The horseshoe superstition is one of good luck and good fortune. It is believed that the good luck powers of the horseshoe date back to the story of a blacksmith named Dunstan and a man he believed was the devil. It is said that a man came to Dunstan and requested that he put horseshoes on his feet (hoofs). Dunstan recognized this man as the devil and nailed a horseshoe to the devil’s hoof. Seeing that the devil was in great pain, it is said that he chained him while he was in agony and only released him after the devil promised never to enter a place that had a horseshoe hung over the door. Dunstan eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 959 AD and is known as Saint Dunstan.
The way the horseshoe is hung and displayed varies. Some regions of the world believe that hanging the horseshoe in an upward position (“U”) holds in all the good luck and the powers it brings. For them, hanging the horseshoe upside down meant that its powers would fall away and dissipate. However, there are others who believe that hanging it in a downward position allows all of the good luck, protective powers and good fortune to shower upon you and surround the home. If you are doubly superstitious, you might want to hang one in each position. The choice is yours.
Another belief exists that the horseshoe, because of its crescent shape, has the ability to ward off the evil eye. In ancient Europe and prior to the Chaldeans, this crescent shape represented the various moon goddesses, which were signs of protection, good luck, fertility and could protect against a curse from the evil eye.
From early times to today people still wear horseshoe charms and amulets to bring good luck. Horseshoes were originally held in place on the horse using seven iron nails, as seven was considered a very lucky number. That is why some horseshoes and/or charms are made with seven nail holes in them. It was also believed that hanging a horseshoe over one’s bed could prevent nightmares. It became a common practice to hang a horseshoe outside of the home, barn or store to ward off evil and bring good luck. The horseshoe was also used by sailors who nailed them to the foremasts of their ships to ward off evil spirits and entities from harming their ships, crew or preventing them from arriving at their destination safely.
During the middle ages, for some reason it was believed that witches had a fear of horses, especially of their shoes, which were made from iron. Because iron could withstand fire, it was also believed that it could ward off all evil spirits. It was believed that a witch would never enter a home with a horseshoe nailed to or over the door. Suspected witches who were tried and not burned at the stake, but buried upon their deaths, had horseshoes nailed to their coffins to prevent them from returning to life or resurrecting again as witches.
To find out about other superstitions, visit the Superstition Room.