There are many good luck charms such as the four-leaf clover, rabbit's foot, and especially the Horseshoe. Often seen hanging over the entrance to a house, given to a newly married couple or, more recently, worn as a piece of jewellery, the horseshoe is considered to bring luck and protection to its owners. Over the centuries, several stories have emerged about why people around the world believe in the luck of the humble horseshoe.🐴
The story of the horseshoe
The belief in the magical powers of the horseshoe has roots in both the ancient Greeks and Christianity. The Greeks believed that iron could drive away evil and that a horseshoe resembled a crescent, which they saw as a symbol of fertility and good luck 🤞.
Early Christians adopted this pagan belief and turned a horseshoe into a talisman to protect them from evil, witchcraft and the devil himself.
Although the belief that the horseshoe had magical powers was transferred from the pagan Greeks to Christianity, it also has traces in other cultures.
The horseshoe appeared in its present form in the Mediterranean countries around the fifth century and became a very popular good luck charm. Finding or owning a horseshoe is said to bring money, good luck and to ward off bad things. Several legends have contributed to these extraordinary virtues.
Centuries before our era, horses wore some kind of sandals or soles that were a treasure for whoever found them on their way. Legend has it that they were made of gold or silver, making them very valuable.
Roman legend has it that Nero, the Roman emperor, decided to forge gold shoes on his horses to show his wealth to his people. As the techniques for fitting the shoes were not perfected, one of his horses sometimes broke loose. A poor peasant passing by would have found this golden shoe and sold it at a price that would allow him to live peacefully for the rest of his life. Finding this priceless horseshoe would bring eternal well-being.
Horseshoes were first used in the early Middle Ages to protect horses' hooves from wear. The farrier became a key figure in the village, collecting old shoes in exchange for money, iron being a valuable metal. Finding a horseshoe became synonymous with making money.
This rarity was then associated with the notion of luck. The more nails he had, the better his luck. The branches had to be turned towards you when you found it and the nails had to be pointed towards the ground. The iron should have an odd number of holes (ideally seven). When it was shaped like a crescent moon, it was a symbol of fertility...
The most common legend : Irish history
In Irish history, the legend of Saint Dunstan : Dunstan was a simple man, a blacksmith, in 10th century Britain. One night, the devil visited him and asked him to put a horseshoe on his horse. Instead of putting the shoe on the horse, Dunstan nailed the horseshoe to the devil. In pain, the devil begged Dunstan to remove the horseshoe ; Dunstan agreed, but on one condition. The devil had to promise to stay away from all houses with a horseshoe on the entrance. Thus, Dunstan became the Archbishop of Canterbury and was elevated to sainthood.
The mystique side of the horseshoe
Another story concerns the metal of horseshoes. Early Western Europeans believed that iron had magical powers 🧙. Iron could ward off evil, and folklore of the time tells of many malevolent fairies and mystical creatures. As horseshoes were made of iron, they kept away malevolent fairies. Other legends say that witches were so afraid of horseshoes that they travelled on broomsticks rather than on horseback. Yet another says that the 8th century Chaldeans believed that the crescent shape of the horseshoe protected against the evil eye, making it a good luck charm.
The significance of the holes in the horseshoe
Even the number of holes in a horseshoe is a good luck charm. Horseshoes have seven holes to hold them in place on the horse's foot. Many cultures consider the number seven to be a lucky number because it appears so frequently in our world : seven continents, seven colours in the rainbow, seven seas, seven days in the week, etc.
The position of the horseshoe at the entrance to a house
In the Irish story of the blacksmith and the devil, one day a blacksmith was hard at work in his workshop forging horseshoes. Suddenly the devil appeared and demanded his own shoes 😈. The blacksmith, recognising the devil, took a burning iron and nailed it deep into the devil's hooves. After walking away, the devil was in such excruciating pain that he tore off the horseshoes and swore never to go near them again. Thus was born the tradition of hanging a horseshoe over the entrance to a house to ward off evil spirits.
How to place a lucky horseshoe ?
However, there seems to be a difference of opinion on how to place a lucky horseshoe. Some say to hang it with heels, like the letter "u". Others say to hang it with the heels down. Hanging the heels of a horseshoe means that it prevents the chance to escape from the shoe. But if you hang it down, it means it brings good luck to everyone who passes under it. It's a personal preference, but maybe it wouldn't hurt to have two, and hang one in each direction ! 👍
The direction of the horseshoe for a wedding
In Ireland, a bride used to bring a real horseshoe to her wedding to bring her luck. The Greeks still use the horseshoe in their weddings to bring the couple luck 🌹. According to a Croatian belief, a horseshoe is placed above a bed to protect sleepers from nightmares. You can always hang a Horse Stickers above your bed for sweet dreams ! 💤
A good luck charm for the wedding :
Some people had a tradition of bringing a horseshoe to their wedding. According to this tradition, the horseshoe brings good luck to the couple who are about to get married. It is also a superstition that is supposed to bring many children to the couple. It was often the bride in Ireland who brought one. In Greece, this tradition is still practiced.
Horseshoes : what do they mean to bring good luck ?
So we know that having a horseshoe in the house brings good luck and protects the home. Putting one above your door also brings good luck. But in which direction should it be placed ? Legend has it that the ends, called "sponge", should be positioned towards the sky to prevent happiness from falling. It is also said that when you make a wish, the horseshoe should be placed towards the north.