Lucky Horseshoe – Irish, Scottish, Welsh traditions
In Wales the tradition of having a horseshoe is similar in nature to the English. They may be hung above doorways, or as is usually the case, given to the bride on her wedding day. They’re not always given by a child, except for those who are intent on keeping the traditions.
However, there’s another way that a horseshoe is given as a gift to the bride, or to a friend in order to bring good luck. This is by giving a love spoon as a gift to the happy couple. This is a tradition that’s well known in Wales, going back hundreds of years, but is also well known in Scandinavia and parts of Eastern Europe.
An old tradition
The Welsh love spoon dates back to the 17th century and are decorative rather than functional. It took many generations of carvings before the spoon lost its functional use and became a decorative gift. It’s usually hung on the wall and each carefully carved item on the spoon will represent something. A love spoon that’s given as a gift to a wedding couple will have different symbols all the way down the spoon’s handle, with a horseshoe
for good luck featured somewhere. This is an excellent way of getting the horseshoe on to the love spoon – the wedding couple may even another horseshoe given to them traditionally on the day by a female member of the family (usually a child).
In Ireland the tradition of the lucky horseshoe is the same as it is everywhere else – given to the bride on the day and held upright to give luck to the happy couple. It would seem this is mostly a wedding theme for horseshoes the same as it is for most of Wales and England, with the tradition of hanging them above the door less common.
In Scotland, again the horseshoe is a sign of good luck. Horseshoes were often pinned to the outside of barn doors, upright, and for centuries the horseshoe’s arc represented the hooded serpent. This is similar in nature to the Ceylon Nagendra – serpent king. This was seen as a protective sign and brought great benefits to the owners of the shoe. Although the Scottish have their own traditions when it comes to weddings, they too see the horseshoe as a bringer of luck. A modern wedding in Scotland will blend old traditions with new ideas to bring a modern, fresh twist to the day. A horseshoe will be given to the bride in much the same way as an English, or welsh wedding – although of course without the love spoon!
In some parts of Scotland it was believed that if the first shoe on a horse was hung on the barn door then the cows would be safe from harm. A horse shoe could also be placed between the 2 houses of neighbours that were arguing and would protect both from the ill feelings of both neighbours. So there you have the Celtic way of using the luck of a horseshoe, it’s fascinating to see how the lucky horseshoe tradition varies across the 3 countries and provides fresh ideas for utilizing the lucky horseshoe if you’re thinking of providing one as a gift to a loved
one or friend.