Lucky Horseshoes

Lucky Horseshoes - The Paranormal Museum
These four horseshoes were found embedded in the exterior walls of a stone dwelling in France. © Ethereal ProductionsThought to increase one's fortune and ward off evil influences, people have been hanging horseshoes in their homes for centuries. © Ethereal ProductionsHistorically it has been believed that iron has the power to repel ghosts, fairies, witches, and other malignant paranormal creatures. © Ethereal Productions

These four horseshoes were found embedded in the exterior walls of an 18th century stone dwelling in Brittany, France.

Horseshoes have a long history of being associated with augmented fortune and the ability to repel evil influences. Traditionally made from iron, it was believed that the very material of the horseshoe had the power to ward off or harm malevolent paranormal entities.

In the 10th century the idea of the lucky horseshoe was augmented by the legend of St. Dunstan. A pious and charitable clergyman, St. Dunstan held a series of important ecclesiastic offices in England, including the Archbishopric of Canterbury, before his death in 988. According to legend, it was during his time living as a hermit in Glastonbury that St. Dunstan encountered the Devil. Disguised as a “tramping vagrant”, the Devil commissioned St. Dunstan, who was a skilled blacksmith, to complete some metalwork for him. Seeing through his deception, the holy hermit seized the Devil by his diabolic hoof. St. Dunstan proceeded to shoe the beast, furiously nailing a metal horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof. When he was done, the saint only agreed to remove the shoe and free the Devil after he promised he would never pass through a door over which a horseshoe hangs. Since then, the hanging of a horseshoe outside one’s home acquired a religious twist, being associated with protection from the Devil.

A passage from Edward G. Flight’s 1871 The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of St. Dunstan and the Devil:

You all to heed my warning

Over your threshold, on your mast

Be sure the horse-shoe’s well nailed fast

Protecting and adorning

Traditionally, it is said that the luckiest horseshoe is always found accidentally, in the vicinity of an old smithy or along a road. The talismanic power of the horseshoe also extended to fishermen and sailors. In some fishing fleets it was customary to keep bad weather at bay by nailing a horseshoe to the mast. This sailors’ superstition was so prevalent that even Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, the level-headed British naval hero, ensured one was attached to the foremast of HMS Victory.


* * *


Title: Lucky horseshoes
Date/Culture: c.18th century (Industrious Revolution – France)
Associated place: Brittany, France (find spot)
Material and technique: Iron / Iron alloy
Object type: Horseshoe
Dimensions: all approx. 14 cm (height) ; 14cm (width)
No. of items: 4
Museum location: Online
Museum collection: Amulets & Talismans
Accession no.: PM2018.16