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Touch pieces

Touch pieces

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A touch piece is a coin
Coin
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

 or medal
Medal
A medal, or medallion, is generally a circular object that has been sculpted, molded, cast, struck, stamped, or some way rendered with an insignia, portrait, or other artistic rendering. A medal may be awarded to a person or organization as a form of recognition for athletic, military, scientific,...

 attached to attracted superstitious beliefs
Superstition
Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events....

, such as those with "holes" in them or those with particular designs. Such pieces were believed to cure disease
Disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

, bring good luck
Luck
Luck or fortuity is good fortune which occurs beyond one's control, without regard to one's will, intention, or desired result. There are at least two senses people usually mean when they use the term, the prescriptive sense and the descriptive sense...

, influence people's behaviour, carry out a specific practical action, etc.

What most touch pieces have in common is that they have to be touched or in close physical contact for the power concerned to be obtained and/or transferred. Once this is achieved, the power is permanently present in the coin, which effectively becomes an amulet
Amulet
An amulet, similar to a talisman , is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants and animals; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—, to...

.

Cure of diseases by coins


Coins which had been given at Holy Communion could be rubbed on parts of the body suffering from rheumatism
Rheumatism
Rheumatism or rheumatic disorder is a non-specific term for medical problems affecting the joints and connective tissue. The study of, and therapeutic interventions in, such disorders is called rheumatology.-Terminology:...

 and they would effect a cure. Medallions or medalets showing the "Devil defeated" were specially minted in Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and distributed amongst the poor in the belief that they would reduce disease and sickness. The tradition of touch pieces goes back to the time of Ancient Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, when the Emperor Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 (9–79 AD) gave coins to the sick at a ceremony known as "the touching."

Many touch piece coins were treasured by the recipients and sometimes remained in the possession of families for many generations, such as with the "Lee Penny" obtained by Sir Simon Lockhart
Simon Locard
Sir Symon Locard, 2nd of Lee was a Scottish knight who fought in the Wars of Scottish Independence. He accompanied Sir James Douglas in their curtailed attempt to carry the heart of Robert the Bruce to the Holy Land in 1330.-Family:...

 from the Holy Land
Holy Land
The Holy Land is a term which in Judaism refers to the Kingdom of Israel as defined in the Tanakh. For Jews, the Land's identifiction of being Holy is defined in Judaism by its differentiation from other lands by virtue of the practice of Judaism often possible only in the Land of Israel...

 whilst on a crusade. This coin, an Edward I groat, still held by the family, has a triangular-shaped stone of a dark red colour set into it. The coin is kept in a gold box given by Queen Victoria to General Lockhart. It can supposedly cure rabies
Rabies
Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis in warm-blooded animals. It is zoonotic , most commonly by a bite from an infected animal. For a human, rabies is almost invariably fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms...

, haemorrhage, and various animal ailments. The coin was exempted from the Church of Scotland's prohibition on charms and was lent to the citizens of Newcastle during the reign of King Charles I to protect them from the plague. A sum of between £1,000 and £6,000 was pledged for its return.

The legend of the Lee Penny gave rise to Sir Walter Scott
Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet, popular throughout much of the world during his time....

's novel The Talisman. The amulet was placed in water, which was then drunk to provide the cure. No money was ever taken for its use. In 1629 Isobel Young sought to borrow the stone to cure their cattle. The family of Lockart of Lee would not lend the stone in its silver setting; however, they gave flagons of water in which the coin had been steeped.

Healing of the King's or Queen's Evil



Persons of royal blood were thought to have the "God given" power of healing by this condition by touch, and sovereigns of England and France practised this power to cure sufferers of scrofula
Scrofula
Tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis refers to a lymphadenitis of the cervical lymph nodes associated with tuberculosis. It was previously known as "scrofula".-The disease:...

