According to English lore, a blacksmith named Dunstan—who later became St. Dunstan—was approached by the Devil to make shoes for the Devil’s own hoofed feet. Dunstan tricked the Devil by making an iron chain and chaining the Devil to the wall of his shop. The Devil was enraged. Dunstan struck a bargain with him to let him go on condition that he promise never to enter any building or home that had a horsehoe hung over the doorway. The Devil agreed, but only if the horsehoe had its ends pointing up, not down.
A horseshoe placed in a chimney will prevent a witch from flying in on her broom. A horseshoe nailed to one’s bed will repel nightmares and Demons. To be effective, the horseshoe must never be removed once it is installed. In Irish lore, a horseshoe nailed over the threshold of a door keeps fairies out of the house. In more recent lore, the horseshoe brings good luck.
- Cahill, Robert Ellis. Strange Superstitions. Danvers, mass.: Old Saltbox Publishing, 1990.
- Opie, Iona, and moira Tatem. A Dictionary of Superstitions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.