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Lucky horse shoes


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#1 Sabedora

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 02:16 PM

When I was in the UK, horse shoes were considered 'lucky' by almost everyone (except my fundamentalist xtian mother) and always had to be displayed with the ends pointing more or less upwards, to catch the luck so it wouldn't run away. Presumably the implication is that luck falls from the heavens like rain.

In Portugal, when I suggested to a neighbour that I should display a horse (well, donkey) shoe that I'd found on my door he looked at me askance and asked if I was a witch (who, me?) but he also corrected me when I tried to display it with the ends up. Apparently in Portugal you have to display them with the ends down otherwise the luck floats away into the air. Presumably luck comes out of the ground here...

Thoughts, anyone?


#2 Amber

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 02:42 PM

Wow this thread has just chucked me straight back in time about 30 years! When I was a little girl, I was in hospital a lot having my back sorted out because I was born with scoliosis (a curve in my spine).

It was (another) birthday that I happened to be in hospital, and my mum brought me in a beautiful pair of gold horseshoe drop earrings. The horseshoes were facing down. A year later (and I'd been in hospital a whole lot more than normal), she asked me to take the earrings out and said "They've got to go.. all your luck is running out of them" and I was never allowed to wear them again. Freaky memory!

We have 2 horseshoes in our cottage, which sit on a beam above the kitchen entrance - one is huge (looks like it'd fit a shire horse!) the other is smaller.. they've probably been here since 1860 when the place was built. I've just checked.. they're pointing upwards. I don't think I've seen many in this country pointing downwards either.



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#3 Grymdycche

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 05:37 PM

I've read of horseshoes being used either way.
Usually though, when nailed above a door, they generally point up; but if mounted above a bed, I've read of horseshoes going points down so that the luck spills down every night on the person sleeping there.

You could always hedge your bets and mount it sideways! ;)

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#4 Mountain Witch

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 06:29 PM

Shit, I just read something about them and now can't remember where. However, what I do remember is that the hanging of a horseshoe is surrounded by controversy. Some say with the ends pointed up to hold all the luck in, others say that, as a pre-Christian superstition, that it should be hung with the ends pointed down so it resembles the sky (a dome, if you will).

I can tell you that in the rural US, if there is a horseshoe hung, it's most always with the ends pointed down. My stepdad's barn had one over the door that way. Don't know if it was because of the superstition or the fact that he only had one nail on hand at the time?

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#5 Startella

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 08:25 PM

Growing up we had horses and above our barn doors and stalls we had a horseshoes over them with the ends pointing down.. This is what I found on the internet about them and I found it very interesting...

The horseshoe is considered very lucky and used to be hung in many homes to protect and attract good fortune for the family residing inside. As with many superstitions, there are contradictions to be found with the beliefs associated with the horseshoe. For instance, many believe that to hang it with the ends pointing upwards is good luck as it acts as a storage container of sorts for any good luck that happens to be floating by, whereas to hang it with the ends pointing down, is bad luck as all the good luck will fall out. Others believe that no matter which way you hang the horseshoe, good luck will come. According to this superstition, the ends-pointing-down display simply means that the good luck is able to flow out and surround the home. If the horseshoe is hung over a doorway, ends up will catch good luck and ends down will let the good luck spill over the door and stop evil from entering. Perhaps a combination of the two was used so that after a few days, when the horseshoe was filled with good luck, it would then need to be emptied so that residents could benefit from that luck and the process would be repeated until the end of time.

Horseshoes were also considered lucky because they were made by blacksmiths, which is also considered a very lucky trade. Because they worked with elemental fire and magical iron, they were thought to have special powers. It was believed that a blacksmith could heal the sick and if a couple was married by a blacksmith, their marriage would be a happy one. Their work with horses also brought them much power and prestige, not just because they made the lucky horseshoe but also because they were the keepers of the Horseman's Word (the basis for the movie, The Horse Whisperer.)

Horseshoes were originally made from iron, which may also account for the superstitions that are associated with this object. Iron was considered magical because it was able to withstand fire and was much stronger than other metals. The superstitions for iron are thought to originate in prehistoric times. It was used as a charm to ward off evil spirits.

Another aspect of the horseshoe that added to it's good luck was the fact that it was commonly held in place by seven iron nails. Since ancient times, the number seven was considered very important. Life was divided into seven ages; a rainbow has seven colors; astrology once held that seven planets made up the universe; there are seven deadly sins; a seventh child was thought to have special powers; there are seven days in a week; the moon changes from one phase to another every seven days; and a long-held belief states that the body goes through a radical change every seven years.

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#6 Rowan's Light

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 09:09 PM

I always keep mine pointed up for luck.

We found huge shire horseshoes buried under the steps entering the garden. They are now displayed beside the doors of the house for luck.

There is a another reason for having them pointed down but as usual I can't remember


#7 Tana

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 09:38 PM

At a Blacksmiths forge, they are always pointing down to pour luck over the forge. Other that that, the tradition in my neck of the woods is to have them pointing up.
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#8 Guest_Lea_*

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 12:31 AM

I have had an old one for years. I keep it hung over my entrance door, pointing up. I always heard that hanging it that way keeps good luck in your home.

#9 TigerLily

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 05:15 AM

You could always hedge your bets and mount it sideways! ;)


That's a good idea, seeing as how the belief seems to vary from location. :rofl:


#10 Sabedora

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 05:25 AM

Thanks for all that info everyone!

The seven nail thing is still true, at least in the UK. They use four nails on the outer branch and three on the inner on every shoe I ever saw attached to a horse's foot. The forge that used to shoe my old pony used to hang the shoes with the ends down like the article said. I'd never thought about it before but I think the reason was probably because they weren't 'displayed' as such, but just hanging up in sets of four of the same size ready for use, dangling off a large nail. Hanging them the other way would have been a lot less convenient as my blacksmith would just grab one and try it for size and stick it back and grab one from another nail if the first one wasn't right.

