayne, IN.
    Mark Menjivar
    The four clovers Menjivar found in a book in Ft. Wayne, IN.
  • This is the book that artist Mark Menjivar found in a small bookstore in Ft. Wayne, IN, that contained four four-leaf clovers
    Mark Menjivar
    This is the book that artist Mark Menjivar found in a small bookstore in Ft. Wayne, IN, that contained four four-leaf clovers pressed between the pages.
  • A few years ago I was thinking about starting the Lady Luck Challenge. I was going to invite people to break mirrors and stay
    Mark Menjivar
    A few years ago I was thinking about starting the Lady Luck Challenge. I was going to invite people to break mirrors and stay in correspondence with me for seven years to see if it had a negative effect on their lives. But I didn'€™t want to be someone who perpetuates bad luck in the world. I wanted to try and find ways to create new luck narratives for people, so I began leading four-leaf clover hunting trips. On the first trip Karina found a four-leaf clover after about twenty minutes. A few people on the trip were pretty skeptical about whether they really existed.
  • Chris and his mother have matching four-leaf clover tattoos on their necks as a symbol of their cultural heritage and as a wa
    Mark Menjivar
    Chris and his mother have matching four-leaf clover tattoos on their necks as a symbol of their cultural heritage and as a way to bring them good luck.
  • "<em>In The Old Man and the Sea</em> I read what seemed to me an appropriate definition of luck: a fluid, elusive force that
    Mark Menjivar
    "In The Old Man and the Sea I read what seemed to me an appropriate definition of luck: a fluid, elusive force that could come right up to us and still go unnoticed. Luck is often a matter of perspective, and it seems to have this way of evading us too, because our circumstances and our wishes are also fluid."€ -Zach
  • Aric is a motivational speaker and has spoken to thousands of young people across the country. Each time, he wears a pair of
    Mark Menjivar
    Aric is a motivational speaker and has spoken to thousands of young people across the country. Each time, he wears a pair of his lucky gray underwear. He estimates he has given over nine hundred talks in this pair alone.
  • Lee Orr has had the same batting ritual for five years. His approach song is "It'z Just What We Do"€ by the country music du
    mark menjivar
    Lee Orr has had the same batting ritual for five years. His approach song is "It'z Just What We Do"€ by the country music duo Florida Georgia Line. If it doesn't feel right when he steps up to the plate, he calls for time and steps out of the box: Wash out dirt right. Wash out dirt left. Kick dirt toward pitcher. Tap right foot, Tap left foot. One swing. Tap corner of box. Half-step right foot. Look at bat. Say, "See it up."€ Deep breath. Half-step left foot. Half-step right foot. Half-step left foot. Dig in.
  • "The correct way to use the bath of twenty-one plants is after your normal shower, mix the bottle with a gallon of warm water
    Mark Menjivar
    "The correct way to use the bath of twenty-one plants is after your normal shower, mix the bottle with a gallon of warm water. Pour it over your body little by little. When you are doing this, pray the Our Father. When you are done, let it soak into your body for ten to fifteen minutes. This is so the bath will be absorbed into your body. It will change your aura and give you more luck. And after that, you come back to see us."€ - Jorge
  • "When you buy a lotto ticket you have got to believe 100 percent that it'€™s a winner. If you have any doubt at all, you won&
    Mark Menjivar
    "When you buy a lotto ticket you have got to believe 100 percent that it'€™s a winner. If you have any doubt at all, you won’t win. Some people drink beer. Some chase tail. Some buy dope. I play lotto."€ -Bubba
  • While I was eating dinner with a friend who is a chef, we began discussing the objects people carry with them for luck. The c
    Mark Menjivar
    While I was eating dinner with a friend who is a chef, we began discussing the objects people carry with them for luck. The conversation eventually turned to rabbits, and my friend said he got them for his restaurant from Sebastian, a French guy with a small farm in the Texas Hill Country. I wanted to know what happened to all the rabbit feet, so I called Sebastian to schedule a visit. The day I arrived he was in the process of harvesting hundreds of rabbits for delivery. The feet, along with the fur and organs, were being burned in a small incinerator. Sebastian believes that you can always help luck along.
  • Some people think that when you hang a horseshoe the ends should point up so the luck doesn'€™t drain out. Others think the e
    Mark Menjivar
    Some people think that when you hang a horseshoe the ends should point up so the luck doesn'€™t drain out. Others think the ends should point down so it falls on the person walking underneath.
  • A dead skunk in the middle of the road.
    Mark Menjivar
    A dead skunk in the middle of the road.
  • 11:11 a.m., Friday the 13th.
    Mark Menjivar
    11:11 a.m., Friday the 13th.
  • Mark Menjivar

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