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Ancient Horseshoe Traditions

Oakham Castle – Rutland, Lincolnshire

horseshoe tradition at Oakham Castle

There is a tradition in Rutland that any reigning monarch or peer of the realm who visits the county for the first time should present a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor. This custom is over 500 years old and still continues today. There are now over 200 horseshoes on display at Oakham Castle, the oldest said to have been given by Edward IV in around 1470 . In Rutland horseshoes are hung upside down, apparently to prevent the devil from making a nest in the bottom of the horseshoe. The horseshoe on the county’s flag is also shown upside down.

Irish Wedding Tradition - a porcelain horseshoe

decorated horseshoe on mulberry tree at home kitchen display unit

This is one of those traditions that isn't widely seen.

The association of horseshoes and good luck is very old and hanging a horseshoe over a door was thought to bring good luck to the occupants.

This tradition became popular for weddings, and the bride would carry a horseshoe on their wedding day to bring good luck to the occasion and the whole of the marriage.

As horseshoes are very heavy the tradition changed over the years and now in Celtic nations the bride carries a small symbol of the horseshoe, made of silver, or porcelain hidden in the bouquet or carried alongside it.

St Dunstan

There is a legend that tells of a blacksmith called Dunstan, although there are so many versions of the story.   One of these is that he was approached by a man wanting horseshoes put on his feet. Dunstan immediately recognised the man as Satan himself and so firmly nailed the shoes in place. Satan was racked with unbearable pain and so Dunstan took the opportunity to chain him up. Dunstan then made a bargain with Satan that he would release him only on the condition that he promised never to enter any building that had a horseshoe hung over the door. Dunstan later went on to become St. Dunstan the archbishop of Canterbury in 959AD.

Blacksmiths

Blacksmith Farrier Horseshoe

Being a blacksmith was considered to be a lucky trade, and as horseshoes were made by blacksmiths they were considered lucky.  Blacksmiths were thought to have special powers and they worked with magical iron and elemental fire.  A couple married by a blacksmith would be said to have a happy marriage.  A blacksmith was also reputed to be able to heal the sick. 

Wedding Horseshoe

Horseshoes are given at weddings as a symbol of good luck, although the actual reason for this is not clear and history is full of different stories, although for luck the horseshoe should not be hung upside down Ancient pre-Christian supernatural power was attributed to the horseshoe and for the Greeks, it was seen as a symbol of fertility as it symbolised the crescent moon.  It is also linked to the legend of Dunstan and the promise Satan gave to him never to enter a house of a Christian which he would recognise by the horseshoe hung over the door.

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