I'm still wondering why my neighbour immediately assumed I was a witch when I wanted to display one though. I'm a bit nervous to ask... :stirring:


#11 owlblink

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Posted 21 May 2009 - 09:40 AM

I recently read that the 'upside-down' pouring horseshoe was the older way of doing it, because the horseshoe never 'runs out' of luck. But im pretty superstitious, and after putting my horseshoe upside down for a while, it didnt feel right ... so mine is back upright again! I suppose its whatever feels right for you. I relate very much to the connection between horses and magic, always been a very horsey person, I also have some gorgeous horse brasses, they are some really witchy/pagan ones out there if you find the right place to look on the internet!

Edited by owlblink, 21 May 2009 - 09:43 AM.

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#12 Morgana

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 01:33 AM

Mine is upright. I was always told that the open end goes up.

Amber, i have the same problem with my back. Nothing they could do as its complicated by 2 1/2 vertabres so that no matter what it will never be straight.

Right now, I'm sitting with my back on the massager and it feels soooooo good!!!!

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#13 Amber

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 09:45 AM

My spine was curved in two places from birth - so had masses and masses of physical therapy, casts and braces to prevent the need for surgery. However, some days (although I walk very straight and no one can see the twists) I feel like a bloody horseshoe myself..... curving round, old, rusty with back muscles as hard as iron! :thatsit:LOL!


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#14 Zephy

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Posted 22 May 2009 - 04:56 PM

I remember having a horseshoe displaying in the living room of my parents house growing up as a child., If I remember right, it was pointing up. I never asked about it. It was just one of many ornaments in that house (my mum was somewhat of a hoarder that way!)

#15 Nyxiah

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 02:07 AM

My mum used to keep horses when I was little in my nan's backyard - it was a huge backyard but not quite big enough to be property - and we always used to have horse brick-a-brack around all the time and my mum always had a horseshoe on the front door, upright to bring in luck.

I've actually never seen horseshoes put upside down, but then i've never been out of Australia either so that may have something to do with it :D

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#16 Sabedora

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 05:50 AM

I just found this site http://www.luckymojo.../horseshoe.html which has quite a lot to say about horseshoes...


There is good reason to suppose that the crescent form of the horseshoe links the symbol to pagan Moon goddesses of ancient Europe such as Artemis and Diana, and that the protection invoked is that of the goddess herself, or, more particularly, of her sacred vulva. As such, the horseshoe is related to other magically protective doorway-goddesses, such as the Irish sheela-na-gig, and to lunar protectresses such as the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is often shown standing on a crescent moon and placed within a vulval mandorla or vesica pisces.


In most of Europe, the Middle-East, and Spanish-colonial Latin America protective horseshoes are placed in a downward facing or vulval position, as shown here, but in some parts of Ireland and Britain people believe that the shoes must be turned upward or "the luck will run out." Americans of English and Irish descent prefer to display horseshoes upward; those of German, Austrian, Italian, Spanish, and Balkan descent generally hang them downward.


In regions where the horseshoe is placed facing upward, folks believe the horseshoe must point up "or the luck runs out." In places where it is hung facing downward they say exactly the opposite -- "it must point down so the luck can pour onto you." However, in its function as an amulet for magical protection, especially over the doorways of barns and stables, the horseshoe usually points downward and it is said that "no witch will pass under it." The "Good Luck" horseshoe image i use on my web pages came from a 1940s American printer's stock cut book, probably drawn and engraved by a German-American, hence the horseshoe points downward.


What does the difference in directionality mean? I think that in most of the world it is the horseshoe ITSELF that is lucky and protective -- whereas in England and Ireland the horseshoe is seen as a mere "collector" of luck from above.


I'm also finding a few hints that the upsidedown horseshoe was celtic/pagan, representing the womb, and that it was christianity who tried to alter the tradition and persuade people to turn it the other way up. That would fit with the vague memory I have of some people displaying it at an angle so it resembled the C of christ's name.

I think I'm going to have to hang it pointing downwards... :witchbroom:

Edited by Sabedora, 23 May 2009 - 06:01 AM.
Found something else to add...


#17 EliseN

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 12:40 PM

Hmm. My DH brought a horse's shoe home from the racetrack (it's where he works). We've been debating where to post the horse shoe and how to hang it as well (up or down).

I thought I'd have answers by the time I finished reading this thread but no. I think we'll try to the downwards position over the garage!? Or should it be within fingertips' reach?


#18 sophiadawn

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 08:46 PM

I just found three horseshoes his afternoon in the barn. Will have to hang at least one of them somewhere..will probably go with the downwards direction.

#19 Anya

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 03:31 PM

Hi Sabedora!

That question was weird (your neighboor's, that is). :) But even in Portugal traditions seem to change a bit from region to region. I was never asked if I was a witch sue to horse shoes. In my family they are considered a good luck charm, as is an elephant with the trunk pointing upwards.

I never thought that the way the shoe horse pointed had a meaning. I always thought it pointed downwards due to gravity. But I take it it depends on how you nail it to the wall.:witchbroom:


#20 Sabedora

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 05:06 PM

Anya you're right - in my bit of Portugal traditions seem to change from village to village. I never did figure out what my neighbour's views on witchcraft were and I'm a bit nervous to bring the subject up again. When we put the floor down in the farmhouse we found a shoe buried under the doorway so presumably even if the locals do associate them with witches, they weren't averse to using a bit of magic themselves.

Hmmm - now I have to go and research elephants and their trunks...