The Luck of the Horshoe
By Caterina Tadlock

Many people around the world consider the horseshoe to be symbol of good luck, but few know the history behind this famous superstition.

There are two reasons for the horseshoe being considered lucky that are widely agreed upon by scholars. One, is the fact that the horse shoe is a crescent shape. The other is the fact that the horse shoe is made of iron. However, it has also been suggested that the horseshoe's luck may have something to do with its connection to the animal itself.

The crescent, is the symbol of the great goddess, or triple goddess, who is worshiped by a large number of ancient civilizations. The crescent is therefore often considered to be a protective shape. This, combined with iron, makes the horseshoe a powerful symbol. Iron, because of its strength, was thought to be a very special and even somewhat magical material. Those who were able to work it, such as black smiths, were believed to be magicians with supernatural abilities. It was believed that iron could ward off demons and witches and horseshoes were often hung on people's front doors for this reason.

The horse shoe also has seven nail holes, and seven is amongst certain cultures, considered to be a lucky number. This could have something to do with the horseshoe being lucky, or could just be a mere coincidence. It was also once believed that if a horse were shod with shoes made from the iron of a sword by which a man has been killed, the horse would be exceptionally fast and would never tire.

It is also possible that the horseshoe was once used as a symbol in the ancient practice of serpent worship. Engravings of both snakes and horse shoes can be found on ancient stones and medals. Also, in front of a church in Credi, (a town in southern Malta) there is a statue at whose feet lay the protective symbol of a half moon encircled by a snake.

In ancient Asiatic and Egyptian cultures the serpent is considered to be divine because of its elegant motion, its ability to shed its skin, its eyes, and they way it springs upon its prey. The worship of these creatures is a very ancient practice, which was once nearly worldwide. ( www.sacred-texts.com)

The most interesting possibility for the lucky horseshoe superstition is perhaps its association with the horse itself. The horse has been a beloved and sometimes even worshiped animal amongst cultures all over the world, so it would make sense that the shoe of such a magnificent animal would be valued. There is a myth amongst the English in which the horse is considered a luck-bringer, and horse-worship was common practice amongst the early Celts, Teutons, and Slavs.

The horse was even considered to be divine by some Christians. The Irish believe that the horseshoe is magical because the horse and the ass were in the stable where Christ was born, and are therefore blessed creatures. Another example is the people of Delve, a small village in Holstein. These people allowed a horse to decide where they would build their church. They tied a portrait of the Virgin on the back of a paint mare. The mare was then allowed to wander freely, and the church was to be built on the spot where the mare was found the next morning. ( www.sacred-texts.com)

In Indian myth, the horse is often considered to be a symbol of good luck.

In Buddhism the horse is one of the 12 animals in the Asian 60 year cycle. The last year of the horse was 2002 and was considered a very fortunate year. (KhandroNet)

For the ancient Indians horses were primarily sacrificial animals. The birth of Rama is said to have come about because a horse was sacrificed to the gods. Rama's mother, Kansalya, could not give birth, until a horse was offered up to the gods. She was then made fertile and gave birth to Rama.

Horses also represented the sun because the horse was the avatar of the sun god Surya. Surya is said to have been drawn in a chariot pulled by seven red mares called Harrits. Surya, in the form of a horse also represents the moon, which is called Soma. Surya is also identified with Agni, the lightening, which is also represented by a horse. Interestingly, soma is also the name for the substance that the gods needed to drink in order to remain immortal. The Hindus believed that the moon was the source of this magical drink. (Howey 117). Based on this information it seems possible that the horse might be some how related to the idea of immortality.

For the Hindus the horse is a very spiritual animal that is very close to the gods. In fact, it is even possible that the horse was considered a relative of the gods. They believe that horses' parents were heaven and earth and that horses belonged to the same race "devajata" as the Gods. (Howey 185)


The horseshoe superstition is most likely the result of a combination of these bits of folklore and myths, and not just a single one. But even more so, it is a result of the basic human need to believe in something greater and more powerful than ourselves. Regardless of how or where it started, it is a superstition that has been with us since ancient times, and is likely to stay with us as long as we feel the need to receive protection and good fortune from an outside force.

Work Cited

Howey M. Oldfield. The Horse in Magic and Myth. Mineola New York: Dover Publications INC. 2002.

KhandroNet Web Page. KhandoNet. 20 Feb 2007. <http://www.khandro.net/animal_horse.htm>


Sacred-Text.com. The Magic of the Horse shoe . 2 Aug. 2007. <www.sacred- texts.com/etc/mhs/index.html>

 

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