, meaning "Swine Evil", as it was common in pigs, a form of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 of the bones and lymph nodes, commonly known as the "King's or Queen's Evil" or "Morbus Regius." In France it was called the Mal De Roi. William the Lion, King of Scotland is recorded in 1206 as curing a case of scrofula by his touching and blessing a child who had the ailment. Charles I touched around 100 people shortly after his coronation at Holyrood in 1630. Rarely fatal, the disease was naturally given to spontaneous cure and lengthy periods of remission. Many miraculous cures were recorded, and failures were put down to a lack of faith in the sufferer. The original Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...

of the Anglican Church contained this ceremony. The divine power of kings was believed to be descended from Edward the Confessor, who, according to some legends, received it from Saint Remigius
Saint Remigius
Saint Remigius, Remy or Remi, , was Bishop of Reims and Apostle of the Franks, . On 24 December 496 he baptised Clovis I, King of the Franks...

.

The custom lasted from the time of Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

 to the reign of Queen Anne
Anne of Great Britain
Anne ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Act of Union, two of her realms, England and Scotland, were united as a single sovereign state, the Kingdom of Great Britain.Anne's Catholic father, James II and VII, was deposed during the...

, although her predecessor, William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

 refused to believe in the tradition and did not practice the ceremony. James II
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 and James Francis Edward Stuart
James Francis Edward Stuart
James Francis Edward, Prince of Wales was the son of the deposed James II of England...

, the Old Pretender, performed the ceremony. Charles Edward Stuart
Charles Edward Stuart
Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie or The Young Pretender was the second Jacobite pretender to the thrones of Great Britain , and Ireland...

, the "Young Pretender," is known to have carried out the rite in 1745 at Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle
Glamis Castle is situated beside the village of Glamis in Angus, Scotland. It is the home of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and is open to the public....

 during the time of his rebellion against George II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

 and also in France after his exile. Finally, Henry Benedict Stuart
Henry Benedict Stuart
Henry Benedict Stuart was a Roman Catholic Cardinal, as well as the fourth and final Jacobite heir to publicly claim the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Unlike his father, James Francis Edward Stuart, and brother, Charles Edward Stuart, Henry made no effort to seize the throne...

, the brother of Charles, performed the ceremony until his death in 1807. All the Jacobite
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 Stuarts produced special touch-piece medalets, with a variety of designs and inscriptions. They are found in gold, silver and even lead.

Robert the Pious or Robert II of France
Robert II of France
Robert II , called the Pious or the Wise , was King of France from 996 until his death. The second reigning member of the House of Capet, he was born in Orléans to Hugh Capet and Adelaide of Aquitaine....

 was the first to practise the ritual in the 11th century. King Henry IV of France
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....

 is reported as often touching and healing as many as 1,500 individuals at a time. No record survives of the first four Norman kings' attempting to cure by touching; however, there area records of Henry II
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

 doing so. Mary I
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

 performed the ceremony and her half-sister, Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

, cured all ranks and degrees. William Tooker
William Tooker
William Tooker was an English churchman and theological writer.-Life:...

 published a book on the subject, entitled Charisma; sive Donum Sanationis.
Queen Anne, amongst many others, touched the 2-year-old infant Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1712 to no effect, for although he eventually recovered, he was left badly scarred and blind in one eye. He wore the medal around his neck all of his life and it is now preserved in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

. It was believed that if the touch piece was not worn then the condition would return. Queen Anne last performed the ceremony on 14 April 1714. George I
George I of Great Britain
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

 put an end to the practice as being "too Catholic", but the kings of France continued the custom until 1825. William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

 describes the ceremony in his Chronicle of the Kings of England (1120) and Shakespeare describes the practice in Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

.

The gold Angel
Angel (coin)
The Angel is a gold coin introduced into England by Edward IV in 1465 as a new issue of the Noble, thus is was first called the "angel-noble". It is based off the French coin known as the Angelot or Ange, which had been issued since 1340. It varied in value between that period and the time of...

 coins, which were first struck in Britain in 1465 and later dates, particularly of the reigns of James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 and Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, are often found officially pierced in the centre, as illustrated in Coins of England 2001 to be used as touch pieces. The sovereigns of the House of Stuart
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

 used the ceremony to help bolster the belief in the "Divine Right of Kings
Divine Right of Kings
The divine right of kings or divine-right theory of kingship is a political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God...

