Appalachia Through My Eyes – Horseshoes Are Lucky

  My life in appalachia - Horseshoes are Lucky
Horseshoes are lucky-at least they're supposed to be. My Granny Gazzie had horseshoes wrapped in aluminum foil above a few of her doorways. Seems like I remember at least 2: one in the kitchen and one at the front door. You're supposed to hang them with the curve facing down and the two sides facing up-so all that good luck doesn't just poor out. 

I found the horseshoe in the photo several years ago in Pap's big garden. Pap said it probably came off his Grandpa's horse or mule. Since I found it-it's been hanging outside my front door.

According to Frank C. Brown's Collection of NC Folklore:

  • You know the old saying-if the sun is shining while it's raining it means the Devil is beating his wife? I've heard that all my life-but not this part: if you lay an old horseshoe on the ground-place a white cloth over it-and put your ear to the cloth-you can hear the beating. I'm not sure I want to hear actually hear the Devil beating his wife, but hmm… is it tempting.
  • To ward off evil carry a horseshoe nail. (I used to have a ring made from a horseshoe nail-ever seen one of those?)
  • Nail a horseshoe to the hog trough to protect the hogs.
  • While churning butter-if it fails to come and gather-put a horseshoe in the fire.
  • If you find a horseshoe-hang it in a tree for good luck.
  • Horseshoes nailed above the door will keep conjuring spirits out.
  • A horseshoe can be placed in the fire to protect your sheep herd.
  • Place a horseshoe at the bottom of your bed to ward off evil.

Unless you have horses yourself, its not as common for folks to come in contact with horseshoes today-especially old ones. Makes me wonder how many kids would know what an aluminum foil covered horseshoe meant.

Tipper

Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    Lynn
    June 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    My friend’s grandfather has them hanging upside down, with the “u” open to the floor, over his doors. I’m told by elders that this is done to ward off evil spirits.

  • Reply
    Cyndia
    April 30, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Where I grew up, we still had a blacksmith in town that shoed everyone’s horses. My granddaddy was a horse trader and spent many an hour down there jawing with his buddies. There was a big shade tree over the shop, and several straight chairs propped underneath for those who wanted to “set and whittle”. Sadly, as progress moved in, the smithy moved out.
    Soon after buying my current home, I was out thrifting and came across an old horseshoe that was painted that wonderful 50s green. It now hangs in a “U” over my front door. Down below is the old doorbell in the shape of a horse that is just like the one my grandmother had.
    It’s so nice to have those things that reminds me of my childhood.

  • Reply
    Becky
    April 21, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Around here we have several old horseshoes that have been found here on the farm. I haven’t done anything with them yet. But I am hanging onto them. Never heard of wrapping them in foil. And I don’t think I want to hear the beating either! I would love to have a ring made from a horseshoe nail. Now you know I’ll be researching that one!!!

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    April 18, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I’ve heard of people hanging them above the door..I never did give it much though after I got one wrapped around my foot one time..had to lay with my foot proped up for a week before i could walk on it…

  • Reply
    RB
    April 17, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Boggles the mind how some believed in these things. It would be interesting to research it just to see who came up with each one and why they thought that, wouldn’t it.
    As for me, I don’t believe in luck; I believe in God and the promises He has set forth in His Word. ;o)
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Tipper
    April 17, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Martina-Im positive she wrapped it in foil-because she thought it made it prettier : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    martina
    April 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I’m still wondering wh Granny Gazzie covered the doorway horseshoe in aluminum foil. Was it for a specific reason or just because it looked more decorative?

  • Reply
    Sally K - North Coast Muse
    April 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Passed this one “A horseshoe can be placed in the fire to protect your sheep herd” along to a friend of mine who is a newby shepherd. Never heard that one before…

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    April 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Tipper,
    Well, here you’all are horsin’ around again…I found a horseshoe nail in my Moms little treasure box that she put all kinds of little knic-knacks in… There were a couple of very old buckeyes, a tiny lock and key, a few old dry seeds of a pumpkin, gourd or squash..a broken tiny
    chain, a vintage hairpin…etc..
    There was always a horseshoe hanging up over one of thes door somewhere…Iron was supposed to have saved Ireland so any iron is considered lucky…especially finding a lost horseshoe by you after the horse lost it…I read that a horseshoe made from the sword of a slain soldier would garuntee a swift and tireless steed…
    I think the aluminum foil was wrapped on the shoe for keeping it shiny and for cleaness…I think Granny could’nt bare a shoe that had trod thru “shish n’shat”….nasty…ewwww…LOL
    Great post Tipper,

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    April 16, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Aside from using horseshoes for horses and maybe other animals, I only used them for a good game of horseshoes around a stake. I might have to rethink my perceptions of them.

