Horseshoes exist to protect horse hooves. But along the way, someone must have told themselves, “I’m pretty lucky I have these horseshoes,” because over time, horseshoes became associated with luck. Although really, it was quite lucky, as it took a while for metal horseshoes to exist, and they were such a superior technology that we still use them today, 1,000 years after their invention.
It was likely the act of blacksmithing that made the shoe so lucky. Blacksmiths were considered a lucky trade, and they worked with fire and metal, which seemed quite magical. Iron was also extremely valuable, so things made out of iron were valuable.
Today, the horseshoe is widely accepted as a symbol of luck. It’s found representing St. Patrick’s Day, in casinos, artwork, tattoos, home decorations, jewelry, and even cereal. Childhood favorite Lucky Charms, the authority of all things lucky, included a horseshoe in their lineup.
The Devil and St. Dunstan
One of the most famous legends about horseshoes is the story of St. Dunstan and the devil, as written by Edward Flight in 1871. St. Dunstan was real person who lived in England in the 10th century. He was actually a very interesting figure who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury, but during this story, he was a monk, living a very simple life, who worked as a blacksmith.
The devil came to St. Dunstan’s blacksmith shop and asked him to shoe his hooves. It’s unclear why the devil would choose this holy man to shoe him, of all people, but maybe there were specific circumstances that led him there. His hooves broke down a mile down the road or something. St. Dunstan, knowing he was the devil, agreed to shoe him. He nailed the horseshoes on very tightly, and the devil was in so much pain that he begged St. Dunstan to remove them.
St. Dunstan agreed to remove the horseshoes, but only if the devil promised to never enter a house with a horseshoe over the door. The devil agreed, and St. Dunstan removed the horseshoes.
This story was officially written in 1871, but Dunstan has long been regarded as a saint by the people of England for his deeds.
The Evil Eye
The evil eye is a curse or malevolent glare that is believed to cause bad luck or misfortune to the another. Sometimes it is a jealous or envious look, other time, it’s just dislike. But just like the horseshoe can protect from the devil, it can also protect from that pesky evil eye.
It’s said that the power of the horseshoe comes from being made of metal, which is associated with protective magic. Iron is believed to repel all sorts of evil, including ghosts, fairies, witches, and also, apparently, ill wishing people. Horseshoes also resemble a crescent shape, the moon, which is considered a powerful symbol.
When hung in a prominent location in the house, the horseshoe wards off the evil eye. For the traveling potential victim, it could also be worn as jewelry or carried as an amulet.
With a symbol so associated with luck, good fortune and witches, naturally many superstitions have come about. Although people come up with superstitions about all sorts of things, the most well known include:
- Gift a bride a horseshoe on her wedding day. It would be hung in their new house to keep the devil out and as a symbol of fertility.
- A horseshoe above the bed will protect against bad dreams.
- Carrying a horseshoe in your pocket will bring good luck in gambling.
- If you find a horseshoe, hang it on a tree for good luck.
Next time you find a lost shoe in your pasture, try hanging it in a tree for some extra luck! Maybe next time you’ll be lucky enough not to lose the shoe in the first place.
Up or Down?
One of the most hotly debated horse shoe legends, if you’re someone who talks about this sort of thing. Are horseshoes supposed to be hung with the ends up or down?
While you could definitely debate this one if you care to, the answer is: either way you want. It depends what kind of “vibe” you’re going for. When the ends are hung upward, it’s like a little cup that holds in the luck. When the ends are hung facing down, it’s pouring it’s luck all over your house, and with that much luck spilling everywhere, all the bad luck is forced right out. So it’ll depend on if you’re looking for a still water cup kind of luck, or a raging river, with luck spilling all over your house, turning your furniture into luck rapids.
The horseshoe has been a symbol of luck for centuries now. It would be impossible to prove that horseshoes are lucky, although it seems millions do think they are. But they might be lucky, and, bonus, they are symbol of the love of horses. Try hanging one at your house or barn and see if you become lucky.