There is no bigger a temptress than “Lady Luck”, period. Throughout history, men and women have sought after luck; the search to get good luck has made them look for magical spells, charms, omens, superstitions and even in some cases religion but the search is continuous. Our known history though is full of interesting tales, legends and stories of fortunate items that have brought luck to people and changed their complete lives. This can be a true coincidence or a global phenomenon, but the realities of universe are immense and we are unable to fathom them all. Coincidence is but a way of the universe telling the individuals about their destiny, providing the people with omens to follow and giving them hope when life gets difficult. 


Horseshoes too, have been a stuff of legends and items that have fascinated the imaginations since long. An object which in many ways is redundant and mostly useless in today’s world has been the subject of many of interesting tales of our past and present – hopefully a part of our future as well. We are not sure how the legend of horseshoes bringing good luck initially started, a lot of our history has been lost due to the difficulties involved in documenting in early years. Iron’s discovery and use for different appliances was in fact one of the turning points of the civilization, a metal that could be used to create things that earlier were almost impossible and thus iron has always been considered as a metal that helped against the devil and the forces of darkness. Kids were made to sleep in places that had iron hanging on the walls or metal was placed in specific slots located inside the cribs – an attempt to ward away the forces of evil.

 

Saint Dunstan’s story is the first document that contains the use of horseshoe as lucky – the tale starts with a visit from the devil to him while working in a black smith’s shop where the devil wanted new shoes for himself. Dunstan was able to see through the devil’s disguise and managed to mark the devil on the nose by the horseshoe that he was making. Scarred for life and damaged, the devil was scared of the horseshoe and promised never to enter any house that had a horseshoe in it. Not only did the horseshoe managed to protect Dunstan from the devil, it brought him good luck as upon hearing his story, the king made him the Bishop as a reward.

 

The middle ages were also a time where traditions were maturing and changing. Demons, mysteries, ghosts and evil spirits were fearful existences, causing fear in the hearts of the ordinary people; even kings were not immune to such superstitions. Even Asian civilizations were having similar beliefs about demons, where the monks staying high up in their sanctuaries will spend their life searching for good luck signs and symbols to ward against these horrifying creatures. The fact that horseshoes were considered lucky in such remote and distant parts where spirituality and mystery was almost taken to another level depicts about the presence of substance behind the legend. After all, every story that becomes famous, has some true reflection behind it, albeit the stories would get distorted, the impact in some cases magnified but each tale had a true event behind it.

 

Common folk tales varied, good luck from horseshoes in some cultures only entered the house if the shoe was found out on the road or somewhere else by accident. A belief that getting a horseshoe from the open in itself showed that the person was lucky or the luck was about to change. Some European cultures also believed that not only it will bring luck to the person who finds the horseshoe, but the person who lost the horseshoe will also get to share the luck when the horseshoe will be found out by someone. Tales of people rising to riches from total poverty and life of deprivation due to horseshoes were common place and many a rich merchants would hang horseshoes on their walls to get luck. There were though, different opinions on how to hang the horseshoe, Scandinavian cultures took the form of hanging the horseshoes upside down, thinking that in case they are hung like the shape of “U”, devil will manage to sneak in and find place to sit. The inverse of that would not allow the devil any room to sit; it was also the way how the nose got marked so it was apparently scary for the devil.

 

The places of worship – churches – in Europe in the Middle Ages were considered as the sanctuaries in case of almost any horrific event. Be it the spread of disease like plague or the case of defending against invaders, churches were considered as safe. Many churches inside England after the news of St Dunstan’s story, used to hang horseshoes inside their churches. These horseshoes were specially manufactured for just one purpose, hanging on the church wall and providing protection against the devil. There have been churches where entire and complete walls have been covered in horseshoes making sure that the devil finds no way to sneak in. This could possibly be the beginning of the tradition for people using specifically prepared horseshoes as lucky items.

 

There are other important historical events, horseshoes being used in coat of arms, horseshoes being used as sigils, horseshoes being hanged in the houses of rich and famous people, horseshoes being attributed towards success and luck by rich merchants and traders – they really did see a rise in popularity as sea trading became an important business. Ships leaving the harbor were always a massive risk for the traders, the entire business fortune depended on the safe arrival and departure of the ship from faraway lands and good luck was needed even more than ever. The merchants would not only hang horseshoes in their work places and markets, but put them in their ships hoping that this would bring them luck and protect them from sea storms and other strange events that can take place while on a sea voyage. The tradition worked for many and hence it was carried across the seas to new lands, lands that had not been discovered before and the legend kept gaining momentum and strength.

 

To this day, we cannot pin point an exact moment on how the tradition started, we also cannot factually argue that horseshoes bring luck and their absence will make people unlucky. The fact that horseshoes bring luck to those who believe has been documented well over our history. For the believers, who may even be termed as superstitious, the existence of proof behind the superstitions is enough to dictate the validity of the argument. horseshoes have had enough impact in our history to keep their legend going, the best part is even if they do not bring luck (as some people may believe that luck is only brought by hard work and preparation), they are beautiful symmetrical objects having beautiful simplicity about them – in fact they are master pieces of original handicrafts built with sheer perfection.

Hang a horseshoe in your living room and become part of the immense history – and before you pass any judgment on horseshoes bringing good luck – try one and see if it works for you. If it does, you will be part of the great tradition of humanity and chances are it will bring you good luck!!!

Zak