." Charles I indeed issued Angels almost exclusively as touch pieces to the point where intact specimens are hard to come by. He was the first monarch to perform the ceremony in Scotland at Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the monarch in Scotland. The palace stands at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle...

 on 18 June 1633. The size of the hole may indicate the amount of gold taken in payment by the jeweller or the mint for the work of piercing or punching and the provision of a ribbon or silk string.


The cure was usually more of a "laying on of hands" by the monarch and the Angel coin or medalet, etc., although touched by the monarch, was seen as a receipt or talisman of the potential of the monarch's healing power. Originally the king had paid for the support of the sufferer until he had recovered or died. The move to the gift of a gold coin touch piece may represent the compromise payment when the custom of "room and board" support by the king ceased. Coffee
Coffee
Coffee is a brewed beverage with a dark,init brooo acidic flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, colloquially called coffee beans. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia,...

 in the 18th and early 19th centuries was thought to be a relief, but not a cure for scrofula.

The Angel coin was favoured at these ceremonies because it has on the obverse an image of St. Michael slaying the Devil
Devil
The Devil is believed in many religions and cultures to be a powerful, supernatural entity that is the personification of evil and the enemy of God and humankind. The nature of the role varies greatly...

 represented as a dragon (actually a heraldic Wyvern
Wyvern
A wyvern or wivern is a legendary winged reptilian creature with a dragon's head, two legs , and a barbed tail. The wyvern is found in heraldry. There exists a purely sea-dwelling variant, termed the Sea-Wyvern which has a fish tail in place of a barbed dragon's tail...

). St. Michael, especially venerated for his role as captain of the heavenly host that drove Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

 out of Heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

, was also associated with the casting out of devils and thus was regarded as a guardian of the sick.

The monarch him/herself hung these touch piece amulet
Amulet
An amulet, similar to a talisman , is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants and animals; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—, to...

s around the necks of sufferers. In later years Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

 only touched the medalet as he unsurprisingly disliked touching diseased people directly. He "touched" 92,107 people in the 21 years from 1661 to 1682, performing the function 8,500 times in 1682 alone.

After these coins ceased to be minted in 1634, Charles II had holed gold medalets specially produced by the mint with a similar design of good defeating evil. An example of a medalet in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 has a hand descending from a cloud towards four heads, with "He touched them" around the margin, and on the other side a rose and thistle, with "And they were healed."

Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man...

 recorded in his diary for 13 April 1661: To Whitehall to the Banquet House
Banqueting House, Whitehall
The Banqueting House, Whitehall, London, is the grandest and best known survivor of the architectural genre of banqueting house, and the only remaining component of the Palace of Whitehall...

 and there saw the King heale, the first time that ever I saw him do it — which he did with great gravity; and it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one
. John Evelyn
John Evelyn
John Evelyn was an English writer, gardener and diarist.Evelyn's diaries or Memoirs are largely contemporaneous with those of the other noted diarist of the time, Samuel Pepys, and cast considerable light on the art, culture and politics of the time John Evelyn (31 October 1620 – 27 February...

 also refers to the ceremony in his Diary
John Evelyn's Diary
The Diary of John Evelyn, a gentlemanly Royalist and virtuoso of the seventeenth century, was first published in 1818 under the title Memoirs Illustrative of the Life and Writings of John Evelyn, in an edition by William Bray. Bray was assisted by William Upcott, who had access to the Evelyn family...

on the dates of 6 July 1660 and 28 March 1684.

Unsurprisingly the system was open to abuse and numerous attempts were made to ensure that only the deserving cases got the gold coin, because others would simply sell it.

