Horseshoe-luck

Horseshoes are considered very lucky in themselves and are also used as symbols of good luck (e.g. in drawings or horseshoe tattoo). However, like many good luck symbols, the reason they are considered lucky has been somewhat lost in time and is open to discussion. Explanations include:

  • Horseshoes are made by blacksmiths, which was considered a very lucky trade.
  • Horseshoes are traditionally made from iron (although some modern horseshoes use other materials), which is considered a lucky and even magical material. In particular, iron was considered one of the best defenses from evil fairies and spirits. Hanging it over a door (see below 'How to hang a horseshoe') could provide protection from such evil beings entering the house.
  • Likewise, horseshoes are produced using fire, one of the four basic elements, believed to also provide protection from evil.
  • Horseshoes were traditionally held in place by seven nails (although in modern times the number of nails varies depending on shoe type and farrier), which in western cultures is considered a lucky number.
  • The horse is also considered a lucky animal and in many cultures is actually worshiped (for details, reference The Horse in Magic and Myth by M. Oldfield Howey), which may contribute to the belief in the lucky nature of their shoes. It is possibly for this reason that used horseshoes are considered more lucky than new ones. 

Literature

Literature has both reflected the belief in horseshoes as being lucky, as well as popularizing and promoting this belief. One example is the 1871 book "The True Legend Of St. Dunstan And The Devil: Showing How The Horseshoe Came To Be A Charm Against Witchcraft". In this book Saint Dunstan (lived 909-988AD, holding positions of Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London, and an Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint) confronts the devil and nails a horseshoe to his foot. This caused the devil great pain and Dunstan only agreed to removing the horseshoe in return for a promise from the Devil never to enter a place with a horseshoe over the door. Although the book is dated 1871, there are a number of much earlier variations of the same story, which  some claim is the origin of the lucky horseshoe belief.

How to hang a horseshoe for luck

Horseshoes are often hung on doors or above doors, in the hope that it will provide luck to those within, as well as providing luck to those who enter and leave. They can also be hung within the house, where favorite places include the fireplace mantel or hallways.

Most traditions call for the horseshoe to hang with the ends pointed up, so that it forms a container to hold luck in. Rather less common, in some areas the opposite approach is taken, advising that the horseshoe should hang with the points pointing downwards, so that the natural luck of the horseshoe can drain out into the home. Some traditions indicate that a horseshoe hung in the wrong direction will bring bad luck, while others indicate that it is the horseshoe itself that brings luck so the direction of hanging is unimportant.

Horseshoes are a traditional good luck gift at a wedding, to be hung in the new home of the bride and groom.

Which horseshoes are most lucky?

Which horseshoes bring the most luck varies somewhat, depending on individual traditions. However, some common beliefs (see above discussion) are that:

  • Used horseshoes are more lucky than new
  • A found horseshoe is more lucky than one that is purchased. 
  • If a horseshoe is found, the more nails left in it, the luckier it is.
  • Iron horseshoes are luckier than other materials.
  • Horseshoes with seven nail holes are more lucky
  • A properly hung horseshoe is more lucky (see above 'How to hang a horseshoe for luck')

Author's Comment

The above is provided to explain and describe the tradition of lucky horse shoes. It is not intended to either defend or disprove such beliefs, but rather is given merely for information purposes.

References

For related articles, click on Horseshoe Information, or on any of the following: