MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Are Horseshoes Considered Lucky?

There may not be a good luck charm as well-known as the horseshoe. You see them hanging over entrances to homes & barns, depicted on clothing (like the “Lucky” brand), in jewelry, as well as in that magically delicious cereal. But why is the horseshoe considered a symbol of luck?

One of the earliest mentions of a horseshoe warding off evil is a 10th-century tale involving the patron saint of blacksmiths, Saint Dunstan, and his encounter with the devil. As the blacksmith worked in his shop, the devil entered & insisted on having his own hooves shoed. Saint Dunstan knew refusing the Devil’s demand wasn’t an option, so he ended up fastening burning hot horseshoes onto the devil’s hooves, the pain of which forced the devil to beg Dunstan to remove the shoes. So, the blacksmith agreed…under one condition: the devil was made to swear that he would never enter any building with a horseshoe placed at the entrance.

There are other folk tales about the horseshoe, but they had more to do with not their maker, but what they’re made of: iron. Iron had what were considered by many to be “mystical powers.” Witches were rumored to have been frightened by iron that they refused to travel by horseback (hence the broomstick). Meanwhile, there were some who thought iron could keep fairies & other mythical creatures away. Horseshoes also held another inherent value: the iron in them was considered so valuable that folks would even use them to pay their taxes amidst the Crusades in the 12th century.

Another theory as to the luck of the horseshoe comes from its symbolism in Mediterranean cultures, where they believed that the crescent shape stood as protection against the curse of the evil eye. Horseshoes are also linked to the number 7, which has long been considered one of the luckiest numerals & holds significance in many religions around the world, from Christianity to Islam, Judaism to Hinduism, Buddhism and others. Horseshoes traditionally had 7 nail holes (even though that number varies nowadays). Oh, and we can’t forget that the horses, themselves, have historically been viewed by many cultures as being lucky or sacred.

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