You have a horseshoe hanging in your stable for good luck, but do you know how it came to be a symbol of fortune?
Horseshoes have made their way into pop culture, from the game of horseshoes to marshmallows in Lucky Charms cereal to jewelry.
Worn and distressed horseshoes are traditionally hung above stable doors on farms around the globe. But just what superstition are farmers playing into when they retire a horse shoe?
Across the planet, horseshoes have been important in religion, security, and magic. Due to the widespread reliance of horses over the centuries, it is not surprising that the animals were held in such high regard, or that a symbol of the species--the horseshoe--would come to signify good things.
In fact, horses have played an important role in historical culture. Domestication dates back to 3000 BC, five millennia after dogs, the first domesticated animal. But the equine relationship with humans was evident long before then. Wild horse bones have been excavated in villages, where horses were part of ancient meals. Horses adorned cave walls in paintings and carvings depicting predators and prey.
Five thousand years ago, humans began taming horses, first for food. However, the use of equines in transportation was quickly realized and helped shape trade, communication, and, ultimately, civilizations. Horses were relied upon for transportation for thousands of years before invention of trains and automobiles. As reliance upon them grew, so did the human-equine bond, including the care administered to these creatures as they became heartland pets.
Constantly walking with heavy loads on rough terrain, horses needed something to protect their hooves. As early as 100 BC, the horse shoe was developed. When the shoes were replaced, households began saving them, using the shoe for protection and luck.
Some say if the shoe is hung upside down, the luck is said to have run out. Others say the shoe pointing downward releases its good fortune onto those who pass over the threshold. Most decorative horseshoes have seven holes because traditionally, iron horse shoes were secured to the hoof with seven nails.
The origin of the horseshoe as a symbol of luck is linked to myths and legends spanning numerous genres. The hoofed devil was said to have donned horse shoes and was told never to enter a home with a horse shoe above the door. Witches were believed to fear horses, so hanging a horseshoe warded them off. Those witches who were burned at the stake and then buried had horseshoes nailed to their coffins to prevent their resurrection.
Whatever the reason for the horseshoe becoming a symbol of good luck, the tradition has lived on for centuries, showing that horses are as important in today's society as they were in ancient culture.