There are signs that spring is just around the corner everywhere. Irises are blooming outside my window in the Education offices and patches of green are popping up all around the village. Green is the color of spring and the signature color of St. Patrick’s Day. Our annual Spring Fling event celebrates the green spring. Students and families, out of school especially, are invited to come to the Village to enjoy a much-needed break. This year we are celebrating everything Irish, including the Sullivan family and their lovely home. We will search for leprechauns and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. We will learn about all the charms we use to bring good luck; the horseshoe, a wishbone, a four-leaf clover, the fumsup, a rabbit’s foot, and a lucky coin that everyone carries in their pocket at one time or another. Each charm has its own special history.
What’s a fumsup? As charms go, he is an enchanting one, first made popular in America during the late Victorian era and the First World War. He is similar to the kewpie doll of the 1920s. He has a body made of brass or silver, often with moveable arms and hands forming the thumbs up sign. His head is shaped like an acorn and made from wood. He combines two common charms for good luck, “touching wood” and the thumbs up sign. The “touching of wood,” or as I learned as a child to “knock on wood,” is done to avoid tempting fate. This goes back to the protective power thought to inhabit the spirits of trees like oak, ash and hawthorn. There are many stories about the origins of the thumbs up or down signs, dating back to gladiator days in Rome when the Emperor would decide if a brave gladiator would live or die.
The following poem celebrates the fumsup:
Behold in me the birth of luck,
Two charms combined Touchwood-Fumsup.
My head is made of wood most rare
My thumbs turn up to touch me there.
To speed my feet they’ve Cupids wings,
They’ll help true love ‘mongst other things.
Proverbial is my power to bring
Good luck to you in everything.
I’ll bring good luck to all away,
Just send me to a friend today.
The poem was sometimes written on the card the fumsup charms would be sold on and helped make the fumsup the perfect choice to give to a young soldier going off to war.
During the first World War another new charm Eve, a society girl from the 1914 magazine The Tatler witty gossip column “Letters to Eve” illustrated by Annie Fish, became popular. The metal charms were based on Annie’s modern-looking, linear illustrations. They were fun, entertaining and a much needed tonic for war-torn English society. The Eve charm was made of gold, black and white enamel and was dressed in a variety of Annie’s signature exaggerated designer outfits of the times. Fun and fanciful, even if Eve did not bring you good luck she would certainly make you smile.
Another charm I found on one of my estate sale treasure hunting weekends is a very old and unfortunately now hairless rabbit’s foot. It was part of a small bundle containing a tiny pair of silk wedding slippers, a tiny white bible, a linen bag with a blue ribbon drawstring and blue initials embroidered on the side, a lace handkerchief, along with a clipping from a local newspaper describing Miss Annie Brownrigg’s visit to Dallas in 1886. Looking at the precious items you can imagine Miss Annie’s visit ending with a wedding in her future. The items fit the classic rhyme of what a bride would carry on her wedding day. “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” I imagine her rabbit’s foot must have been a very lucky charm for her to keep it near and dear for all of those years.
So, whether it’s a found penny or a four leaf clover, grab yourself a good luck charm and join in the celebration of spring and all things Irish at the village this Spring Fling!