A number of types of beans and large seeds are regularly washed up on the western shores of Britain, having been carried by the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean or South America, and there is a long tradition of these being found and treasured as amulets, under a variety of names—Lucky beans, Molucca beans, Sea beans, Virgin Mary's nuts, and so on. The tradition seems to have been particularly strong in Western Scotland, although the first known reference is in Richard Carew's Survey of Cornwall (1602), 27, who mentions their use ‘for women travailling in child-birth’. These beans were often worn on a string around the neck to avert witchcraft and the evil eye. Their use as commercial generic ‘lucky charms’ has persisted into the present day, and Vickery gives several instances of them being offered for sale at seaside resorts and elsewhere.
Vickery, 1995: 337–40;Opie and Tatem, 1989: 258.