The Significance of Horseshoes and Rubies
Written and Researched by Margaret Sypniewska
The power of the horseshoe has been recognized since before the birth of Christ. A horseshoe is a U-shaped metal frame, usually of iron, that is nailed to a horse's hoof to give protection against wearing them down on rough surfaces. In legend, a man named Jastrzebryk, a blacksmith(?) (in 999) was thought to be the first Polish man to use horseshoes for the protection of his horse's hooves. However, we know that horseshoes were actually used by the Greeks as early as the 4th century B.C. Since horses were believed to be one of the most sacred of animals, their crescent-shaped shoes became symbols of good luck. Horseshoes were often nailed over the outside thresholds of houses and barns so that witches could not enter. Horseshoes were thought to protect and bring good luck.
On May Day, it was traditional to take down all horse-shoes and turn them, being careful not to let them touch the ground. Horseshoes can also be hung over the fireplace for luck, and even over the entrances of mines. Many think the heels should point upwards (but this is not universal). People think this because they believe if the shoe is hung with the ends pointing downwards, positive ill-luck may be drawn upwards, and all the good luck will disappear into the ground or drip out.
Interestingly enough, the towns of Burlton and Oakham, in England, charged a "toll of the horseshoes," which was collected from every peer and member of the Royal family, who passed through their towns. Horseshoes are prominent in their town's coat of arms.
Horses are considered lucky too, and to dream of a horse or to see a horse is particularly fortunate.
St. Dunstan was a learned metal working, painting and harp-playing man. He was born in the village of Baltonsborough (near Glastonbury) in 909. His parents, Herstan and Cynedritha, were of noble stock. His relative was St. Alphege, the Bald, Bishop of Winchester. St. Dunstan, in legend, once shod the Devil. He did this shodding so painfully that he made the Devil promise to never enter a dwelling where a horsehoe is displayed. Scottish legends tell of how a farmer shod a horse one night to find, the next day, a woman of the village (suspected of witchcraft) lying in agony with horseshoes nailed to her hands and feet. Saintly horsemen include: St. Hubert, St. Eustache, St. Martin, and dragon-slayer St. George.
Early religions considered crescent or u-shaped objects powerful signs. Temples in Middle and South America were built with arched doorways. The Moors built mosques with arched doorways. Arched windows were built in the Middle Ages as a means of protection against evil. The crescent is venerated in the Middle East.
Finding a horseshoe will bring good luck, and found horseshoes have ten times the power of bought ones. Horseshoes are also placed on the foremasts of sailing ships as a amulet for safe voyages.
Iron horseshoes are the most lucky. Iron originally came from Cyrus (in ancient times). Iron was born from the marriage of rock and fire. As most know, iron and fire were two of the basic elements in ancient times. Blacksmiths used these components to produce swords, horseshoes, and many other useful items. Blacksmiths were considered good luck because of their abilities. In ancient times, blacksmiths were always invited to attend wedding, they were thought to be able to keep evil away. Iron is believed to repel all the malignant influences. Iron is often derived from meteorites. In early civilizations, iron objects made from meteorites were considered gifts from the gods and very powerful.
It is customary in North America and Europe to present the bride with an ornament in the shape of a horseshoe, as a token of good luck.
In fairy tales, horses are often prophetic creatures with magical powers. Horses were symbols of supremacy, generosity, and courage, the horse went hand-in-hand with medieval chivalry. The horse carried its master into battles for king, country, and faith. The Polish Cavalry was said to have charged German tanks during World War II (Saunders, 83).
The horse goddess, Epona, was associated with water, fertility, and death. Horses were sacrificed in Celtic Europe, and would become their master's soul mounts for the symbolic ride of death.
The most elaborate of all Vedic rituals of India, was the "Horse Sacrifice." The horse was chosen one year in advance by the king. From that time on, until the sacred ceremony, both king and horse had to remain celibate. The horse could wander freely but was always escorted by the king's men. On the appointed day, the stallion was led to the city and presented with a mare. When the stallion neighed with joy, he was suffocated (Waterstone).