Good luck coins



In many countries it was believed that coins with holes in them would bring good luck. This belief could link to a similar superstition linked to stones or pebbles which had holes, often called "Adder Stones" and hung around the neck. Carrying a coin bearing the date of your birth is lucky. In Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 any coin found during a rainstorm is especially lucky, because it is said to have dropped from Heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

. European charms
Amulet
An amulet, similar to a talisman , is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants and animals; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—, to...

 often require silver coins to be used, which are engraved with marks such as an "X" or are bent. These actions personalize the coin, making it uniquely special for the owner. The lucky "sixpence
Sixpence
Sixpence may refer to:*Sixpence *Sixpence *Sixpence *Flat cap, also called a sixpence*Sixpence None the Richer, an American pop/rock band...

" is a well-known example in Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

.

Holy Sacrament communion coins were thought to acquire curative powers over various ailments, especially rheumatism and epilepsy. Such otherwise normal coins, which had been offered at communion, were purchased from the priest for 12 or 13 pennies. The coin was then punched through and worn around the neck of the sick person, or made into a ring.

Gonzalez-Wippler records that if money is left with a Mandrake
Mandrake
Mandrake may refer to:* Mandrake , a plant of the genus Mandragora* Mandragora , in occultism* Mandrake Linux, former name of Mandriva Linux, a computer operating system...

 root it will double in quantity overnight, she also states that the way to ensure the future wealth of a baby is to put part of the child's umbilical cord in a bag together with a few coins. Lucky coins are lucky charms which are carried around attract wealth and good luck, whilst many, often silver coins, attached to bracelets multiply the effect as well as create a noise which scares away evil spirits. Bathing with a penny wrapped in a washcloth brings good fortune at Beltane
Beltane
Beltane or Beltaine is the anglicised spelling of Old Irish  Beltaine or Beltine , the Gaelic name for either the month of May or the festival that takes place on the first day of May.Bealtaine was historically a Gaelic festival celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.Bealtaine...

 or the Winter Solstice
Winter solstice
Winter solstice may refer to:* Winter solstice, astronomical event* Winter Solstice , former band* Winter Solstice: North , seasonal songs* Winter Solstice , 2005 American film...

 in Celtic Mythology
Celtic mythology
Celtic mythology is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, apparently the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure...

. Chinese Money Frogs or Toads, often with a coin in their mouths, bring food luck and prosperity.


A Celtic belief is that at the full moon
Full moon
Full moon lunar phase that occurs when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. More precisely, a full moon occurs when the geocentric apparent longitudes of the Sun and Moon differ by 180 degrees; the Moon is then in opposition with the Sun.Lunar eclipses can only occur at...

 any silver coins on one's person should be jingled or turned over to prevent bad luck, also the silver coins would increase as the moon grew in size. A wish to a new moon could also be made, but not as seen through glass, jingling coins at the same time. American silver "Mercury" dimes, especially with a leap year
Leap year
A leap year is a year containing one extra day in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year...

 date, are especially lucky. Gamblers' charms are often these dimes, Mercury
Mercury (mythology)
Mercury was a messenger who wore winged sandals, and a god of trade, the son of Maia Maiestas and Jupiter in Roman mythology. His name is related to the Latin word merx , mercari , and merces...

 being the Roman
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

 god who ruled the crossroads, games of chance, etc. Although these dimes actually figure the head of Liberty
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

, people commonly mistake it for Mercury. A silver dime worn at the throat will supposedly turn black if someone tries to poison your food or drink. American "Indian Head" cents are worn as amulet
Amulet
An amulet, similar to a talisman , is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants and animals; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—, to...

s to ward off evil or negative spirits. In Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 a bride places a silver coin from her father in one shoe and a gold coin from her mother in the other. This will ensure that she will never want for anything. Silver coins were placed in Christmas pudding
Christmas pudding
Christmas pudding is a pudding traditionally served on Christmas Day . It has its origins in medieval England, and is sometimes known as plum pudding or plum duff, though this can also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving dried fruit.-Basics:Many households have their own recipe for...

s and birthday cake
Birthday cake
The birthday cake has been an integral part of the birthday celebrations in Western cultures since the middle of the 19th century. Certain rituals and traditions, such as singing of birthday songs, associated with birthday cakes are common to many Western cultures. The Western tradition of adding...

s to bring good luck and wealth. A variation on this custom was that in some families each member added a coin to the pudding bowl, making a wish as they did so. If their coin turned up in their bowl it's said their wish was sure to come true.

