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Lucky Horseshoe with Horse Head

Horseshoe with Horse Head: Much loved by those who play the ponies.

In 1996, i saw this blue-glazed terra cotta horseshoe plaque in the East-West Cafe in Sebastopol, California. The owner of the cafe, who is from the Middle East, had imported a group of magically protective wall-hangings from Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon to decorate the area behind the cash register. Other plaques in the cafe collection included a hamsa hand and several Arabic prayers. This particular style of plaque is made in Egypt, and in 2003 i finally located the source, so it is now for sale in my shop.

Since horseshoes derive their power from their resemblance to a vulva, in most regions protective horseshoes are hung in a downward facing or vulval position, as shown here. The colour blue is of significance in Southern Mediterranean, Aegean, and Adriatic nations, where it is universally used in apotropaic amulets against the evil eye. The blue beads on this plaque are also known as "donkey beads," because strings of them are hung around the necks of donketys to keep them safe from the gaze of the envious.

In the Middle-East, and into Greece and Turkey, the association between the colour blue and the image of the horseshoe is strong. In Turkey small metal or blue glass horseshoes are combined with the protective all-seeing eye to form culturally specific apotropaic wall hangings i call the horseshoe-and-eyes, believed to ward off the evil eye.

Although actual horseshoes serve a protective function when nailed above a door, this blue plaque serves double duty as a "lucky" amulet, particularly to bring on gambling luck. The two horse heads enhance the horseshoe's natural association with horse-racing, and the three gold-coloured fake coins (bearing Arabic words i have not been able to translate) symbolize winning at the races.