All posts tagged spell


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.



Published February 4, 2013 by Tony



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, My grandmotherone 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.