In ancient Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 "good luck" coins were in common circulation. "Votive pieces" for example were struck by new emperors, promising peace for a set number of years. Citizens would hold such coins in their hand when making a wish or petitioning the gods.

Coins bearing religious symbols are often seen as lucky; for instance, the Mogul
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

 emperor Akbar's rupees carry words from the Islamic faith, and in India the Ramatanka shows the Hindu god Rama
Rama
Rama or full name Ramachandra is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian...

, his wife, Sita
SITA
SITA is a multinational information technology company specialising in providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry...

, his brother and the monkey god, Hanuman
Hanuman
Hanuman , is a Hindu deity, who is an ardent devotee of Rama, a central character in the Indian epic Ramayana and one of the dearest devotees of lord Rama. A general among the vanaras, an ape-like race of forest-dwellers, Hanuman is an incarnation of the divine and a disciple of Lord Rama in the...

. Gold ducats issued in the name of the mid-18th century Doge
Doge of Venice
The Doge of Venice , often mistranslated Duke was the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice for over a thousand years. Doges of Venice were elected for life by the city-state's aristocracy. Commonly the person selected as Doge was the shrewdest elder in the city...

 Loredano of Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 bore an image of Christ and were issued to be worn as pendants by pilgrims
Pilgrims
Pilgrims , or Pilgrim Fathers , is a name commonly applied to early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States...

. The Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 religion has a shrine called Zeniariai-Benten where followers wash their money in the spring water at certain times of year to ensure that it doubles in quantity. In Roman times, sailors placed coins under the masts of their ships to ensure the protection of the gods from the wrath of the sea.

A rare example of a "Wish Tree
Wish Tree
A wish tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value...

" exists near Ardmaddy House in Argyle, Scotland. The tree is a hawthorn
Common Hawthorn
Crataegus monogyna, known as common hawthorn or single-seeded hawthorn, is a species of hawthorn native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia. It has been introduced in many other parts of the world where it is an invasive weed...

 which are traditionally linked with fertility, as in "May Blossom." The trunk and branches are covered with hundreds of coins which have been driven through the bark and into the wood. The local tradition is that a wish will be granted for each of the coins so treated. Many pubs, such as the "Punch Bowl" in Askham
Askham
Askham could refer to*in England**Askham, Cumbria**Askham, Nottinghamshire**Askham Bryan, York**Askham Richard, York*in South Africa**Askham, Northern Cape Province...

, near Penrith in Cumbria have old beams with splits in them where coins are forced "for luck."



Another local custom at Askham
Askham
Askham could refer to*in England**Askham, Cumbria**Askham, Nottinghamshire**Askham Bryan, York**Askham Richard, York*in South Africa**Askham, Northern Cape Province...

 is the throwing of coins from the nearby bridge onto a boulder that lies below the water level of the river. Getting the coin to stay on the rock gives the thrower "good luck." Obvious connections exist with water generally and the practice of throwing in coins to seek favours of the water spirits. The Lady's Well
Lady's Well
The Lady's Well is beside the Tour rivulet in Kilmaurs, East Ayrshire. , Scotland.- Introduction :Next to the Saint Maurs-Glencairn church in Kilmaurs is a patch of woodland which was once an orchard...

 in Kilmaurs
Kilmaurs
Kilmaurs is a village in East Ayrshire, Scotland. It lies on the Carmel, 21.1 miles south by west of Glasgow. Population recorded in 2001 Census, 2601- History :...

