Since early history, working animals were exposed to hoof damage from excessive wear. In ancient Asia, horses hooves were often wrapped in rawhide or other materials for protection. The early Roman’s also attempted to wrap their horses’ hooves with a solid, leather and metal contraption, called the hipposandal. The nailed type of horseshoe came later. The earliest written record of an iron horseshoe was in 910 A.D. Around 1000 A.D., cast, bronze horseshoes with nail holes became common. By the early 11th century, iron horseshoes were manufactured, and due to the value of iron at the time, horseshoes could be accepted to pay taxes. The continual need for horseshoes, placed blacksmiths in high demand, and their craft led to the development of metallurgy.
Interesting history, but why is the horseshoe considered lucky? Why do we see them hung over barn doors and along fences? There are a couple of reasons. First, lucky horseshoes came into being during festive occasions, where a silver shoe was hammered into a horse’s hoof before the parade, and the retriever won a prize.
Another reason the horseshoe is lucky is because it is said to ward off witches and devils. The iron used to make the shoe was an element believed to ward off fairy folk and evil entities. Why iron? Iron smells like human blood and blood is our life force. Iron is also found deep in the earth and considered the life force of the earth. Thus iron, like silver, could ward off witches, fairies, and ghosts. Although if witches existed, then they likely used iron cauldrons, so their fear of that element seems convoluted. I’d like to note that prison bars, cemetery gates, and many crucifixes are also made out of iron, which is interesting. So lower entities of energy dissipate from the grounding element of iron.
Legend says that the blacksmith, Saint Dunstan, nailed a horseshoe to the devil’s foot, with a guarantee that the devil would leave his family in peace if he nailed a horseshoe on the door.
Horseshoes are still seen in the 21st century as well, although I’m unsure if people are aware of the stories behind the symbol they are hanging. Nailing a horseshoe on the barn was said to prevent a witch from taking or riding your horses. Western culture claims the user of the lucky talisman should leave the ends upward, so that the luck doesn’t drain out. Other cultures suggest leaving the ends downward to shower the person with luck. Most cultures believed that since the horseshoe protects the horse, then it must protect people too. The horseshoe being recognized as good luck dates back to the 4th century in Greece. They felt that the iron horseshoe drove away evil and the shape of the horseshoe represented the crescent moon, which was known as a symbol of fertility and good luck. The horseshoe was a potent charm on land or sea. Horseshoes were nailed to the masts of ships to protect the crew during storms. The rule of luck regarding a horseshoe is if you find one and there are nails still in it, count them, for the more nails means a luckier you. In Northumberland, the rule was that the holes missing nails, indicated the number of years remaining until the person who found the item weds.
A Poem by James T. Fields
The stranger asked to see the shoe;
The farmer brought it into view;
But when the old man raised his head;
He laughed outright and quickly said;
“No wonder skies upon you frown,
You’ve nailed the horse-shoe upside down;
Just turn it round, and soon you’ll see
How you and Fortune will agree.”
A special thanks to Diabolicalconfusions.wordpress.com and The History & Use of Amulets, Charms and Talisman by Gary R. Varner