Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support

Why Is a Lucky Rabbit's Foot Lucky? Body Parts as Fetishes

Bill Ellis
Journal of Folklore Research
Vol. 39, No. 1 (Jan. - Apr., 2002), pp. 51-84
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3814831
Page Count: 34
  • Read Online (Free)
  • Download ($15.00)
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Cite this Item
If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support
Why Is a Lucky Rabbit's Foot Lucky? Body Parts as Fetishes
Preview not available

Abstract

The practice of carrying a rabbit's foot for luck was frequently recorded in Anglo American tradition beginning during the early twentieth century, and early records suggest that this custom was borrowed from African American folk magic. This study considers the rabbit's foot as a fetish- a material object invested with extraordinary spiritual forces that becomes a metonym for an implied narrative and that is used as a means of gaining control over complex social relationships. Early explanations of the custom stress that the rabbit's foot should be obtained under ritual circumstances in a graveyard; accordingly, Ellis analyzes the significance of the rabbit's foot in the context of related beliefs in both White and Black tradition that concern gravesite artifacts and animal body parts as substitutes for human body parts. For both White and Black fetish users, a core belief is that possession of a body part of an Other allows one to gain (or maintain) social power over that group. The author argues that the rabbit's foot can be interpreted as one of many traditions arising from the ambiguous social and political relationship between Black and White cultures in the early twentieth century, and that this seemingly insignificant practice is embedded in a range of beliefs and practices that reveal how social power is acquired and social relations negotiated.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
51
    51
  • Thumbnail: Page 
52
    52
  • Thumbnail: Page 
53
    53
  • Thumbnail: Page 
54
    54
  • Thumbnail: Page 
55
    55
  • Thumbnail: Page 
56
    56
  • Thumbnail: Page 
57
    57
  • Thumbnail: Page 
58
    58
  • Thumbnail: Page 
59
    59
  • Thumbnail: Page 
60
    60
  • Thumbnail: Page 
61
    61
  • Thumbnail: Page 
62
    62
  • Thumbnail: Page 
63
    63
  • Thumbnail: Page 
64
    64
  • Thumbnail: Page 
65
    65
  • Thumbnail: Page 
66
    66
  • Thumbnail: Page 
67
    67
  • Thumbnail: Page 
68
    68
  • Thumbnail: Page 
69
    69
  • Thumbnail: Page 
70
    70
  • Thumbnail: Page 
71
    71
  • Thumbnail: Page 
72
    72
  • Thumbnail: Page 
73
    73
  • Thumbnail: Page 
74
    74
  • Thumbnail: Page 
75
    75
  • Thumbnail: Page 
76
    76
  • Thumbnail: Page 
77
    77
  • Thumbnail: Page 
78
    78
  • Thumbnail: Page 
79
    79
  • Thumbnail: Page 
80
    80
  • Thumbnail: Page 
81
    81
  • Thumbnail: Page 
82
    82
  • Thumbnail: Page 
83
    83
  • Thumbnail: Page 
84
    84