Mark Menjivar creates a photographic compendium of belief and superstition in his book, The Luck Archive (PHOTOS).

From Four-Leaf Clovers to Gray Underwear, the Quirky Things That Bring Us Luck 

From Four-Leaf Clovers to Gray Underwear, the Quirky Things That Bring Us Luck 

Behold
The Photo Blog
June 9 2015 11:07 AM

From Four-Leaf Clovers to Gray Underwear, the Quirky Things That Bring Us Luck 

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Aric, a motivational speaker, 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 more than 900 talks in this pair alone.

Mark Menjivar

When Mark Menjivar was in middle school, he’d always put his left shoe on before his right, and he’d always make a wish at 11:11. A few years ago he was in a bookstore in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when he opened up an old volume called 1,000 Facts Worth Knowing and found four four-leaf clovers pressed inside.

“Finding that was so much better than finding money because of the possibilities that exist inside it. I started thinking about luck in my own life,” he said. “Then I started talking to people and the more I talked the crazier, funnier and more interesting stories I heard.”

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Left: 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. Right: 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.

Mark Menjivar

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Menjivar bought this High John the Conqueror root from Lady Mimi, a witch in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She said to carry it with him and blow smoke on it, pour alcohol on it, and even rub it with bodily fluids.

Mark Menjivar

In the few years since he started talking to people about their lucky objects and superstitious beliefs, he’s learned about some crazy rituals. His book, The Luck Archive, which Trinity University Press will publish on June 16, contains selections from the more than 450 objects, photographs, and stories he’s collected.

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People also started giving him things: a grandmother’s ring, an amulet purchased at Turkey’s Grand Bazaar, a Reggie Miller basketball card. “A guy gave me his lucky underwear. I sat next to him on an airplane; he was a motivational speaker from San Antonio. He estimated he gave 900 talks in that pair of underwear alone,” Menjivar said.

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Left: “I learned of the Daruma doll, Japanese symbol of perseverance and good luck, in a text that I recently read during my graduate studies. I like the intentionality behind the tradition of placing a mark on a single eye of the doll regarding a specific dream, idea desire, or hope, with a firm belief that it will come to pass. When the moment of fulfillment has arrived, a second dot is painted on the remaining blank eye.” —Rachel. Right: “The Brazilian fiag is a good luck symbol that traces its roots to African slaves who were brought into the country. I was told it holds luck only if it is given to you.” —Frances.

Mark Menjivar

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Lucky 7 Food Mart, San Antonio.

Mark Menjivar

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The four clovers Menjivar found in a book in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Mark Menjivar

The photos of objects against a white background depict the lucky charms that Menjivar has taken home with him, which he stores in boxes and storage containers in his San Antonio studio. Other photos show things he’s seen but not taken—a basket of lucky quartz in a gift shop, for instance—as well as people he’s encountered, like a fan at a baseball game who won a new car, and places he’s visited, like the businesses in his city that contain the word luck or lucky in their names.

Other photos in the collection are submissions from people he’s met, including one of a double rainbow. One man has sent him more than 100 photos of clocks when the time was 11:11. This part of the project is important to Menjivar, as it reflects his conviction that virtually everyone has some belief about luck. His goal, he says, is not to scrutinize those beliefs but to present them as part of a colorful and diverse tapestry.

“Luck is about making connections between things. Inside of that diversity, there is no one unifying thing. You can’t really nail down a total definition of it. One thing for me that’s really important about the project is to not try to be a gatekeeper in any way, to say what luck is or what luck isn’t. It’s more about creating a structure to share peoples’ beliefs, their thoughts, the things they do. If someone says, ‘I put an acorn behind my ear before I go to bed,’ who am I to say that’s not lucky?”

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Left: Peruvian bone amulet, Indian amulet, Peruvian charm vial, horseshoe prayer. Purchased in botánicas in California and Texas. Right: “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.

Mark Menjivar

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11:11 a.m., Friday the 13th.

Mark Menjivar

Jordan G. Teicher is the associate editor of Slates Behold blog. Follow him on Twitter.