The same sacramentals used in the Catholic Church are used in blessing rituals, whereby the sacramentals are never disrespected. However, they are also used, quite extensively in stregoneria (witchcraft), where there is more of a grey area and therefore a practitioner may find themselves walking the fine line between the sacred and the profane or, stepping right into sacrilege.Read More
Legatura in occasione del battesimo
Quando si porta un neonato a battesimo, tra le fasce di esso si nasconde un ferro calamitato di cavallo. Chi ne ha l’interesse, stando in disparte, attende che il sacerdote battezzatore pronunzii il nome del neonato (si tratta di maschio, s’intende): ed allora pronunzia il nome della persona alla quale vuol fare la legatura. Così il ferro calamitato è battezzato.
Questo ferro però "deve mangiare" e per mangiare lo si mette in mezzo alla limatura di ferro, e si avvolge portandolo addosso. Ogni qualvolta si vuol avere o vedere la persona amata, la si chiama, ed essa comparisce. (Palermo).
Qui va notato un sacchetto dalla forma esteriore simile a quello "di li cosi santi," nel capitolo degli Ex voto; ma ben diverso nel contenuto. In questo sacchetto è chiuso un nastro giallo, composto a foggia di cavalluccio marino, uno spago con molti nodi, per legare a chi porta il sacchetto le persone alle quali essa vuol bene; varî fili di seta a colori diversi, ai quali di tratto in tratto sono raccomandati dei polizzini di carta con nomi di persone care; e insieme con questi oggetti la seguente formula scongiuratoria:
Marcu, San Marcu,
Sangu di Cristu,
Hâ’ ’ttaccari a tutti comu un Cristu
Quannu iju a l’agunia;
Tri fila di capiddi di la Vergini Maria
Attacca a tutti
Cu’ havi a fari mali a mia.
Vampa d’amuri e ciamma d’amuri
Â mè patruna e ô mè patruni,
A mia e a tutta quanta la cumpagnia.
Stilla di la vera luci:
Va nn’ ’â mè patruna e nu’ ’u mè patruni
E cci jetti tri buci:
Cu’ sa chi cci abbinni
Ca ancora nun vinni?
Rusidda ti cumanna
E tu mi l’hâ’ fari:
’U mè patruni e a’ mè patruna
Pi l’oricchia l’hâ’ pigghiari,
A li me’ peri mi l’hâ purtari.
La jettatura è una specie di fascino o di influsso malefico, esercitato per lo più da un uomo a danno di chicchessia; il malocchio, invece, è un male che altri volontariamente produce o cagiona col suo occhio, invidioso del bene altrui. Lo sguardo del jettatore è ben diverso da quello di chi fa il malocchio; ma certo il povero jettatore molte volte nuoce senza volerlo, senza saperlo, per una stella maligna che lo perseguita, per una fatalità che incombe a lui; mentre poi, chi fa il malocchio nuoce sapendo e godendo di nuocere, onde l’assioma: Casa ’nvidiata, o iddu è porira o iddu è malata (casa invidiata, o povera o ammalata).
Comechessia, nella credenza volgare avviene una strana confusione dei due fascini; sicché mal si potrebbe determinare i caratteri differenziali dell’uno e dell’altro, e dove quelli finiscano e dove questi comincino. Una cosa però è certa: che il malocchio è una credenza, un domma di fede specialmente delle femminucce dell’infima classe sociale, anche mascolina, e la jettatura una credenza di quasi tutto "il dotto, il ricco, ed il patrizio vulgo", del ceto civile, degli uomini e delle donne che in esso nacquero e vivono: il che non significa già che anch’essi non si risentano delle fisime del malocchio, come le donnicciuole ed i poveri di spirito, di quelle della jettatura.
Lasciamo stare la fotografia del jettatore, dal viso magro ed olivastro, dagli occhi piccoli ed ingrottati, dal naso adunco, dal collo lungo ed arcuato: segni fisici preziosi per chi ci crede, il quale avrà con essi modo di guardarsi.
