All posts for the day April 4th, 2013


Published April 4, 2013 by Tony


It is well-known, we Neapolitans are considered a people of superstitious, and although over the years this habit has muffled, some beliefs are still taken into account. Not for nothing, even today, many people still touch their balls, make the sign of the horns, or touch iron if they receive a bad omen or a curse. Other people always carry the figurine of a horn or have the figurine of a hunchback behind the door of their home.

By the term superstitions we refer all those mysterious folk beliefs without rationality to which many people give credit and that, for both suggestion and fear, puts into practice through gestures or ritual practices, in order to prevent an adverse event or to promote a positive one.
With the original term “superstitiònem” Cicero indicated, however, those who turned to the gods with prayers, vows and sacrifices, to get protection.
Even those who are skeptical, in their rationality, have sometimes acted differently or given credit to some small incantation, because as Benedetto Croce said: “It is not true … but I believe it!”, while Leon Trotsky said, “skeptics are more superstitious than superstitious people”.
On the contrary, in some cases, superstition becomes so rooted and applicant to lead real behavioral disorders of obsessive nature.
Often the superstition is religious in nature or due to real events, and in the world there are many superstitions, some of which related to objects (ladder, umbrella, mirror, oil…), to amulets/talismans (horseshoe, four-leaved clover, ladybugs, horn, hollow coin…), to numbers (7, 13, 17…), to colors (purple, black, white…) and animals (cat, owl…)

Even today many magical practices and spells are made, in one form or another, because people believe in them. In England, for example, some mom kiss the part of the body where the baby hurt, repeating something like “Kiss him and make him feel better!”
For some people the luck is not so much linked to the words but to talismans or objects considered as a good-luck, like amulets and mascots. Many of general use, but also personals or personalized, how it can be a particular pair of shoes, a sweater or a pendant considered a lucky charm. Amulets find fertile ground in sport and theater-craft, where for athletes and actors the luck is important, and as it is said, most actors prefer dressing in purple on opening night.

The fact is that superstition comes from far away and there is no culture that has not been involved. Primitive man believed that beating on an animal’s or person’s image (we are referring to primitive drawings, of course) the animal or the person really would be injured.
Christopher Columbus believed the Friday as a lucky day  so much that he left and was back on that day. Friday 17th is considered an unlucky day because on that day Philip the Fair gave the order to kill the Templars. The number 17 along with the legends about Friday are the most widespread superstitions that even media sometimes make recourse.
On Venus (friday) and Mars (tuesday) not get married and not depart, nor begin a work of art“, and “He who laughs on Friday weeps on Sunday“, so recite some ancient proverbs. The origin is both religious and popular. In the Gospels, Friday is the day of the crucifixion dedicated to penance, while Sunday the day of resurrection. For the Romans, Tuesday was unfortunate because dedicated to Mars, the god of discord.
The number 7 was a magic number for Romans, while many preferred to type the number 13 as 12 +1 in order to avoid it, as well as “at the table” the number thirteen would bring bad luck. This belief arose because in the last supper, Christ, who then was crucified, was the thirteenth attendee. But also in the past, this number was not frowned upon for adverse events related to it, like the death of Philip II that took place after having placed his statue next to the others 12 statues of gods. For the Assyrian-Babylonian, the number 12 was a sacred number (number divisible), while it is not the next.

Since ancient times, it is considered a bad luck to put upside down the bread on the table, because in times of famine bread & wheat were valuable assets deserving respect. Seven years of misfortune would be incumbent on those who, unfortunately, break a mirror. According to some, this superstition has different origins. Among them, the one that for the ancients the mirror was an expensive item, and it took many years of work (seven?) to build one, or many years of earnings (seven?) to be able to buy another. For many, breaking a mirror meant breaking the reflected image and therefore, symbolically breaking his own. Do not forget, finally, that after the death of one person every mirror in the house are covered because it could annoy the spirit of the deceased who, wandering around the room, his reflection in the mirrors could prevent the departure.
Even the superstition about oil and salt have ancient origins. Wasting oil, spilling it, was disastrous as it was a valuable asset, even sacred to the ancient and later also used in Christian rituals. If it was inadvertently spilt, then you had to sprinkle over some salt, needed to cancel the bad luck (for Sicilians the pee can replace the salt).
Its rarity together with its properties have generated, however, beliefs about salt too. For Romans, spreading salt on the ruins of a destroyed city meant prevent its resurgence (the salt makes barren the soil). Throwing three pinches (magic number) of salt behind our backs lead to ward off curses and bad omens. In ancient times it was also a symbol of friendship, so much so that a cup of salt was placed in front of the diners, and it is said that once a guest inadvertently dropped the cup on the table arousing the anger of the landlord who, unsheathed the sword, killed the poor man. It seems that this episode has given rise to the saying that “dropping the salt is bad luck.” If unfortunately it is toppled, the person should take a hint of it and throw behind his left shoulder.

