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Mexican miniature horseshoe package amulets are collages of objects glued to a piece of red paper, 1 3/4 inches square, encased in a 2" x 2" cellophane wrapper. Each contains a rayon thread wrapped metal "horseshoe," plus a variety of plant materials, symbolic objects, sequins, glitter, and Catholic saint prints (most notably of San Martin Caballero). Designed to attract good fortune and ward off evil, they are the Mexican equivalent of Central and South American Charm Vials and hoodoo conjure bags or mojo hands. From left to right:

  • Package #1: piedra iman (lodestone and magnetic sand) and Abrus precatorius seeds
  • Package #2: unknown nut with sequin
  • Package #3: garlic clove wrapped in a tassel
  • Package #4: frijol colorado and unknown nut
  • Package #5: plastic Buddha with piedra iman (lodestone and magnetic sand)
  • On the reverse of each amulet is a printed sheet of paper bearing symbolic good luck images. I have collected three types of backers, which are illustrated below:

  • Backer Sheet #1: lucky charm images
  • Backer Sheet #2: hand, lovers, and astronomical figures
  • Backer Sheet #3: Christian cross and astronomical figures
  • On viewing these packets, one is immediately struck with their overall red-and-gold colour scheme. The backing paper to which everything glued is red, and the objects themselves are predominently red and gold. Herein lies a clue to proper use of these packets, for red and gold are the most popular colours worldwide for attracting love and money.

    The focal point of each package is a miniature horseshoe amulet, 1 1/2 inches tall and 1 1/4 inches wide, each one a small replica of another popular Mexican charm, the far larger El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura, which is made from an actual horseshoe. Like the full-size charm it emulates, the miniature horseshoe has been wrapped entirely in shiny rayon thread so that no metal can be seen, except at the ends. The thread is most often red, but occasionaly green, purple, or blue is used. The tips of the thread-wrapped crescent (the "seven o'clock" and "five o'clock" positions) have been dipped in glue, to which a liberal coating of glitter adheres. There is either a saint picture or more glitter at the "twelve o'cock" position. Two sequins have been glued to the magnet at the "nine o'clock" and "three o'clock" positions. They represent coins or money.

    Glued to the center of the red square, inside the miniature horseshoe, is a 1 inch square full-colour saint-card image, typically of San Martin Caballero (Saint Martin of Tours).

    Order a Miniature Horseshoe Package Amulet from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.

    "OFFICIAL" DESCRIPTION: In the United States, these package amulets are often sold with slips of paper on which a photocopied description is printed. Presumeably this is for the convenience of buyers who wish to understand what it is they are purchasing. Here is the text in its entirety, with punctuation and capitalization intact:

    Mexican Protection Packet
    Carried by an individual for personal protection and luck, The magnet or "Piedra Iman" attracts luck, as does the red "Huayruru" seed. The Saint is Saint Martin Caballero known for his charity to the poor.

    ACTUAL DESCRIPTION: The term "Protection Packet" is a misnomer because it implies that the packet is carried on the person for apotropaic or protective purposes, when in fact some of the packets are obviously used to attract money or love, as can be seen from analyzing the symbolic imagery on the backer sheets. Furthermore, the collage is too fragile to be handled and is usually placed on a personal altar, home shrine, or in the glove box of a vehicle. And while most packages come with a print of Saint Martin Caballero, some feature Jesus Christ, the Virgin, or other popular Catholic saints.

    The printed description incorrectly translates "piedra iman" as "magnet;" the term actually means lodestone. In some packets, there is a no piedra iman; in others, there is no so-called huayruru seed. Even if there were a seed, "huayruru" is a Quechua (Bolivian and Peruvian) word, not used in Mexico, and it refers to various Ormosia species -- while the seeds in these packets are from the rosary bean, Abrus precatorius. Furthermore, in place of the Abrus seeds or lodestone fragments, some packets contain a rayon-wrapped clove of garlic, an unknown nut, a red bean called frijol colorado, and/or a tiny plastic figure of Buddha.


    In package #1, two small natural lodestones and a mass of magnetic sand (iron filings) are placed loose in a packet containing the image of Saint Martin Caballero. The symbolism indicates that this style of packet most cloesly corresponds to El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura, and that its main function is to attract money.

    The lodestones and magnetic sand are supplemented by three red and black legume seeds of the species Abrus precatorius. Both Abrus species and their South American allies, the Ormosias, are indigenous significators of "good luck" throughout Central and South America. [See the page on red beans for more about the "good luck" qualities of the several species of psychedelic, intoxicant, and lethally toxic legumes].


    Package #2 has been quite frustrating to me. Atop a print of Jesus Christ (the image may vary) is glued a small, smooth nut still in its shell, to which a sequin has been affixed. This species of nut -- usually with its attendant sequin -- can also be found on some examples of the larger package amulet called El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura ("The Secret of the Virtuous horseshoe.html"). The name and symbolism of this nut remain a mystery to me, but i suspect from the obvious eye-imagery that it is a protectant againt the evil eye.


    In package #3, the central image of a religious figure has been replaced with a small garlic clove wrapped in a long rayon tassel. The European use of garlic to protect the bearer from evil eye and from shape-shifting demons is well known; this seems to be a colonial rather than an indigenous Mexican charm. Tassel-wrapped garlic cloves can also be found in the related package amulet known as El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura ("The Secret of the Virtuous horseshoe.html").