La presenza del jettatore in un luogo, il sospetto che egli apparisca, il suo nome pronunziato in una conversazione è causa di disastri pubblici e di danni privati. Se tu giuochi a carte ed egli ti si avvicina e ti parla, la fortuna ti volta le spalle; se sei in vettura e lo incontri, il tuo cavallo s’impenna, la vettura si capovolge, tu stesso ti sloghi un piede, o ti rompi la noce del collo. Se in una adunanza devi leggere o cantare, la voce ti si affiochisce, ti si spengono i lumi se di sera, ti si spalanca una finestra se di giorno, portandoti via o disordinandoti i fogli, quando pure non ti assalga un malanno. Se sei amante riamato, il jettatore basta a intiepidire il cuore della tua bella. Se un tuo affare importantissimo dipende da un amico, costui si ammala proprio il giorno che n’hai bisogno, mentre fino a ieri egli era a tua disposizione. Se hai una causa in tribunale, gli incartamenti tardano a giungere e, giunti, vi manca un documento capitale, o il tuo avvocato è impedito, o un giudice – proprio quello che avea capito la causa e ti era favorevole – è preso da una colica secca: e per via di contrattempi, avvicinandosi le ferie, vieni condannato a danni, spese ed interessi. Si vuole altro? Un negoziante, un venditore qualunque, cui il jettatore "prenda di mira", come dice il popolino, a poco a poco vede disertare la sua bottega dagli avventori; un bambino, per occulto, inesplicabile malore, viene intristendo; tutti i guai di questo povero mondo piovono sulla casa, sulla famiglia guardata dal jettatore.
Tale essendo costui, chi non ne ha terrore? E da qui una gran cura per premunirsi da possibili danni e per neutralizzare la sua "potenza di fare altrui male".
Una formola popolare passa a rassegna gli antidoti e gli amuleti contro la jettatura:
L’agghiu a tri spichia,
Lu gnuri ’ntra lu cocchiu
’N firettu dintra l’occhiu,
’Na cuda di firuni,
’Na zampa di liuni,
’Na ’rasta di zammara,
’N manicu di quartara,
’N curnicchiu di curaddu,
Lu ferru di ’n cavaddu,
Chiantata cu li spinguli la cucca,
E lu scunciuru sempre ’ntra la vucca. (Catania).
(Corni, cornicini, – l’aglio a tre spicchi – il cocchiere sul cocchio, – una forcina nell’occhio (di chi vuol male a me), – una coda di fiera (delfino?), – una zampa di leone, – un testo con agave, – un manico di brocca, – un cornicino di corallo, – un ferro di cavallo, – una civetta (attaccata alla porta o altrove) con gli spilli, – e lo scongiuro sempre (pronto) in bocca).
Qual’è egli questo scongiuro senza del quale tutti gli oggetti antistregatorî di questo mondo non avranno efficacia o l’avranno limitatamente? Io ne richiamo soltanto uno, perché chi ci presta fede e ne ha bisogno lo reciti a suo beneficio e salvazione:
Cornu, gran cornu, ritortu cornu,
Russa la pezza; tortu lu cornu;
Ti fazzu scornu.
Vaju e ritornu,
Cornu! cornu! cornu!
Sale sulle tegole
Certe donne del volgo si vendicano del loro nemico, lanciando sui tegoli della casa di lui un piatto di sale di cucina. Come squaglia il sale così squaglierà lui. (Castiglione)
L'ovu di magarìa
Potentemente malefico è l’ovu di la magaría, uovo di gallina, nel quale è infilzato un numero indeterminato di spilli (una sessantina) e dal lato superiore, un chiodo, legatovi un nastro rosso. Esso è preparato dalle fattucchiere e si nasconde sui tetti, o in altri siti dove non possa essere scoperto dalla persona contro la quale è diretto. Tanti spilli vi sono infilzati altrettanti spasmi si possono produrre nella persona da maleficare. Per la intensità dei dolori questa intristisce fino a morire. La morte avviene – sempre secondo la credenza popolare – quando l’uovo già corrotto, rompe da tutte le parti il guscio. – Il chiodo sarebbe il vero colpo di grazia. Il nastro rosso (questo colore non manca mai quando si tratta di premunirsi da occulti malefici) vi è attaccato, perchè colei che prepara l’oggetto non resti vittima del proprio maleficio.
.: Magia Bianca.
Sembra incredibile, però ci sono persone che hanno una forza ipnotica terribile e solo al guardare ai bambini, gli feriscono il loro corpo vitale ed il risultato non si fa aspettare: grandi occhiaie nere, febbre nella testa, vomiti, diarree. In alcune parti questo si conosce come Malocchio.
Per curarlo si accende una candela, e si realizzano passi magnetici intorno al corpo del bambino, da sotto verso sopra, specialmente sopra la faccia e le palpebre con il proposito fermo di eliminare i fluidi vitali negativi.
Al terminare si collocano le mani intorno alla candela affinché il fuoco elimini questi fluidi.Nel fare i passi magnetici dobbiamo recitare il "Padre Nostro".