In the eighteenth century comes the idea that the hat placed on the bed is a bad luck bearer, because at the time it was not advisable to put on the bed a receptacle of filth and vermin, like the hat (because of the powdered wigs).
Although a lot of sailors affirm to be skeptical, many believe, jokingly, that changing the boat’s name is deadly, as is the color green or as it may be  the bottle that does not break during the launch (for this the bottle is cracked in advance). Finally, the tattoos of sailors of the past, also served as lucky charms.

In some cultures the whistle invoked the devil and perhaps for this miners were careful not to do so.
Opening an umbrella at home means to attract misery because usually people did it when some water leaked out from the ceiling. But it also brought to mind the canopy, kept on the priest’s head when he went around to give the last rites.
For Latin peoples if a black cat crossed their path meant bad luck ensured, for people overseas this was a good sign, instead. But just because in the Middle Ages, the Latin culture associated the black cat with wickedness and devil.

Be careful not to pass under a ladder, and if it must be done, cross your fingers and spit on your shoes as a form of exorcism. This fear dates back to the Middle Ages when the scales were used during sieges to the forts, and passing beneath them you ran the risk of being affected by oil or boiling pitch. At the religious level, however, the scale forms a triangle, just the inviolable symbol of the Trinity.
There are many others old and new practices and customs, and now I will propose other.

It’s habit of crossing the fingers while saying a lie or as sign of incantation.
The tradition of eating lentils on New Year is a hope for prosperity.
Touch Iron” is a custom of Latin origin, while Nordic peoples “touch wood“.
If the wedding ring is lost, to avoid the misery of the couple, it should be re-bought and made slipped to your finger from your spouse, as it was done during the nuptial rite.
In a couple, if both use the same towel, this can lead to quarrel.
The drop of wax that falls along the side of the candle means a bummer.
To avoid baldness is better to cut hair only during a new moon.
The spoon held with the left hand attracts bad luck.
The horseshoe was a sign of luck and if someone found one in the street put it hanging at home.
If a matchstick is used by three people this can bring bad luck.
Ominous if the scissors fall to the ground, so, before picking it up, better to trample it with your foot. If falling, one of the blades stuck in the ground, this was an omen of death. Scissors kept hanging on the wall are auspicious.
It is said that if a lover saw a magpie, he then would not be successful with the girl.
Crossing shoes, cutlery or other objects would bring bad luck because in medieval times it was how to represent and offend the cross.
As well as it’s said that a bad luck will come if you get out of bed on the left side, as it is considered the preferred side of Satan.
A baby should never be kissed on the neck to avoid him to lose sleep.
If the comb falls from your hand while you’re combing, it means someone who loves you is thinking of you.
It brings good luck the walking in the rain so much so that an old proverb says, “wet bride, lucky bride.”
A picture falling from the wall is a sign of bad luck, and worse those depicting birds.
The four-leaf clover for its rarity bring luck and happiness, even without picking it.
If you received a pin, a knife or any sharp items as gift, the donor must be pricked with it, or give a coin (symbolically) in exchange, to prevent such items will negatively affect the friendship. In fact, it was said, “thing that stings, the love disjoint”.
Finding a pin on the ground leads fortune, but collect never a needle which, on the contrary, brings bad luck.
In ancient times it was customary to spit three times on the chest to ward off any curse. Even today, some runners let someone spit on their back before starting the race.
It seems to bring a bad luck meeting three or four nuns all together.
Never throw the egg’s shell without breaking it, to avoid that any demon nestles in it.
Those who the nose pinches, are carried to fight.
If hands are itchy, it will be an earning or a fight!
Who works on New Year’s Day will work all year round.
Who sneeze on Monday will receive a gift.
Sparse teeth, thick luck.
The broom put out the door of the house, expels spell, charm, or evil eye.
The hunchbacks bring good luck while humps disgrace.
When right ear whistles (means) the heart is grieved, if the left the heart is free.