When i lived in Missouri, back in the 1970s, i met several boys and men who told
me that they kept buckeye nuts in their pockets as a "lucky piece."
The "doctrine of signatures" -- the magical belief that items
from nature reveal their purpose or usefeulness by their shape,
colour, or markings -- may be what gives buckeyes their status as
pocket pieces among men, for by "luck," they mean good fortune in
sexual matters, and buckeyes certainly recall in miniature the
idealized, smooth, beautiful, firm testicles of men.
In addition to increasing the bearer's sexual power, the buckeye
is thought by many people in the eastern and southern United
States to be a sure preventive of rheumatism, arthritis, or headache.
Identical beliefs were recorded in Germany and the Netherlands
during the early 19th century, but there the preventive power was
attributed to the buckeye's European relative, the
horse-chestnut. It is probable that European immigrants
transferred the horse-chestnut's magical ability to the buckeye
when they settled in America.
In the African-American hoodoo tradition, a buckeye in the pocket is reputed to
increase one's supply of pocket money -- and the buckeye forms
the basis of a popular hoodoo charm for
Take a buckeye and drill a hole into it. Fill the hole
with liquid mercury and seal it with wax. Carry it concealed in a
mojo bag while playing at cards.
Metallic quicksilver is used because Mercury is the god of games
of chance and sleight of hand. Sometimes a silver "Mercury"
dime is added to the bag to augment its mercurial power. Anointing the charm with Fast Luck oil likewise increases
its efficacy. This same charm can also be made with a nutmeg
or a whole John the
Order a Buckeye Nut from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
A botanical footnote:
The buckeye tree (Aesculus glabra) is a relative of the chestnut and the
horse-chestnut. The nut is the same rich, mellow warm-brown as a chestnut, but it
is less readily edible, due to its high tannic acid content. The California Indians leached both acorns and buckeyes, but there were
many other easily edible nuts in the Midwest and East, including hickory, walnut,
butternut, and -- until the blight struck during the 20th century -- chestnut,
so the Indians and the white folks who followed them into the area just left
the buckeyes alone.
While chestnuts and horse-chestnuts are flat on one side and gently rounded
on the other, with a flattened, round abcssion scar at the top and a pointed tip
at the bottom, the smaller buckeyes are more uniformly spherical, albeit
irregular in shape. In fact, at about an inch in diameter, they resemble nothing
so much as diminutive human testicles. If you oil them, they will dry to a nice smooth
finish, with none of the air-gaps between the shell and the kernel that you'll
find in dried chestnuts.
A former buckeye collector, Lee Rudolph (firstname.lastname@example.org), tells how buckeyes
were treated in his youth:
"I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and had, circa 1954-5, a large but
undiscriminating collection of buckeyes. My father (also a native of Cleveland)
taught me to oil them by rubbing them alongside my nose, where the human skin
does indeed produce a nice oil, equally suitable for musical instruments, but
generally harder to apply to them than to a buckeye, which fits the curve of the
nose and upper cheek perfectly."
The lucky buckeye nut shown here is one i collected in the woods in Oregon County,
Missouri in 1975. I stripped away its green jacket and oiled it well every day
for a month. It dried to a deep, glowing brown, like a fine piece of furniture or
sculpture. A simple object, found in nature, but very potent.
copyright © 1995-2013 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
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