How to Attract Good Luck

photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán via Pexels.com

In How to Attract Good Luck: Four Secrets Backed by Research, Eric Barker covers the findings of psychologist Richard Wiseman on bad luck, good luck, and whether we have any control over any of it. Some of the findings may surprise you, no matter where you are along the spectrum between the cold, hard, and empirical and the warm, fuzzy, and woo-woo.

A few takeaway bits:

Some people do tend to be luckier than others, but we *can* change our luck. And believing that is a critical component of “being lucky.” Other components include these:

  • Taking chances and trying new things.
  • Acting on our intuition (at least in areas where we have some experience).
  • Accepting that optimism does sometimes involve a bit of illusion and being ok with that.

What does that mean?

Well, among other things, it means there’s power in what Wiseman calls “positive superstitions” even if you don’t believe there’s anything magical or supernatural about good luck charms. They can enhance performance and increase happiness in quantifiable and statistically significant ways.

Basically, the science shows that good luck charms work. The psychologists and the rootworkers might not agree entirely on *how* they work, but that they work is indisputable: they improve performance on both physical and mental tasks in studies involving everything from memory and information retention to playing golf. According to Wiseman, they do this at least in part by increasing your sense that you have any control over the vagaries of life and the apparent randomness of chance, and that sense of control vs. powerlessness is a *huge* factor in how successfully we navigate life (as both psychologists and spiritual workers can tell you).

It also means that a little irrational overconfidence can increase your productivity and make you a better team player. It can reduce your stress and increase your tolerance for discomfort and pain. Optimism fueled by the willingness to be ok with a little illusion can certainly improve your love life: your partner and their various human foibles look better through rose-colored glasses.

It is objectively true that there are some horrible things about this world, that life isn’t fair, that resources and privileges are not handed out according to merit (at least not in any way that we can grok from our limited temporal human perspectives). Some might argue that viewing the world and your life with optimism in light of some of these unrelenting horrors is unrealistic self-delusion. Perhaps so, but as Wiseman’s work discusses, the science shows that a little self-delusion about the possibility for things to get better and for your actions to make a difference is far preferable to what Wiseman calls “paralysis by analysis.”

Custom-finished horseshoe charms and other lucky charms, talismans, and curios are available at Seraphin Station

So don’t be ashamed of that lucky underwear or lucky coin, and don’t scoff too much at your aunt’s black-eyed peas for the new year or your coworker’s rabbit foot keychain. People are complex. The world and our lives in it are influenced by far more complicated and intricate networks or webs than we can possibly truly comprehend or accurately measure. And while we may, perhaps, one day be able to explain absolutely everything with plain old science and measurable data, we are far, far away from that day. In the meanwhile, it helps to have a little irrational faith.


Peruse impressive collections of lucky charms and the lore surrounding them at the Church of Good Luck and The House of Good Fortune. Get your hands on any number of an astonishing array of good luck charms from around the world at Lucky Mojo Curio Co.

recent reading roundup: poison, atchafalaya ethnology, faith healing in Louisiana

photo credit jclk8888, Pixabay

I don’t have time to summarize anything right now, but I’m hoping if I leave this here, it’ll spur me to do so later.


James H. Diaz. Atlas of Human Poisoning and Envenoming, 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2014.


Hilda Roberts. “Louisiana Superstitions.” Journal of American Folklore 40: 156 (1927), 144-208.

  • We’re gonna have to talk about this one when I have some time. This sure does have some… stuff in it. I mean, totally aside from its being “a product of its age” and all that. The blanket conflation of hoodoo doctors and Cajun traiteurs is a pretty humongous one. This would never get published today, and it’s not because of the language. It’s because of shoddy scholarship / painting with too broad a brush.

F.A. de Caro. “A History of Folklife Research in Louisiana.” Louisiana Folklife: A Guide to the State. Nicholas R. Spitzer, ed. Office of Cultural Development, 1985.


John L. Gibson. Archaeology and Ethnology on the Edges of the Atchafalaya Basin: A Cultural Resources Survey of the Atchafalaya Protection Levees. Center for Archaeology Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana. Final report to the Department of the Army, New Orleans District, Corps of Engineers, Jun. 1979 – Jan. 1982.


Maida Owens. “Louisiana’s Traditional Cultures: An Overview.” Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana. Carl Lindahl, Maida Owens, and C. Renée Harvison, eds. University Press of Mississippi and the Louisiana Division of the Arts, 1997.


Alec Sonnier. Cajun Traiteurs: Faith Healing on the Bayou / The Cajun Traiteur and Transmission of Cajun Folk Healing Knowledge. Master’s Thesis, Dept. of Anthropology. California State University Northridge, May 2020.

  • A quick note that Alec Sonnier’s preface reprints two prayers that a Louisiana traiteuse shared on her Facebook page in early 2020 as the coronavirus epidemic was spreading across the country. You really, really gotta love at least a couple of things about the 21st century – at least a traiteuse sharing healing prayers from her personal practice on social media.
  • I don’t know if that was her private Facebook page or what, so I haven’t posted those prayers here. I don’t know if everybody’s the same way about this, but a lot of times those prayers are not for public consumption. I’m not gonna be the one to assume they are. But in his conclusion, Sonnier prints a prayer shared by another traiteur, Mr. George, who received it in a dream. Mr. George said it “can be used by anyone who wishes to be healed of an ailment” and he encouraged people to use it “to help themselves in the healing process” (131). It goes like this:

“Heavenly Father, I call on You right now in a special way. It is through Your power that I was created. Every breath I take, every morning I wake and every moment of every hour, I live under Your power. Father, I ask you now to touch me with that same power, for if You created me from nothing, You can certainly recreate me. Fill me with the healing power of Your spirit. Cast out anything that should not be in me. Mend what is broken. Root out any unproductive cells, open any blocked arteries or veins, and rebuild any damaged areas. Remove all inflammation and cleanse any infection. Let the warmth of Your healing love pass through my body to make new any unhealthy areas, so that my body will function the way You created it to function. And Father, restore me to full health in mind, body and spirit so that I might serve You the rest of my life. I ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

(Mr. George qtd. in Sonnier 131)

He cites a 2008 article on traiteurs by one Julia Swett, too, which is a name one or two of y’all might know :). But careful, y’all, look – this Sonnier’s father is kin to those Heberts, and you know you gotta watch out for those Heberts!

(Just teasing an Hebert – I’m only playing 🙂 )