Why do we give horseshoes to brides?

pattern for crochet horseshoes
© F H Powell 2014

It is commonly recognised that the horseshoe is a symbol of good luck. Indeed, it is understood that the horseshoe must be held with the ends uppermost to avoid the luck falling out. The luck of the horseshoe has a number of possible sources. The most commonly accepted is that which involves Saint Dunstan (909-988 AD), a blacksmith who became Archbishop of Canterbury. The Devil told Dunstan to make shoes for him. Once they were complete Dunstan pushed the hot metal against the Devils feet and he cried out in pain. The Devil cried ‘take them off!’ but the blacksmith made the Devil promise first that wherever there was a horseshoe above a door the Devil would not enter.

However, luck is not the full story here. Horseshoes were traditionally made from iron which early Celtic tribes believed was the blood of the earth and would protect the wearer from harm. This was further reinforced during the Iron Age. The strength afforded to weapons, over basic stone or wood, showed that iron brought strength and protection.

knitted wedding horseshoes
© F H Powell 2013

The early Greeks believed that the crescent moon, and its horseshoe shape, was a sign of fertility, a blessing that all marriages desired.

In 1754 changes to marriage laws tempted couples to take advantage of the more lenient Scottish marriage laws and marry at Gretna Green. Parental consent was required under the age of 21 in England and Wales which was not adopted north of the border. The marriages took place over a blacksmiths anvil and was conducted by anvil priests, again linking in with the iron and horseshoe tradition.

Often a small silver horseshoe would be sewn in to the hem of the wedding gown to bring together all the attributes of the horseshoe.

Today a much lighter knitted or crocheted wedding horseshoe makes a welcome and personal gift for any bride. Click the photos above to be taken to the pattern pages. We offer horseshoes for both humans and dolls, so please check the size on the pattern information page before you purchase the pattern. The photo below shows a horseshoe and other accessories for dolls house brides.

© F H Powell 2014