In England and other countries, many shire, cart and parade horses carry brasses, which often depict the sun, the crescent moon, a star, or a wheel. When did these designs first appear on horse brasses, and what were their lines of transmission to the present day?

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    @bleh Seems folkloric to me, but it's hard to tell without more context. The Earth: Can you provide links, pictures, etc. get more information?
    – cmw
    Dec 21, 2016 at 17:55
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    It's folklore because it's expressive culture that has been passed down for centuries without using writing and that has many local and other variations. The (British) National Horse Brass Society has a nice website with photographs of many designs. The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic's website refers to the notion that the oldest types are those that feature "designs such as moons, suns and hearts". There's also a Wikipedia article.
    – user1618
    Dec 21, 2016 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


Thomas Hennell lists two possible origins:

Judges 8:21 & 8:26 (refers to camel ornaments)

or as protection against the evil eye.

In Body Guards: Protective Amulets & Charms:

FOR THOUSANDS OF years the horse was the key to human mobility, and this made it a precious possession that ... The images used included suns, crescent moons, hearts and lotus-flowers, evoking the sun-god, the moon- goddess and the gods of ancient Egypt. ... in its role representing the sun moving through the heavens, sacred hands, stars, wheels and horns. ... The simple idea was that, if the Evil One looked up at the The sun-flash horse-brass that swings back and forth.

In Apollo:

the following, therefore, some of the most common designs found in horse brasses are accounted for. The belief in ... Thus for centuries these charms and amulets were used in all countries, and took the form of the moon or crescent, the wheel, lion, dog, serpent, &c. In Turkey the ... Some show the face of the sun surrounded by rays, more commonly we find some form of radiating device. Many appear like Stars, roses, or merely patterns which are degenerate forms of solar origin.

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