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Romany Gypsies and their Lucky Horseshoes

Romany Gypsies and their Lucky Horseshoes

As well as most people in the UK and Western Europe, gypsies have their superstitions and traditions. They too have traditionally hung a horse shoe over the horse drawn wagon (known as a vardo) to bring good luck, and to protect against evil spirits. Gypsy women, much as they do now, would wear a gold or silver horseshoe around their necks, and if someone found an abandoned horseshoe and it still had its nails in, it would be considered a year’s worth of good luck. 
However, if it was found facing upwards then this would be considered extremely bad luck, spat upon and thrown over the left shoulder, much as we do with salt. Found with the ends facing away it could be kept and hung over the door.

Picture: Shutterstock
Vardo, Picture ± 1920 from the University Library

Gypsy tales and the lucky horseshoe

The Gypsies also have their own story of how the horseshoe came to represent good luck. Four demons going by the name of Unhappiness, Bad Luck, Ill health and death, chased a gypsy on horseback and the bad luck demon started to close the gap, suddenly the horse threw a shoe, knocking the Bad Luck demon on the head and killing him instantly. The Gypsy took the shoe home, while the other demons buried their brother. They plotted revenge, but did they get the Gypsy…who knows? 
Perhaps the Gypsy hung the shoe over the door and prevented the demons from entering his house. That would have proved one useful way of preventing the demons from exacting their terrible revenge.

Classic Vardo, picture

The Vardo – that famous Romany horse and carriage

As mentioned earlier horseshoes would often be hung upwards over the door of a vardo or horse drawn wagon/carriage and these would often be hand painted. Hours of painstaking work went into decorating the wagon, and travelling in the vardo was a way of life the Romany gypsies relished. The horseshoes are still sold today and are extremely popular, even if they are only admired for their beauty rather than their ability to bestow good luck to the owner. Often the doorway of the vardo would be exquisitely decorated with gold scrollwork and the most beautiful hand painted horseshoes, and always the right way up.

Canal boats and painted lucky horseshoes

Interestingly canal boats or narrow boats as they are also known, have similar craft art and decorations as the Romany gypsies, although the origins are harder to trace. In Britain at least, the inside and outside of the canal boats are often beautifully hand painted, and yes they have the lucky horse shoe. In fact these hand painted horse shoes are also sold separately as with the Romany ones. They’re real horse shoes that are hand painted and to be hung (upright of course!) from the door. Canal boats also have a tradition of crocheted items too, including horse shoes.

Gypsy wedding

Good Luck for a wedding

So in the UK you can have your horseshoes anyway you want them. You can have them in silver for a wedding and garnished with ribbons. You can hang a brass or wooden shoe over the doorway, or if you fancy your luck brought to you with colour and flowers, then look to the Romany gypsies or the narrow boat shoes for a little splash of tradition and hang them wherever you like. 

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