By Dave Pence
reprinted with permission from Boulder County Parks and Open Space
The horseshoe is considered very lucky and used to be hung in homes to protect it and attract good fortune for the family residing inside. As with many superstitions, contradictions can be found with the beliefs associated with the horseshoe.
For instance, many believe that to hang a horseshoe with the ends pointing upward, is good luck as it acts as a storage container for any good luck that happens to be floating by, whereas to hang it with the ends pointing down is bad luck because 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, ends pointing down simply means that the good luck is able to flow out and surround the home. If the horseshoe is hung over a doorway with ends up, it will catch good luck. Hung over a door with ends down, it 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 be emptied so residents could benefit from that luck—then the process would repeat until the end of time.
Powers of a Blacksmith
Historically, horseshoes were also considered lucky because they were made by blacksmiths, which is 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 because they were the keepers of the Horseman’s Word (the basis for the movie, The Horse Whisperer).
An upside-down horseshoe above a doorway is a common sight in a smithy. A superstitious blacksmith and apprentice believe that the luck from the horseshoe will flow toward him or her, their tools, and eventually to whatever project they are working on. Perhaps there might even be some luck left over to keep a steady flow of paying customers to the door of the blacksmith shop.
Horseshoes were originally made from iron, which may also account for the superstitions that are associated with this object.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 withstood 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 its good luck was that it was commonly held in place by seven iron nails. Since ancient times, the number seven has been 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.
So the next time you stop by the smithy at Walker Ranch or the Agricultural Heritage Center, look up and take notice of our good luck charms. And make sure to take a bit of luck home with you!