~ James T. Fields
The world over horseshoes are a symbol of good luck. I’m not overly superstitious but I am endlessly curious. I’ve always liked horseshoe art and I grew up tossing horseshoes in the back yard…so what makes a horseshoe “lucky”? Is just any old horsehoe a “lucky” horseshoe?
Turns out there are some Lucky Horseshoe Rules: A truly lucky horseshoe has been used (not new), or found (not purchased).
In all traditions, luck (good or bad) is contained in the shoe and can pour out through the ends. In regions where the horseshoe is placed facing upward, folks believe the horseshoe must point up “or the luck runs out.” In places where it is hung facing downward they say exactly the opposite — “it must point down so the luck can pour onto you.” However, in its function as an amulet for magical protection, especially over the doorways of barns and stables, the horseshoe usually points downward and it is said that “no evil or witch will pass under it.”
So, where did this horseshoe luck come from?
Horseshoes were actually used by the Greeks as early as the 4th Century B.C. Since horses were believed to be one of the most sacred of animals, their crescent-shaped shoes became symbols of good luck. The origin is also believed to be tied to the proscribed magical powers of iron. Iron is considered lucky because it is born from the marriage of rock and fire, two of the basic elements in ancient times. Blacksmiths, makers and users of iron, were alchemical masters of the elements and their byproducts. Accordingly, their creations were believed to be endowed with supernatural powers.
Another aspect of the horseshoe that added to it’s good luck was the fact that it was commonly held in place by seven iron nails. Since ancient times, the number seven was considered very important. Life was divided into seven ages; a rainbow has seven colors; astrology once held that seven planets made up the universe; there are seven deadly sins; a seventh child was thought to have special powers; there are seven days in a week; the moon changes from one phase to another every seven days.
One reputed origin of the tradition of lucky horseshoes is the story of Saint Dunstan and the Devil. Dunstan, who became the Archbishop of Canterbury in AD 959, was a blacksmith by trade. The story relates that he once nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof when he was asked to reshoe the Devil’s hoof. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after the Devil promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is hung over the door.
Some believe that if guests come to a house where a horseshoe is above the door, they must leave by the same door through which they entered or they will take the luck from the horseshoe with them from the house.
How ’bout you? Any horseshoes hanging ’round? Do you hang them up, or hang them down? 🙂