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"El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura" (The Secret of the Virtuous Horseshoe) is a large Mexican package amulet made from a used horseshoe wrapped with colourful rayon thread and decorated with sequins and prints of San Martin Caballero. Although there are many stylistic variants to this amulet, the one shown is typical. The horseshoe always faces downward and in the central hollow area there is a cross cut from chipboard, covered with red paper, and decorated with an embossed gold-paper image of the cross of Caravaca. Beneath this is a subsidiary stuffed bag package amulet bearing a print of San Martin Caballero. The whole piece -- about 6" square -- is covered with a sheet of vinyl film.

Quite often the makers of these amulets affix a "legend" or one of several prayers to the back of the cardboard; some makers place nothing at all on the back.

In the case of the amulet illustrated here, a printed card glued to the back explains the legend of "El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura" -- the Secret of the Virtuous Horseshoe.

What is the "secret"? Well, the story told on the "El Secreto" card concerns an Indian (a Hindu, not a Native American) who found a hidden treasure by virtue of a lucky horseshoe -- and it prescribes the luck-invoking recitation of the magical phrase "Citrun Nueve" when dressing in the morning or beginning a new project. The phrase is essentially meaningless in Spanish -- and indeed, on some packages it is spelled "Citrum Nueve."

On variant packages you may find an "Oracion de la Herradura" (Prayer of the Horseshoe). One such prayer invokes the Holy Trinity and asks the "powerful horseshoe of iron" to bring luck, health, and wealth and to rid the user of gossipers and enemies.

Here, provided by James E. Armstrong, is an English translation of a prayer commonly found on these amulets, which he says was written "in 16th century Spanish." Note that it refers to Saint James ("Lord James"):

Horseshoe Prayer

By the Holy Trinity, Horseshoe, I baptize you in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Give me good luck, health, and wealth. You went wandering in the woods, Lord James, among thorns and hidden rocks, and blinded your foes with your great power. Just as you shod your horse with this horseshoe that helped you escape from the battlefield with the great power that God has given you, I want this horseshoe to give me good luck, health, and wealth.

Jesus, I am remembering all these holy things that were truly accomplished.

I wish at this time that this magnet horseshoe, so powerful in itself, grants me these virtues and gifts. With this horseshoe I can do whatever I want. It will be easy for me to escape from places without anyone knowing or noticing, get riches and honors, and have all the people I want to love me. Free me from everything and save me from my enemies and any life-threatening situations that may occur. All this I believe as if I am seeing it through your incomparable virtues.

[recite] Three Creeds

El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura is probably the most popular form of package amulet in Mexico. The most commaon variant of it is the miniature horseshoe package amulet, a little over 2" square. The large-size version has given rise to numerous variant forms. Some utilize multi-coloured wrapping instead of simple red; others have additional decorations in the form of an unknown species of light-brown nut glued to the background. Some make use of supplementary saint prints in addition to the obligatory San Martin Caballero. In yet others, the contents have mutated radically. Among the many alternatives, i have found those in which --

To order El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.

Interestingly enough, a very close relation of this red-wrapped href=>horseshoes amulet was collected from an unnamed African-American root doctor in Waycross, Georgia in March 1939.

The following documentation comes from "Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork," a 5-volume, 4766-page collection of folkloric material gathered by Harry Middleton Hyatt, primarily between 1935 and 1939.

IMPORTANT: If this is the first time you have encountered Hyatt material
at this web site, please take a moment to open and read the supplementary page called
"Hoodoo - Conjuration - Witchcraft - Rootwork" by Harry Middleton Hyatt.

2518. Takes a horseshoe an' dress it in red.

(Dress it in red?)

Dress de horseshoe ovah in red an' place it in front of de do' backwards an' farwards, an' yo'll run good business.

(How do you mean dress it in red? What do you do?)

Yo' take an' git -- have tuh git ovah at de sto' -- git a red piece of cloth an' yo' jest wind dat, yo' know, dat horseshoe all ovah in dat an' place it up ovah de do', an' to de back, an' yo' won't have any trouble by yore custoners - yo' draw mo' den all.

Yo' takes - go in de sto' an' gits yo' Red Devil Lye an' salt, an yo; place it at de front do' an' de back. Dat go wit dat horseshoe, an' yo' takes chamber lye, a handful of sugah, salt, an' yo' goes round dat jest befo' day, all round dat hose wit dat, an' yo' got no trouble wit de sheriff or with your house.

[Perhaps the largest hand ever wrapped in red, except the treasure hunter who insulted the devil by wearing a red shirt - see No. 424, p.127.]

[Waycross, Ba., (1122), 1804:11.]

{In other words: To run "good business" out of your house and attract customers, get two horseshoes and buy new red cloth, new Red Devil lye, and new salt at the store; cut the cloth in a strip and wrap the horseshoes with it; put one horseshoe over the front door and one over the back door; bury the Red Devil lye and salt at the doorsteps (informant does not state, but usually these would be buried in their store boxes); then circle the house just before dawn, sprinkling a mixture of your own chamber lye (urine) in which is dissolved a handful each of sugar and salt.}

Here are all the illustrated package amulet pages in the Archive:

Latin American package amulets, general information
Guatemalan package amulet: miniature horseshoe with print of Maximon
Guatemalan package amulet: miniature pillow with print of Maximon
Mexican package amulet: miniature horseshoe with print of San Martin Caballero
Mexican package amulet: El Secreto de la Virtuosa Herradura
Mexican package amulet: saint wallet
Mexican package amulet: three coins, Holy Trinity, and the Seven African Powers
Mexican package amulet: stuffed bag with print of San Martin Caballero
Peruvian package amulet: collage of magical items
Peruvian package amulet: metal saints, broom, and Ormosia seed
post-modern package amulet: matchbox shrine


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