Have you ever heard the old wives tale about hanging a horseshoe above your door for good luck? And have you ever wondered this superstition came to be? Like most folklore, the lucky horseshoe has fascinating legends surrounding it.
As a kid, I remember a horseshoe hanging above my grandmother's door. I was told it was for good luck and just left it at that. She was originally from Kentucky of German descent, and in fact, this tradition is said to originate from Europe. Horseshoes were hung over doorways for magical protection from the evil eye and to bring luck to the household. This practice became well known throughout Europe, North and South America, the Middle East—virtually anywhere you could find worn-out horseshoes.
One theory is that iron was so revered at one time because of its strength that it took on almost mythical importance to people. The same could be said of horses. They were very valuable and keeping their hooves maintained meant protecting livelihoods and means of transportation.
As the value of keeping the hooves protected became realized, the profession of blacksmithing was held in high esteem. One legend has it that an English blacksmith named Dunstan, who would later become Archbishop of Canterbury, was tempted one night by the devil disguised as a lovely woman. But Dunstan spotted his cloven hoof, overcame the devil and nailed a horseshoe to his foot. The devil cried for release to which Dunstan agreed but only on the condition that the devil would not enter a home where a horseshoe was hung. Dunstan became the patron saint of blacksmiths.
All this talk about origins begs the question—do you hang the horseshoe with the opening facing up or down? Different regions developed their own traditions regarding this. The Irish and English commonly hung it up to catch the blessings from heaven. However, those of German descent hung it downward as it was believed that luck would then flow down into the house. Whatever way you prefer, if you have a horseshoe over your door, you're taking part in a time-honored tradition of welcoming good luck and blessings into your home.
- How Did Horseshoes Get so Lucky? HorseChannel.com, March, 19, 2008.
- Yronwode, Catherine. The Horseshoe. Luckymojo.com, 1995-2013. http://www.luckymojo.com/horseshoe.html