Dopo si esorcizza (facendo il segno della croce) il bimbo con un germoglio di… matarratón.. o di basilico nella fronte, sul petto, nella testa e nella schiena.
Se il malocchio è forte, si deve ripetere varie volte. Nel fare i passi magnetici dobbiamo recitare il "Padre Nostro".
Dopo si esorcizza (facendo il segno della croce) il bimbo con un germoglio di… matarratón.. o di basilico nella fronte, sul petto, nella testa e nella schiena.
Se il malocchio è forte, si deve ripetere varie volte. Nel fare i passi magnetici dobbiamo recitare il "Padre Nostro".
Dopo si esorcizza (facendo il segno della croce) il bimbo con un germoglio di… matarratón.. o di basilico nella fronte, sul petto, nella testa e nella schiena. Se il malocchio è forte, si deve ripetere varie volte.
Some are antidotes to one another. For instance, it is believed that the flyer and the agave thorn can be used to inflict magic upon a victim and thus the red star made of yarn is the antidote (for magic inflicted with the flyer). In the case of the agave thorn, the male key is the antidote. ~Rue
(I'm almost certain this image is from Giuseppe Pitrè's work.)
Amuleti contro la jettatura ed il malocchio
Molti sono gli antidoti dell’una e dell’altro, ma i più efficaci si ritengono:
a) Stella di lana rossa; (star made of red wool)
b) Virtìcchiu, fusaiuola; (spinning wheel flyer)
c) Sacchetto di sale; che in Nicosia vuoi essere uogghi di sau cristallo di sale; (little sack of salt)
d) Chiave mascolina, cioè senza buco; (male key, meaning without hole)
e) Aculeo dell’agave (agave americana di L.); (agave thorn)
O Testa d’agghia, aglio (alium sativum di L.); (head of garlic)
g) Ferro di cavallo usato, con una estremità rotta ed un nastro rosso legato. (used horse shoe with one side broken off and a red ribbon tied on)
Ad accrescere l’efficacia di questi oggetti si uniscono le formule scongiuratorie che sogliono recitarsi.
From Nick - 30 Aug 1996:
Tre Sande m'aiutate
Che poss' i nt' a l'occhje
A cchi 'e fatte u malocchje a (Afflicted's Name)
P.S. You must use this power only for good...never for evil!
Wards in Ancient Italy
From Jo Tedesco - 9 & 17 May 1996 (Reggio Calabria):
"In the Fountana Buona in Genova Province every home has at least one carved stone head on the outside to ward off malocchio."
In Pompei at the villa of the mysteries or at the house of the merchants - there was an interesting sculpture linked to the warding off of the evil eye. The guide would always put on a performance making sure that 'signorini' did not look when he opened the box which had been erected around the sculpture!
From Josephine Tedesco - 17 Jun 1996:
"Does anyone know what the Italian horn means? My grandfather wore one around his neck, so did my father, and so do I. No one can tell me anything about it. Is this what is refered to when someone invokes the 'Bull of holy places?' "
It is a very old symbol! Basically it "wards off the evil eye" - which you can get (i.e. the evil eye) under lots of different circumstances - for example being too good looking (one is tempted to say so much at this stage.....) too strong etc. I have always thought of it as 'tempting the gods'. And the horn gives a bit of insurance! Evil eye - is the direct translation of "malocchio.
RE the "bull of holy places" not sure - but there does seem to be a connection with the horn and the penis - this was brought home to me when at Pompei - the rich merchant's house??? had a penis on the doorway and it too was to to ward off the evil eye!
From Pete Belmonte - 7 May 1996:
Another important charm in southern Italy is the hunchback, or Gobbo. I purchased a keychain of a Gobbo holding a corno (large red horn) from an Italian store in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I certainly don't believe in the stuff, but I thought it was an interesting cultural history piece. I'm not sure what exactly the gobbo is supposed to mean, though. I've read about this before, but I can't remember the reference.
By the way, it was practices such as the evil eye, and to some extent the feste, which upset the Catholic hierarchy, mostly Irish, in early 20th century US. The "Italian problem" was truly a problem for the church, and the whole question of early "national parishes" stems from this problem. Silvio Tomasi's book Piety and Power is a good reference for early Italian-American church history.