  • Reply
    Ron Perry, Sr.
    April 16, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Kids today, when they think of horseshoes think of the large ones that are made and used for pitching horseshoes. When I was a kid, we couldn’t afford store bought pitching shoes so we used the ones that came off horses. They were not all the same size, shape or weight so it presented a real challenge plus they are generally smaller than the ones made especially for horseshoe pitching.

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    April 16, 2012 at 11:10 am

    We have a horseshoe hanging over the door – open end up so the luck won’t run out. Never heard of the aluminum foil either, but I have heard of the song Ed mentioned! Don’t lay on the ground listening for the devil, Tipper!
    They’re coming to take me away, ha-ha,
    They’re coming to take me away, ho-ho,
    hee hee, haa haa
    To the happy home
    With trees and flowers and chirping birds
    And basket-weavers who sit and smile
    And twiddle their thumbs and toes
    And they’re coming to take me away, ha-hahaha…

  • Reply
    Glynda
    April 16, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Well, I certainly remember my mama saying many times the one about the devil beating his wife if it’s raining and the sun is shining and I find myself saying it sometimes too but I don’t remember ever hearing the part about laying a horseshoe on the ground with a white cloth on it and being able to hear the beating. I just might be tempted to try that one day. Also I’m not sure what the meaning is of covering the horseshoes with foil when hanging them above your door, I have seen horseshoes nailed on to the side of barns or barn doors but not with foil on them. Very interesting Tipper, thanks for this great post today.

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    April 16, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I have always heard that horse shoe’s were good luck and I have one hanging over the entrance to our house and i have one hanging by the door to my workshop.
    Never did understand the meaning of wrapping them in alumininum foil before, maybe you can help and tell me why.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 16, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Tipper–I’ve found or seen a bunch of horseshoes over the years, and I guess I’m lucky to have had a good life. Bill and Ed are exactly right about dangers posed by hanging them in trees. I remember Daddy talking about some kind of accident at the plant (Carolina Woodturning Company, which for many years sawed their own wood for the furniture they made) connected with a piece of iron which a tree had grown around.
    Ed, your father was right on target about cutting cedar trees. They do indeed serve as carriers for a rust which is harmful to apples.
    Before leaving the matter of luck, tipper, if you’ll send me your mailing address I’ve got a bunch of pressed four-leaf clovers to send you, just to prove the statement I made about having found thousands in my lifetime. I’ve picked them as I noticed them since your blog on the subject. I probably have a dozen or two, but if you really need a lot I reckon I could go on a hunting expedition and get a bunch more.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    April 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Tipper this has nothing to do with horseshoes but I feel I need to respond to Ed Ammons and Jim Casada’s posts. Ed, I have a Needmore Cedar which I transplanted from outside my Grandma Breedlove’s kitchen window that is within twenty yards of my Rome Apple Tree, there is no rust on the fruit. To Jim, I don’t know who your authority is but the only way I could be more verbose than thee would be to just stay up longer, Claude Gossett would be proud of the both of us. I suspect your authority may be named Don and he can hold his own with the best of us. Have a good day Cousins, maybe it’s in the Genes.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 16, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Is there a difference in horseshoe nails and regular cut nails? I’ve seen horses being shod before and the nails looked like the nails you use to put down tongue and grooved oak flooring. I didn’t think to ask at the time. If someone can splain it, I’d like to know.

  • Reply
    Jen
    April 16, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I have several horseshoes above doorways here. Turned up so the luck doesn’t fall out. My great grandfather was a blacksmith and my Mom has several that he made.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 16, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Bill-My dad wouldn’t have a cedar tree on the place. He said they caused rust on apple trees. He cut down every one he saw. Now what’s that got to do with horseshoes?

  • Reply
    Lise
    April 16, 2012 at 9:15 am

    We have a horseshoe hanging inside our cabin over the front door!

