I want to tell you a real story that happened to me when I was a child. At that time it was quite common for children to suffer from “tapeworm”, but before I go ahead let me explain, to those who do not know, what is the taeniasis.
Taenia is the name of a multicellular parasite belonging to the family of the Platyhelminthes (flatworms). This parasite, commonly known as tapeworms lives in the intestines of animals, including humans, where it can reach a length of eight meters. The tapeworm is devoid of digestive system, since it directly absorbs the nutrients present in the host’s intestine. This worm has a ribbon-like appearance, with a head (scolex) characterized by the presence of hooks and suckers, that allow it to adhere to the intestinal walls. The rest of the body is divided into many small segments, clearly distinguishable, long about 1 to 1.5 cm. called proglotidi (shape and color are reminiscent of those typical of “egg pasta” ). During defecation a person or animal that has a tapeworm in his gut with the bowel movement also eliminates parasite eggs, and they go to settle on herbs and plants. Some animals that feed on these plants are so infested by the larval form, which goes to cling in their muscles. At this point, a healthy human being who eats meat derived from this infected exemplar, will have a high probability of being in turn infested by tapeworms, having the so-called taeniasis. The tapeworm is particularly long-lived and if not treated surgically or pharmacologically can live many years. In industrialized countries, the incidence of infestation by tapeworm is now much lower than that of the poorest countries, where health and hygiene standards are lower. Initially taeniasis is asymptomatic and only after a few months the tapeworm may show signs of self. The persons affected by the tapeworm has often hungry and feel weak and tired.
After so many years I can’t remember how and why my family realized that I had taeniasis, and probably I also had to take some purgative or other medicines, and for this I had to poo in the potty to see if the tapeworm was eliminated. At that time I was 5-6 years and although time passed, the treatment had no effect. Apparently my mom had to talk to my grandmother who, one morning, came home and told me that she would try to cure me. She asked me to put my pants down and to lie on the bed. I did so, intimidated and curious about what she would do, and as usual she reassured me tickling and making me laugh. Then she told me to sit still, and her fingers began to draw crosses on my belly, from belly button to the groin, and in a low voice kept babbling some phrases which I don’t remember a single word. It was probably a short prayer, which repeated dozens of times resembled a lament.
The operation lasted 3-4 minutes, after which she kissed and caressed me saying that she had done.
The thing, wonderful or miraculous, was that after a few days, doing poo in the potty, I noticed that the worm had come out. Incredible, it was like an eel long 20 in. standing there still in the poop. Happy and scared at the same time, I called my mother to let her see what had come out of my gut. It all ended there and I nevermore had more that disease.
My grandmother was not a witch, and never had been, but although a fervent Christian believer, she gave credit to jinx and spell. I do not know if she already knew that kind of spell, probably handed down by her ancestors, or whether she had asked some people more “expert” how to do it.
The fact is that, accidental or not, it worked to me.
My grandmother was the type of person who threw grains of salt out of the window during a thunderstorm with fearful lightning, invoking Saint Lucia. Or throwing it on our car when we had to left for a trip, albeit short.
When we were children she made very little fabric bags in which she put some metal icons of saints, each protector of something, that we could wear around our neck with a necklace, or held by a safety pin on the undershirt.
She was also influenced by old sayings and when my brothers were then young men, she said them, for example, not to go out on a trip on the day of Easter Monday, because it was said (?) that on that day there would always be some accidents.
Other ancient spells or popular beliefs that I remember now are:
break the glass or to overthrow the oil was a bad omen and it was necessary to solve it, as a good omen if inadvertently the wine was poured.
You could not put the loaf of bread upside down on the table as well as must never pick up a pin or a needle found by chance on the ground.
The milk teeth that children lost, had to be hidden in a hole in the wall so that no one would take them, or no animal could eat them. Then the child had to recite:
“Muro, muro vecchio,
damme un dente nuovo
che te ne do uno vecchio”.
[Wall, old wall,
give me a new tooth
that I’ll give you the old one].
This custom can be connected with the cult of the stone and earth radiating energy from its bowels.
Who had sparse teeth will certainly was favored by fortune.
Putting the broom out of the threshold helped to ward off bad luck and witches.
The mother did not have to cut the nails to the newborn with scissors but by her mouth to prevent that the child once adult could become a subject likely to steal.
To disinfect wounds and heal you had to apply above a spider web.
You had not put both hands together above your head (like the way prisoners do) because it bears misfortunes.
Whenever I had the hiccups I was told to drink seven small sips of water while holding the breath until the hiccups disappeared. And I guarantee that this method really works.
Old sayings, ancient beliefs, dark folk magics, all things that have been lost over the centuries.