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The Horseshoe of Goddess Fortune

The "horseshoe" as a religious symbol predates the domestication of horses. It is probably rooted in the crescent moon or the horns of an ungulate, perhaps the cow. In cultures connected with cattle, the cow is nearly universally connected to the Mother Goddess (Adumla, XXX, for example) and agrarian abundance. Cattle provide not only food (as milk or flesh), but also leather, dung, bone, horn and hair--all of which ancient peoples found uses for and regarded as wealth. Cow dung is remarkably antiseptic, smells pleasant when dried, and can be used as fuel, stucco, plaster, poultice or cleaning agent. (It is for these reasons that Hinduism regards the cow as sacred, providing more alive than dead, and prohibits killing them).

Like many ancient mediterranean Goddess temples, one of the most ancient temples of Fortuna had a horned altar in front of it. This became a symbol of that temple, and amulets and pilgrims' tokens were shaped like it. These were hung over the door to create or indicate a resonance between the temple and the devotee's home.

Fortuna of the equestrians... Journey by horseback also "cuts" the earth and leaves an imprint in loose or wet soil, and like the maritime associations of the rudder or oar, is linked to trade. I find it interesting that in English, "horseshoe" could be misread as horse's hoe. Because of Her association with this class, I think it likely that Fortuna must have a Divine Horse of Her own, one with a particular name and attributes. If so, this information must have been lost--and awaits reclamation.

The horseshoe, of course, also resembles the crown of Isis. This crown was worn by Isis-Fortuna in the late classical period. (See CROWNS for more information about the crown itself, one source for the derivation of the Horseshoe symbol).

In many ways, the horse was a boon to civilization, and the shoe as an attribute of the domesticated horse would symbolize all the speed, power and abundance the horse provides. It would also symbolize partnership with nature, one which both humans and horses seem to appreciate. (Not that wild horses don't also appreciate their wildness!). Like the wheel and oar or rudder, the horse--and therefore horseshoe--are linked to travel. The plow, of course, can be directly "linked" to horses. It also implies a promise that Isis-Fortuna will make sure those in Her stable are well-shod for the work and journeys required of them.

The domestication of the horse is not without a very dark side. It ushered in a violent change of ages and increased patterns of militarization and colonialism. It created a new economic and political order that brought with it many mixed blessings, and which for some resulted in powerlessness, poverty and death. Here, the Horseshoe proclaims a united reality--one reality with two prongs--that corresponds to the ups and downs of the Wheel and the cycle of the ages.

Fortuna E. makes an appearance in the ancient novel The Golden Ass (by Lucius Apuleius, an Isian Akhu or "Glorified Soul" of great importance to the Isian Restoration presently taking place). This is a complex novel about initation, one which conveys a rich and complex understanding of how we come to moments of profound transformation. It is a picaresque that highlight the distinctions between real and false vice, real and false virtue. Like the work of Aesop, another Isian Akhu, it is meant to provoke insight into human motivations as an aid to the reformation of character. It is also essentially about the cultural sublimation of Fortuna into the Universal Isis. These points are difficult to explain quickly, and I plan to treat the novel in great depth elsewhere on this site in the future. Suffice it to say that the main character is broght to initiation through a sequence of difficult, challenging events that he credits, before his initiation, to a capricious and fickle Fortuna, but which he ultimately comes to understand as necessary in his spiritual journey. (He is also very critical of class distinctions in Roman culture and frequently paints both the very privileged and the very deprived as deranged, so his invocation of Fortuna E. may also call to mind the mixed blessing of the horse and the world order that depended on it). [insert Apuleius].

The functionality of the horse, and hence horseshoes, was a regular part of life for many people around the world until the early-to-mid twentieth century (CE). This was especially true in rural and "Far West" North America. The presence of the horse, and the sentiments that horses evoke as partners to humanity, insured the survival of folk customs. So, we find knowledge of the Horseshoe as a good luck talisman widespread in American culture, and many buildings display them above the door or people wear them as jewelry, etc. Traditionally, the "horns" must point upward "so that the luck doesn't run out," a stipulation that preserves the shape of the ancient altars and the Crown of Isis.