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Horseshoes and Luck: Separating Fact from Folklore

Last updated: March 13, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

As an enthusiast of folklore and equine history, the power of horseshoes has always intrigued me. For years, my relatives hung a horseshoe above their front door for good luck, and I couldn’t help but ponder the significance of this simple iron shoe. Why is it considered to bring such fortune and prosperity?

So, I set out on a journey to uncover the truth behind this age-old tradition. And let me tell you, my journey was a rich tapestry of fascinating discoveries. From the evolution of the belief in the lucky power of horseshoes to the common superstitions and folklore associated with this iconic symbol, I uncovered a wealth of intriguing information.

And now, I’d like to share my findings with you, my fellow equine enthusiasts. So, join me as we delve into the mystical realm of horseshoes and luck and separate fact from fiction. Whether you’re a skeptic or a true believer, I’m confident you’ll find this exploration entertaining and enlightening.

The History of Horseshoes as a Lucky Symbol

The belief in the lucky power of horseshoes is thought to have originated with the ancient Celts, who associated iron with protection against evil spirits. The horseshoe shape was considered especially lucky, as it was believed to resemble the crescent moon, a symbol of fertility and prosperity.

As the Celts migrated and their beliefs spread, the tradition of horseshoe good luck became established in many parts of Europe. Over time, the symbol was adopted by various cultures and became associated with many positive traits, including strength, prosperity, and good fortune.

Picture of a farrier nailing a horseshoe on a horses' hoof.
Blacksmith nailing on a horseshoe

Blacksmiths and horseshoes

In the Middle Ages, blacksmiths were considered to have special powers, and the horseshoe became an important talisman for horsemen and travelers. It was believed to protect them on their journeys and bring good luck to their ventures.

The tradition of hanging horseshoes for good luck was eventually brought to the United States by European settlers, and the symbol continues to be a popular talisman for good fortune and protection. Today, horseshoes can be found hanging in homes, on gates, and even in jewelry, as a reminder of their rich history and cultural significance.

Why hang horseshoes over doors?

Horseshoes have been hung over doors for centuries as a symbol of good luck and protection against evil. The tradition originated in the Middle Ages when iron was believed to have protective properties, and blacksmiths would bless horseshoes before they were fitted to horses.

Over time, people began associating horseshoes with good luck and started hanging them over their doors for protection and good fortune for the home and its inhabitants. The tradition continues today, although it is often more decorative than serious.

In some cultures, it was also customary to place horseshoes over the stable doors to protect the horses from witches and evil spirits. This further reinforced the association between horseshoes and protection against evil.

Picture of a horseshoe and a clover.
Lucky horseshoe and clover

Protection from witches and evil spirits

Witches were thought to have the power to cast spells and bring misfortune, and people believed that the iron in the horseshoe would protect against these evil spells.

It was also believed that witches had a particular aversion to iron, as it was thought to counteract their magic. As a result, people would hang horseshoes over their doors as a symbol of protection against witches and their spells.

However, it is important to note that these beliefs varied greatly from culture to culture, and in some places, there was no specific link between horseshoes and witches.

Nevertheless, the tradition of hanging horseshoes over doors has been a part of many cultures for centuries, and its association with good luck and protection against evil has endured.

The devil and horseshoes

According to legend, a blacksmith once outwitted the devil by convincing him to put his foot in a horseshoe. The devil was then trapped, as the horseshoe’s crescent shape prevented him from removing it.

The blacksmith struck a deal with the devil, promising to release him if he would never harm anyone who wore or hung a horseshoe in their home. From that day forward, horseshoes became associated with protection against evil and the devil, and it was believed that anyone who wore or hung a horseshoe would be safe from harm.

The story also explains why the horseshoe must be placed with the ends pointing upwards; it is said that if the horseshoe is placed in this position, it will trap any evil spirits that may be lurking nearby.

While this folklore is just a myth, it has helped to solidify the horseshoe’s reputation as a powerful symbol of protection and good luck. Today, the image of a horseshoe is still often used to ward off evil and bring good luck, and people continue to hang horseshoes in their homes for this reason.

Picture of a horseshoe hanging on a wall above a door.
horseshoe hanging on a wall above a door.

Common superstitions surrounding horseshoes

There are many superstitions associated with horseshoes; some of the most common include the following:

  1. Horseshoes must be placed with the ends pointing upwards: If the horseshoe is placed with the ends pointing upwards, it will retain its luck and prevent it from spilling out.
  2. Horseshoes must be made of iron: To be considered lucky, the horseshoe must be made of iron, as this metal is believed to have protective properties against evil spirits.
  3. Horseshoes must be found, not bought: A horseshoe that is found is considered especially lucky, as it is believed to have been given by the universe as a gift.
  4. Horseshoes must be placed near the front door or above the hearth: Horseshoes are often hung near the front door or above the hearth to protect the home and its inhabitants from evil spirits.
  5. Horseshoes must come from a horse that is still alive: It is believed that a horseshoe that comes from a horse that is still alive will bring greater luck and protection.
  6. Horseshoes must be given as gifts: Horseshoes are sometimes given as gifts to bring good luck to the recipient.
  7. A blacksmith must bless horseshoes: To enhance its lucky power, a horseshoe is sometimes blessed by a blacksmith before it is hung.

While these superstitions are not scientifically supported, they remain popular beliefs and a part of the cultural significance of horseshoes as symbols of good luck and protection.

Here is a blacksmith’s YouTube video about the luck of horseshoes.

YouTube video

Debunking Myths About Horseshoes and Luck

Despite its long history and widespread popularity, there is no scientific evidence supporting the idea that horseshoes have any power to bring good luck. Horseshoes are simply symbols, and any perceived good luck is likely due to chance or coincidence.

In fact, many of the superstitions surrounding horseshoes have been debunked over the years, and it is important to understand that horseshoe luck is ultimately subjective and based on individual beliefs and experiences.

Conclusion

The tradition of hanging horseshoes over doors is a unique and fascinating aspect of our cultural heritage. Its association with good luck and protection against evil has been an enduring part of many societies for centuries.

However, it is important to remember that the beliefs surrounding horseshoes and their protective properties are rooted in folklore and superstition rather than science.

Whether you believe in the luck of horseshoes or not, it is undeniable that they have played an important role in our history and continue to hold a special place in our collective consciousness.

Picture of a horseshoe hanging on the wall of a barn.
Lucky horseshoe hanging on a barn wall.

FAQs

Is it bad luck to hang a horseshoe upside down?

Yes, hanging a horseshoe upside down is considered bad luck. A pointing down horseshoe lets your good luck and protection “drain out.” It’s important to hang the horseshoe with the ends pointing up so your good fortune can not escape.

What does a horseshoe symbolize in a dream?

A horseshoe in a dream may symbolize good luck and prosperity, reflecting the traditional association of horseshoes with good fortune. However, dream interpretation is subjective and greatly depends on the individual and their personal experiences, beliefs, and cultural background.