  • Reply
    MadSnapper
    April 16, 2012 at 8:47 am

    i think there are a lot of kids that would not even know what a horseshoe was if they saw it. i have always heard about being good luck to have one over the doorway. most of these were new to me, a few i had heard.

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    April 16, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Yep the shoe is a U to hold the luck in, downward and it falls out. Speaking of the horse shoe nail rings, someone recently told my son about that and now he makes them! There is quite a demand for them, as well as cross necklaces made from two. They are all so pretty in a simple and lovely way. Thanks Tipper!

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    April 16, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Horseshoe nostalgia is charming, and yours truly is the last one to risk the Devil’s wrath by denying their positive influence. But why do horsehoes, of all things, have this magic quality? Perhaps they remind us to “be prepared,” as the Boy Scouts say, ready to ride and spread the alarm and to keep our powder dry, in case we see the British coming.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    April 16, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I have heard about the good luck leaking out if the shoe was hung “open end down. As for hanging them in trees I agree that this can present a danger to future Sawyers as the tree can grow around the shoe which can cause a saw blade to explode when it strikes it. My Grandfather had planted two cedars in front of the “Old Needmore Post Office”, as they grew someone nailed horseshoes to them to tie horses to. These trees became huge and my Dad had told me if I ever cut them they had the horseshoes grown up in them so not to saw the bottom log. Eventually lightning hit both Cedars and killed them, when I cut them I left the first eight foot log off both trees to burn with the brush and hauled the other logs to Mill. When I went back to burn the brush someone had stolen the two logs I had left to burn. I hope no injury resulted from this but I’m sure they were disappointed by their ill gotten gain by the time they paid for a new Saw Blade. Rogues need to realize that when they see something valuable lying around there may be a reason that it has been left behind.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 16, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I’ve never heard of the she wrapped in foil. Anxiously awaiting the explanation.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    April 16, 2012 at 7:47 am

    I had not heard any of these sayings before…. they are interesting, for sure! I also always heard that the ends of the horseshoe should be pointing up. Tipper, maybe you should nail yours above the door cuz the way it’s hanging now, some of the good luck could fall out!
    Now this makes me want to go look for an old horseshoe. I do live in a very rural area where folks have and use horses.

  • Reply
    kat
    April 16, 2012 at 7:39 am

    The only old saying about horseshoesthat I’ve heard was to hang one above your door for good luck. Think it had to be upside down also.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 16, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Ed, I remember that song but it’s been a looooong time!
    Congratulations to Garland Davis for winning the Comin’ Round the Mountain Giveaway. You,ll have to tell us all about it.
    I always heard horse shoes were good luck but I never heard all those details, Tipper. Back in the time of your grandmother aluminum foil was new and looked on as something rare, mysterious, and shiny like a space ship.
    My mother in law called it lumial foil.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    April 16, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Pop always said if you nailed up a horshoe it had to be in the ‘U’ shape or the luck would run out.

  • Reply
    Marianne
    April 16, 2012 at 7:16 am

    I was always told if you find a horse shoe to hang it from the nearest fence post, my Uncle was a woodsman, we learned to respect the forest and the land at early ages.
    I had a horse shoe ring and a bracelet that a friend welded together for me, hmmm wonder where that is now..

  • Reply
    Tipper
    April 16, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Gorges-Yikes-that is a good point!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    April 16, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Judydee-As far as I know the foil was just to make it pretty : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Stevie
    April 16, 2012 at 6:54 am

    You’re right. I wonder if most kids would recognize a horseshoe. Our pony doesn’t even have shoes so my kids might be clueless, too. I remember my grandparents saying you had to be sure to hang the horseshoe so that the U was facing up and it held in the good luck instead of pouring it out. Stevie@ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com

  • Reply
    judydee
    April 16, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Why was the horseshoe wrapped in foil? For sanitary reasons, or other? Really enjoy your posts.

  • Reply
    Gorges Smythe
    April 16, 2012 at 6:49 am

    “•If you find a horseshoe-hang it in a tree for good luck.”
    It’s not good luck for the sawmill operator a hundred years down the road. PLEASE don’t do that!
    Never saw anyone wrap a horseshoe in foil. That’s new to me.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 16, 2012 at 5:33 am

    You better look to see who’s watching before you put your ear to that white cloth laying on the ground. “They’ll be coming to take you away, haha.”
    Remember that? Not you Tipper, you ain’t old enough.

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