Good luck charms in the United Kingdom

The horseshoe superstition dates back to a time when the most acceptable method of transportation was by horse. Blacksmiths and farriers were extremely important to the British economy as they kept the country moving.

Farrier in the UK

St. Dunstan with the devil

Saint Dunstan

It is said that a blacksmith named Dunstan was once asked to attach horseshoes to a man he believed to be the devil. He did so, and when the devil cried out in pain, he captured him. He let him go on the understanding that the devil would never set foot in a Christian building again. He would know which homes to avoid as they would have a horseshoe hanging above their door. Dunstan became the Archbishop of Canterbury soon after, and is now known as Saint Dunstan. It is now considered very lucky to have a horseshoe above the door.
7 horseshoenails

Seven nails

They were generally held in place on a horse’s foot with seven nails. Seven was thought to be a lucky number. If someone came across a horseshoe pointing in their direction, this was a very good omen. They were supposed to pick it up and count how many nails were still in place. Depending on which superstition they followed, the number of nails could represent either the number of years they would have good luck for, or the number of years they would have to wait for good luck.

Wedding horseshoe
Camilla Parker Bowles with a Good Luck horseshoe at her wedding with Prince Charles.

Good luck charm

It is more difficult to find horseshoes lying around today. However, you only have to dream about finding a horseshoe for it to be able to give you good luck. Some people choose to hang their horseshoes over their beds as good luck charm. This is an effort to ward off bad dreams.
Despite the invention of alternative means of transport, the horseshoe continues to be a recognized good luck charm. A quarter of British people are superstitious, and it is customary for a bride to receive a horseshoe charm on her wedding day. It usually has a ribbon which is attached to each shoulder of the horseshoe. The bride must hang it from this ribbon to ensure it is always the correct way up. If the horseshoe is tipped upside down, the luck is thought to fall out. These gifts are usually made of plastic and are adorned with ribbon, lace, and diamantes to make them prettier. Many people choose to wear a horseshoe on a charm bracelet, so that the luck can follow them wherever they go.


Good Luck for a wedding

Grey Mare

An extension of this superstition is that it is good luck to see a grey horse on your way to the wedding. Many couples choose to arrive by horse and cart, and it is lucky to have a grey horse pulling the cart. The luckiest horseshoe comes from a Grey Mare.

Horseshoe Stonehenge


Horseshoes have been celebrated by the British for a very long time. The historic Stonehenge was built in a horseshoe shape. Despite nobody knowing the real reason for this creation, many believe that it was built by sun worshippers. The horseshoe shape is placed in the ideal way to catch the maximum amount of sun.

The three horseshoes

115 pubs

Another great British institution is the public house. There are around 115 pubs named The Three Horseshoes. These were always positioned near farrier’s yards, on the understanding that a horse with only three horseshoes could not be working. So while its passengers waited for its final horseshoe to be fitted, they could visit the pub. Pubs further out of town were often called The Four Horseshoes as it was expected that the horse would have all of its shoes by then, but that the passengers might want a pit stop anyway. The name is now associated with bringing custom to the bars.


Good Luck sit fondly in the heart

There are many superstitions and ideas about good luck charms in the United Kingdom. However, the horseshoe is one of the few that does not have sinister alternative to it. It symbolizes good luck only, and will continue to sit fondly in the hearts of many.