The Horseshoe Cross appears in several forms: a cross inside a horseshoe with the open ends pointing up or pointing down, a horseshoe hanging on a cross, a cross made from several horseshoes, or any other variation. It is a cross, but the eye cannot help focusing on the horseshoe.
The meaning of the cross is well documented on this site and elsewhere. Here, we'll look at the meaning of the horseshoe, and why it should be associated with a Christian cross. But first, let's look at other uses of the horseshoe:
Horseshoes are used for a variety of purposes (for example hoopla) but the main purpose is of course for shoeing horses. Like human shoes, a horseshoe protects from injury and everyday wear and tear. The days of the traditional blacksmith, hammering white-hot iron on an anvil, are all but over. Today's horseshoes are usually made from steel or aluminium.
Thousands of years ago, as horses became domesticated animals, their lifestyle changed - in particular, their diet. This had an adverse effect on the durability of their hooves and made horses prone to problems such as laminitis. So it was not long after domestication began that owners started doing something to protect the feet of their assets; first with strap-on sandals and later with nailed-on iron shoes.
Faeries (the rather unpleasant Celtic goblins who steal thimbles, babies and old folk) don't like iron. Whether or not this is fact depends on whether you believe in faeries. But the logic goes that these ancient little people of the Stone Age with their flint arrows, were overrun by nasty invaders with iron weapons. So in Fairy lore, iron is bad news. An iron horseshoe on your door is a convenient way to ward off these bothersome beings. (Incidentally, the word 'faeries' sounds a bit like 'ferrarius', the Latin for iron. Now isn't that ironic!)
There's nothing in the history books to suggest that people who hung a horseshoe on their door suffered mysterious disappearances of thimbles, babies or old-folk, so it must have been a good idea. It's not surprising horseshoes have evolved into general-purpose good luck charms.
Some believe that the orientation of the horseshoe is important. Apparently, good luck flows from the ends of a horseshoe, so if these are pointing downwards, then the good luck will drain away. However, in some cultures, the opposite is believed - the downward pointing ends ensure good luck pours into the owner. And it is the owner who benefits. If a horseshoe is stolen or borrowed (both common events?), good luck will go to the rightful owner. If a horseshoe is found, then the finder becomes the rightful owner. Also, for it to yield good luck, a horseshoe must have been used by a horse. (Because...?)
Corollary: If you buy a nice new silver lucky horseshoe from a jewelry store, the only good fortune will be to the store.
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