    In package #4, we see the semi-ubiquitous Saint Martin Caballero with a frijol colorado or red bean, possibly a domestic species of Phaseolus, plus the "unknown nut" of package #2. Neither the bean nor the nut have been glued down, and the nut is not decorated with a sequin in this case.


    In package #5, the image of San Martin Caballero is almost entirely obscured by a plastic seated Buddha statuette, which is glued to the mid-section of his horse. The Buddha is easily recognizable by his open robe, fat belly, prominent breasts, and hair done up in a bun. He is 5/8 inches tall and 5/8 inches wide. This is the well known "lucky" Buddha. His wealth-drawing symbolism is enhanced by the inclusion of magnetic sand in the package.

    The presence of an Asian deity in this Mexican-colonial amulet collage is so unexpected and so culturally inappropriate that it defies logical analysis. Therefore i will refrain from comment.

    Well...i will make one comment: check out the amazing Snow-Globe Pyramid of Luck for another Mexican plastic Buddha, cast from the same mould, no less!


    Occasionally these amulets are stapled to a roughly rectangular piece of card stock.

    Due to the way the backer shown here has been cut, all one can see is two partial illustrations of a very schematic quarter-orange printed in orange and white and the partial words "Bonaf," "naranjad," "na," and "a" printed in some god-awful modern san serif font like Eurostyle in white, against medium leaf-green. It seems that this particular backer was once a carton of naranjada Bonafina.

    I believe these stiff backer cards are added to enable vendors who sell the packets in stalls to string the packages up on a wire for display.


    This roughly printed backer sheet bears imagery common in 19th and 20th century Euro-Afro-American lucky charms of the United States, but with the addition of one unqiely Mexican item.

    The central image is a large horseshoe incribed FORTUNA (fortune) and crossed by a ribbon on which BUENA SUERTE (good luck) appears. Above the ribbon is a four-leaf clover. Below it is a wishbone. At upper left are twin hearts. At top center is the word FELICIDAD (happiness). At top right is a seated cat (presumeably a black cat of the "reverse bad-luck" type).

    Along the bottom of the picture there are three more images, from left to right: an elephant, a filled gunny sack labelled CITRUM NUEVE to which the horseshoe is extending zizg-zag rays as if it were a magnet, and a money bag with a dollar sign ($) on it. All of these symbols appear in North American lucky charms, except for the the stuffed sack labelled CITRUM NUEVE, which is strictly Mexican in origin. Its conenection to the horseshoe drawing and to the miniature horseshoe that forms the basis of the talisman itself links this style of package amulet to El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura ("The Secret of the Virtuous horseshoe.html"), a Mexican good luck legend that has given rise to its own unique form of talisman.


    The backing paper image is hand-drawn and lettered, and printed in orangey red. Set in from a white margin, the image area is a 1 1/4 inch square, bordered by a thick rule line. Within, the four corners are illustrated with astronomical figures: a smiling sun-face surrounded by rays, a pentagram-star surrounded by rays, a smiling new moon face surrunded by rays, and an open five-pointed star surrounded by rays. Between the sun and the pentagram star, at top center, are twin hearts , partially obscured by the hand-lettered word AMOR (love). Between the new moon face and the open five-pointed star, at center bottom, is the hand-lettered word FELICIDAD (happiness).

    In the central area there is a drawing of a left hand, palm toward the viewer, surrounded by what in comic book art is called a "burst." Superimposed on the palm of the hand and filling it completely are a man and a woman kissing, shown from their waists up. Their hairdos look 1960s-ish -- she wears what used to be known as a "flip" and his hair is in the style of John F. Kennedy.

    Arching over the burst around the hand and the lovers is an upside-down "U" of words. From left to right, they read ABUNDANCIA (abundance) CITRUM NUEVE (see El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura) BUENA SUERTE (good luck), with no punctuation.


    This backer sheet is printed in red on pale blue paper and depicts a Christian cross incribed with words and surrouned by four astronomical images. Clockwise from top left, the figures are a comet seen against a field of stars; a stylized eclipse of the sun by the moon; a crescent moon conjunct a large star, probably meant to be the planet Venus, in a field of stars; and the sun, casting rays in all directions. The four arms of the cross each contain a word, connected at the center by the word "Y" ("and" in Spanish) so that they read LUX Y VERDAD ("light and truth") or PODER Y VIDA ("power and life") or any combination one cares to make of the four words.

    Here are all the illustrated package amulet pages in the Archive:

    Latin American package amulets, general information
    Guatemalan package amulet: miniature horseshoe with print of Maximon
    Guatemalan package amulet: miniature pillow with print of Maximon
    Mexican package amulet: miniature horseshoe with print of San Martin Caballero
    Mexican package amulet: El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura
    Mexican package amulet: saint wallet
    Mexican package amulet: three coins, Holy Trinity, and the Seven African Powers
    Mexican package amulet: stuffed bag with print of San Martin Caballero
    Peruvian package amulet: collage of magical items
    Peruvian package amulet: metal saints, broom, and Ormosia seed
    post-modern package amulet: matchbox shrine


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