, Scotland, is a typical wishing well. At St. Cuby's Well (SX224 564) in Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 the legend was that if anyone did not leave an offering of money then they would be followed home by Piskies in the shape of flying moths, embodying the spirits of the dead. At Loch na Gaire in Sutherland
Sutherland
Sutherland is a registration county, lieutenancy area and historic administrative county of Scotland. It is now within the Highland local government area. In Gaelic the area is referred to according to its traditional areas: Dùthaich 'IcAoidh , Asainte , and Cataibh...

, Scotland, it was the tradition to throw coins into the waters to ensure that the waters kept their healing properties.

A "Black Saxpence" in Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

, is a sixpence, supposed by the credulous to be received from the devil, as a pledge of an engagement to be his, soul and body. It is always of a black colour, as not being legal currency; but it is said to possess this singular virtue, that the person who keeps it constantly in his pocket, how much soever he spend, will always find another sixpence beside it.

A Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

ian superstition is that carrying crooked coins is good luck and keeps the devil away.

Bad luck coins


In Ireland it is thought to be bad luck to give money away on a Monday.

The 1932 silver yuan coin from China showed a junk
Junk (ship)
A junk is an ancient Chinese sailing vessel design still in use today. Junks were developed during the Han Dynasty and were used as sea-going vessels as early as the 2nd century AD. They evolved in the later dynasties, and were used throughout Asia for extensive ocean voyages...

, rays of sunshine and a flock of birds. These were seen as symbolising Japan (the rising sun symbol) and its fighter planes (the birds) invading China. The coin was re-issued in 1933 without the sun or the birds.

The Queen Victoria "Godless" florin was regarded as bringing bad luck.

Finding money was bad luck in some cultures and the curse could only be removed by giving away the money.

It is bad luck to have an empty pocket, for even a crooked coin keeps the devil away.

Love tokens


The bent coin as a love token may be derived from the well-recorded practice of bending a coin when making a vow to a saint, such as vowing to give it to the saint's shrine if the saint would intercede to cure a sick human, animal, etc. Bending a coin when one person made a vow to another was another practice which arose from this.

Protection against evil


It was believed that the gift of second sight came from the devil; as protection, a silver coin was used to make a cross above the palm of a Gypsy fortune-teller, thus dispelling any evil. In Japan, Korea and Indonesia, coins were made tied together to form sword shapes which were thought to terrify, and therefore ward off, evil spirits. They were also hung above the beds of sick people to drive off the malevolent spirits who were responsible for the illness.

Curse coins


In 2007 a lead "coin based" curse on a Roman emperor was found by a metal detectorist in Lincolnshire. The 1,650-year-old curse was an act of treason, blasphemy and criminal defacement of the imperial coinage. The perpetrator had cursed the emperor Valens by hammering a coin with his image into lead, then folding the lead over his face. Thousands of ordinary lead cursing charms exist with written inscriptions and a small hole for suspending them.

Touch pieces that influence behaviour


Coins placed on the eyes of the dead, if briefly dropped into the drink of a husband or wife, would "blind" them to any infidelities that the partner might be involved in.

Also, some groups say that if a penny is thrown into a person's drink, they must "down" the rest of it.

Coins carrying out a specific practical action



In Germany, since Medieval times, it was believed that a silver coin with a Sator square engraved on it will put out a fire if thrown into the conflagration. Coins were placed on the eyes of a corpse to prevent them from opening and also in Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 as payment for the ferryman who would carry the dead person across the River Styx into Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

. In the 17th century coins bearing an engraving of St. George were carried by soldiers as a protection against injury following a lucky escape when a bullet hit such a coin and the soldier remained uninjured (Coins of the World). Some of the gold coins of Edward III carry the cryptic legend: IHS MEDIVM ILLORVM IBAT ("But Jesus passing through the midst of them, went his way" – St'Luke IV. 30). According to Sir John Mandeville, this was a spell against the power of thieves.

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