The horseshoe is traditionally said to bring good luck and I’ve found a few in my time. I’ve even used one as a talisman and nailed it to the door of a shed I had erected. They were never thrown in the hedge and discarded. The more common shoe was always nailed to the door with the ends pointing up.
“Horseshoes have long been considered lucky. They were originally made of iron, a material which was believed to ward off evil spirits, and traditionally were held in place with seven nails, seven being the luckiest number. The superstition acquired a further Christian twist due to a legend surrounding the 10th century saint Dunstan, who worked as a blacksmith before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. The legend recounts that, one day, the Devil walked into Dunstan’s shop and asked him to shoe his horse. Dunstan pretended not to recognize him, and agreed to the request; but rather than nailing the shoe to the horse’s hoof, he nailed it to the Devil’s own foot, causing him great pain. Dunstan eventually agreed to remove the shoe, but only after extracting a promise that the Devil would never enter a household with a horseshoe nailed to the door.
Opinion is divided as to which way up the horseshoe ought to be nailed. Some say the ends should point up, so that the horseshoe catches the luck; others say they should point down, so that the luck is poured upon those entering the home. Superstitious sailors believe that nailing a horseshoe to the mast will help their vessel avoid storms”. Extract from Wikipedia.
I guess the idea was that it would act as a kind of storage container for any ‘good luck’ that was floating by. To hang it the other way meant it was bad, as all the good luck would fall out. So, next time you find another horseshoe, remember to look after it for it could be the prelude to finding some thing big!
Dave Knight of Ontario in Canada was detecting on a bleak day with fog, drizzle and a cold wind. In his mind was all the treasure he was going to find, and that spurred him on. It didn’t quite work out like he’d imagined, but was pleased to find an early Lower Canada halfpenny token, literally on his last pass, which is in the time-honoured detectorist manner.
He also found an unusual horseshoe, similar to a couple he’d found on earlier visits to the same field. As you can see from the picture these were not open like the traditional horseshoe. This type is called a straight bar or corrective shoe and was designed for a number of reasons, but primarily to correct heel related problems for an animal with a broken up hoof wall unable to hold enough nails to keep the shoe on.
Whether these shoes have the same lucky qualities as the conventional type, Dave has yet to find out. He says that he regards detecting in the cold, mud and rain as a kind of challenge. Maybe the next time it’ll all be worth it … with the help of those ‘magical’ shoes, of course!
The term ‘bar shoe’ encompasses any type of shoe with a closed heel rather than an open heel. I don’t claim to be an expert, but those wishing to know more are advised to consult Mr Google. The sites are numerous – this is just one of a kind.
Another Unusual Find
I suppose finding a horseshoe for most detectorists is no big deal, and they may discard them as ‘hedge fodder’, but they can prove to be very interesting. Keith Dodds posted an example on the NRH detecting forum recently, one that was last used in the 17th and 18 centuries. You will notice the spatulate ending to the arms gives a ‘keyhole’ appearance – bottom, middle in the illustration below.
Information of this nature – and all things to do with the countryside – may be gleaned from a small book, Rescuing the Past, edited by Ann Cripps. ISBN 0 7153 6071 X. Worth checking out! Here’s a page from Ann’s book:
You read above that shoes were traditionally held on with SEVEN nails, because that was deemed to be lucky. I’d never seen one (apart from Ann’s illustration above). When Tony Bibby found an example, he concluded that the blacksmith couldn’t count. He now knows it was deliberate. Thanks to ‘Bibbsy’ of the BMD forum for allowing me to use his find.
A hoard of rare Celtic shoes, known as wavy-rim shoes can be seen on the thegeorgianforge pages. Take time to explore this great site with useful and interesting information on horse and oxen shoes.
“Detectorists get a bad press …”
From an article in The Post Hole. Alexandra Cameron talks to Amy Downes, Finds Liaison Officer for South & West Yorkshire. The full interview makes interesting reading and can be seen by clicking HERE.
“Metal detectorists get bad press, but the vast majority of the ones I meet are enthusiastic about archaeology, and responsible about the way they pursue their hobby. It’s worth remembering that most of their finds are from the topsoil, where objects are very much at risk of damage from farming. The finds are usually already out of context, and detectorists rescue them from further damage or destruction. The data being produced from recording detected finds does have the potential to change our understanding of archaeology.”