Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you and the horses in your life! Whether your favorite charm is a four-leaf clover or a horseshoe, we hope it brings you some luck today.
We know that horseshoes are lucky simply because of their proximity to our most favorite thing in the world: horses! But what is the history behind their fabled luckiness? And when we hang them around the house, or wear them as a charm, what’s the difference between a horseshoe with the opening facing upwards or down?
Horseshoes above the doorway keep mischief at bay.
Horseshoes started their tradition of good fortune and protection as early as 400 B.C. in parts of the British Isles and Northern Europe. Popular folklore states that as Celtic tribes began to settle in this region, they noticed the presence of small magical creatures, including fairies, goblins, and elves. These mischievous individuals would wreak havoc, things like preventing chickens from laying eggs and cows from producing milk.
To ward off these miscreants, families would hang iron horseshoes above their doors. These horseshoes protected the homestead in several ways. Story states it that goblins and elves were frightened by iron weapons, and an iron horseshoe would cause avoidance. Other tales point out the similarity in shape of the horseshoe to the Celtic symbol of the crescent moon. The iron material of the horseshoe is also indicative of strength and power, and has the ability to ward off evil.
Another story is that of St. Dunstan, a blacksmith living in the 10th century. The story goes that one night, the Devil came to his shop in disguise, and asked St. Dunstan to shoe his horse. St. Dunstan recognized the Devil by his cloven hooves, peeking out below his costume. St. Dunstan proceeded to trick the Devil and began nailing horseshoes onto the Devil’s feet. The Devil, in great pain, bellowed for St. Dunstan to stop. But before stopping, St. Dunstan made the Devil promise to never enter a building protected by a horseshoe.
A horseshoe pointing up holds luck; a horseshoe pointing down spreads luck around.
Where a horseshoe is found and how it’s displayed affects the amount of fortune it gives a family or individual. Some sources claim a found horseshoe, especially if it still has nails, is extra lucky, while others argue that a horseshoe straight off the horse’s hoof provides more good-will. When hanging a horseshoe, the most popular way is with the ends pointing up, like a “u”, to keep the fortune and luck contained, as well as evil spirits at bay. However, a horseshoe with the ends pointing down is said to pour good luck down on anyone who passes underneath. One thing everyone can agree on is attaching a horseshoe with seven nails brings the greatest amount of good fortune.
We love every way horseshoes are displayed, especially on St. Patrick’s Day! The best are ones from our beloved steeds (except maybe the ones that come off as a surprise right after the farrier has left for the day… even better if the horse pulls it off in a giant field!). We hope that horseshoes always bring you lots of good luck!