Considering a rabbit's foot lucky is an ancient tradition in much of the world. At least as far back as the seventh century BCE, the rabbit was a talismanic symbol in Africa, and in Celtic Europe, rabbits were considered lucky as well. Thus keeping a part of the rabbit was considered good fortune, and a foot was a handy means by which to benefit from the luck of the rabbit.
Many of the beliefs associated with the luck of a rabbit's foot have to do with the types of religions practiced in regions of Africa, Europe, and North and South America. Religions based on animism, the sense that spirits inhabited living things, attributed power to all kinds of objects that were once living. When spirits were thought to live in animals, plants, rocks, and water, then each thing had its own power.
These traditions were not marred much by the onset of other more prominent religions like Christianity. Even in the strongly Catholic Ireland of the Middle Ages, there were still superstitious beliefs regarding fairies or the Tuatha De Danaan who resided underground. Gradually, as Christianity spread in Ireland, the old Gods of Celtic belief became associated with hell. Rabbits were thought to have special protective powers needed for residing underground. Thus the foot could be protection from evil spirits, and is even considered so today.
Other ancient groups imbued the rabbit's foot with specific forms of luck. To the Chinese, it may be a symbol of prosperity. The known proclivity for rabbits to reproduce quickly and breed often has been noted in numerous cultures past and present. The foot can be carried by women who wish to get pregnant, or who wish to enhance their sexual lives. Sexuality in general is also related to the wish for abundance, fertile crops, and good weather.
It’s sometimes hard to trace the exact superstition associated with certain groups of people that might hold or carry a rabbit's foot. They are thought lucky for gamblers. Actors may believe that they will ensure good performances and rave reviews. Travelers carry them for safe travels, and hunters sometimes wear one as a necklace for good luck in hunting. In these cases, the superstition hinges on wishing for good luck in a variety of situations where the outcome is unsure.
Some traditions of how to collect the foot state that it only lucky when taken from cross-eyed rabbits living in graveyards. On the night of a full moon,the collector must shoot the rabbit with a silver bullet. Further, only the left hind foot is lucky in many traditions.