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Coin Folkore - A history of coins in jewelry, stories, and culture

Coins have been used around the world since the beginning of history. They’ve been used to purchase goods, make bribes and have started and ended wars. For such a small object they have an incredibly vast and varied history. In most countries coins are imprinted with official government or historical figures. Ancient tokens are decorated with the deep mythology and folklore of gods. No matter the design, each coin holds a unique history that is imparted by each and every hand it passes through. 

A common superstition is to find a coin heads up and pick it up and for the day you’ll have good luck. Sometimes we turn over a tails up coin to bless whoever might find it next. But this superstition varies depending on where you are in the world. 

In Tobago children are instructed not to pick up coins in case they are cursed with evil intent. However, in Thailand it is bad luck not to pick up a coin, no matter which side faces up. It is said to disturb the flow of abundance to you if left on the ground, so the practice is to always pick it up. 

Coins are used as currency around the world but are also steeped in folklore and magic. They are useful for pinching together for small purchases but can also connect us to our ancestors or pay our way through the underworld after death. 

The most common coin lore comes from Ancient Greece. Charon’s obol was the practice of placing coins on the eyes of the deceased as a way to pay their way through the River Styx, which was the gateway to the underworld. It is also believed that it could have been meant as a bribe to ensure safe passage and a pleasant place for the soul to eventually rest. 

Lucky coins, also known as Feng Shui coins have a square hole in the center and their origin is from China. They are typically tied in threes with a red string. This is meant to bring good fortune and are sometimes tied together to important documents or hung permanently in the south east corner of the home to ensure tranquility and prosperity. 

The tradition of tossing a coin into a fountain has its origin in Ancient Rome. To this day, patrons of the Trevi fountain toss a coin over their left shoulder in a wish for a quick return to Rome. The Romans also originated a tradition called “the touching” where the Emperor who was believed to have been ordained by the gods, would distribute coins to the sick with the belief these coins were blessed and would quickly remedy their ailments. 

An old Slavic tradition is to place a dime in your left shoe with the intention of channeling your ancestors. As you walk throughout your day you can be assured your ancestors are guiding you, protecting you and charming quite literally your every step.  

A Turkish wedding tradition involving coins involves tying gold or silver to the bride’s dress. The larger the coin, the closer the relationship to the couple. As they festivities continue the bride’s dress is ornately decorated with coins of all sizes in value and is said to ensure a happy and successful marriage. 

Coins can also be offered in ritual and are often placed on the final resting place of loved ones. The famous voodoo priestess Marie Laveau’s tomb is decorated with coins as offerings from admirers who come to pay homage to the powerful priestess from New Orleans. 

A powerful ritual involving coin magic can be cast involving three coins of different sizes and three seeds or progressive sizing. On a new moon, first take the coins of the lowest value and place it with the smallest size of seed into an envelope and seal it. Keep this on your altar. In three month’s time take the second largest coin along with the second largest seed. Place these into a new envelope and keep on your altar or in a drawer. 

On the final new moon in three months time, take the coin with the largest value and the largest seed. Place these in the final envelope, seal it, set your intentions and bury them all together in the yard to ensure the seeds are planted for a strong and secure financial future. 

Coins are a universal symbol of wealth and prosperity. They can be decorative totems or sentimental gifts that connect us to our loved ones that have passed on. No matter the origin or intention, coins will always have an important place in our history as a diverse artifact that unites us all. 

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