When they’re not being fitted to hooves, horseshoes are being hung above homes’ entrances, given as wedding gifts, or passed through families as good luck charms. Horseshoes are also hung up on March 17th every year to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Today, you get trendy horseshoe earrings, horseshoe wedding rings, and so on.
The idea of horseshoes bearing good fortune is nothing new – but where did this lucky charm originate? In this guide, we’ll explore all the reasons why horseshoes are considered to be lucky, as well as the correct way to hang one up!
Reasons Why Horseshoes Are Considered Lucky
Like most charms, the origin of the horseshoe as a good luck symbol is heavily disputed.
Some believe it dates back to the 8th century in the former country of Chaldea (southern Iraq), where Chaldeans thought a horseshoe resembled moon goddesses that protected them from the evil eye. Others believe the simpler explanation that horses are considered lucky, so horseshoes must be lucky, too.
Here are some of the main lucky horseshoe legends, and other reasons why they’re considered to be a lucky charm:
St. Dunstan and the devil
The legend of St. Dunstan warding off the devil with a horseshoe in 969 AD is often cited as the origin of horseshoes being hung as good luck charms today.
Several versions of the story exist. Most involve St. Dunstan, the patron saint of blacksmiths, fitting the devil’s hooves with extremely uncomfortably metal shoes. Due to the pain, the devil agreed to never enter a home with a horseshoe hung above the door. This tale helped support the idea that a lucky horseshoe had the power to ward off evil.
Seven is a lucky number
Horseshoes come with seven holes in them to hold the horse’s foot securely in place. It just so happens that seven is widely considered lucky all around the globe. Seven is considered a lucky number due to how many things come in sevens. Seven seas, seven continents, seven days in a week, and so on – there’s no doubt that the number seems significant!
So, the fact alone that horseshoes come with seven holes in them further supports the idea of them being lucky charms.
The fact they’re made of iron
Not only do lucky horseshoes come with seven nail holes, but they’re also made of iron. Cold iron has long been believed to ward off evil. Early Western Europeans believed that the only way to ward off witches and ghosts was to nail iron horseshoes to your door.
Iron is also perceived as a mystical metal because of its magnetic properties.
The way iron is made further adds to the idea of it being a good luck symbol. Limestone, ironstone, processed coal, and air are forged together using fire. This marriage of the elements explains why they’re often given as wedding gifts.
The impact of the Victorian Era
By the Victorian era, horseshoes were already widely considered to be good luck charms. The Victorians were particularly fond of incorporating motifs and symbolism into their jewellery; including crescent moons and stars, hearts, flowers, and, of course, good luck charms.
This era did a lot to continue the popularity of the horseshoe as a good luck charm – Victorians were known to pass on horseshoes to brides at weddings. Sometimes, they would get the child to pass on the horseshoe to the bride to represent fertility.
These Victorian habits definitely helped to cement the belief that the horseshoe was a good luck charm!
Iron horseshoes aren’t as widely used to protect horses’ feet as they once were. Many shoes today are made of aluminium, and some come in different shapes other than the iconic crescent shape. Oval and bar shoes have become more popular.
This archaic element of iron crescent moon-shaped horseshoes further adds to their mystical appeal.
What Is The Right Way To Hang A Horseshoe?
The origin of lucky horseshoes remains up for debate, as does the way you should hang them.
So, when you’re given a horseshoe as a wedding gift, what is the “correct” way to hang it above your door?
Some believe you should always have the horseshoe nailed with the ends facing down, so good luck flows out and surrounds your home. When placed directly above a door, these downward-facing ends also prevent any evil spirits from entering through the doorway.
The above explanation does make sense. However, some would say that hanging it this way actually empties it of luck entirely.
Others believe that the horseshoe should be hung with the ends pointing upwards so that the charm can gather as much luck as possible.
Others believe that the horseshoe should initially be hung facing upwards, before being switched to facing downwards. This is so that it can gather enough luck, and then spill this good fortune over the home.
We’ll leave it up to you to decide which way to hang your horseshoe!
On which finger should you wear a horseshoe ring?
Horseshoe rings should be worn on either your thumb or middle finger; preferably on your right hand. Of course, the idea of the correct finger to wear a horseshoe ring is a superstitious belief, and you can wear the ring on whichever finger feels most comfortable!
Which way do the Irish hang a horseshoe?
Irish tradition suggests that you should hang a horseshoe with the ends facing up. This creates a “U” shape, which is believed to collect luck. This prevents all the good luck from falling out.
However, there’s another tradition in Ireland that involves burying a horseshoe under the cornerstone of a newly built house. This is said to bring good luck to the family that moves into it.