From Bob Collins - 8 May 1996:
The following is escerpted from Clarence Maloney's book "The Evil Eye": (Pp. 37-8) "...the gobbo, or hunchback. A male hunchback was, in Italy, supposed to be very fortunate, in contrast to the female hunchback, who endured much misfortune....the manufacture and sale of hunchback figurees for good luck charms in gold, silver, ivory and other precious materials has been a continuous tradition in Italy...for some time. Italian gamblers are quite fond of the gobbo, for they feel that the hand that has stroked a hunchback's hump will be favored at the gaming tables....
In some areas of Italy the hunchback's hump is thought to be the resultof an evil eye attack in youth. The protruding hump, however, more often appears as a protection against the evil eye....Thye gobbo therefore appears occasionally among evil eye talismans...in certain regions....The gobbo draws good fortune and the chili [and corno] repels bad fortune."
Catholicism and Superstition
From John Cusimano - 13 May 1996:
"These rituals were all combinations of ancient pagan rituals and Catholic rituals. As the title suggests, the influence of Christ (the Church) stopped at the town of Eboli and seemed to go no farther. It seems that the Sicilians were more interested in rituals and recitations than theology."
I think there is "some" truth to this statement but, I don't think "interested" is the correct operative word. Many rural folk in the south were uneducated and may not have understood theology as much as they understood rituals and recitations. Remember, the christian faith started as an extremely intellectual and urban movement and itself adopted more ritual and recitations when it came up against deeply rooted pagan beliefs in the rural areas.
Northern Italy became better educated because they developed a middle class of merchants and traders who could afford to educate their children. Southern Italy and Sicily had much smaller middle class and, retained the older rural ways longer.
The Christian faith probably never would have grown or survied if it had not taken on "pagan-like" wrapping paper to present it's gift to the masses of peoples. And that is the main point... it is still the christian faith but in a form and "wrapper" which people felt comfortable with and were willing to accept if, they could not understand the deeper theology in it. The other choice was a totally impractical one... Educate the masses so they could all understand the deeper theology:)
From Dominick A. Faust, 29 Dec 1995 (Reggio di Calabria & Siracusa):
I have a question about superstitions. I've watched the movie the "A Bronx Tale" several times. I have noticed that "C" the young character and "Sonny" the "Don" for lack of another descriptive word, exchanged a sign of friendship with a hand gesture. When I was young, my father had told me the same hand gesture was for wishing evil on someone. Or he called it "horns". !???!
From Margie Vaughan, 29 Dec 1995:
My Nana Pauline Russo use to say that hand sign (the one from Bronx Tale) was a sign to keep the evil eye away. She believed one of her babies died becuase of the evil eye. A women kept saying how beautiful her baby was.
When my Nana told her mother-in-law about the woman, my great grandmother told her not to walk that way any more. The woman still found my Nana & Michael and told her the baby was to beautiful to live. Until the day my Nana passed away she believed this was why her son got sick & died. We were always told never say a baby is beautiful, whenever you felt like saying this you should always say instead, God bless this baby.
From GRACE E DEASY (Sicily):
to all the piesani,best wishes for the new year,my great aunt used the oil and water to cure a headache and maybe a heartache too.i would likk up in that book about superstitions about the horns,we had a cow horn set over back door that were painted blue with rings of green around the ends!!to keep the evil spirit away.?anyone else have this decoration?
From Edna Rober, 31 Dec 1995:
Three years ago in Ferrazano (Campobasso), I was suffering from a migraine while Marie and I were researching old family records at the "city" hall. Needing lunch (or something) we went to the restaurant (the only). The young waiter recognized me as a sick puppy and was very solicitous. After I had ordered plain rice, he returned and asked me my name. Married? Maiden? No. First. I asked why. His grandmother was in the kitchen and wanted to help. She was going to write my name in oil drops in a pan on the stove.
About fifteen minutes later, I told my sister I really was feeling a lot better!!! I don't question anything - as long as it works. I met grandmother in the kitchen, chatted with the family and left feeling my normal self.
Thought your readers would like to hear a first-hand experience.
From EDWARD F MOMORELLA, 1 Jan 1996:
I remember a great aunt who would rush home when anyone would tell her she was pushing around a "beautiful baby" and pour holy water in a dish and put in drops of oil. If the oil spread out over the water, that was a bad sign and she had to say some prayers to rid the evil.
If the drops stayed relatively in the same place, things were ok. She would bless herself and be calm again.
From Albert Pasquino, 5 Jan 1996
How well I remember those festivals in Hammonton, NJ. As a boy growing up inthe 30's in Paulsboro, NJ going to the festival was an annual event. Most of all I remember the fireworks display at the end of the days celebration.
And oh yes, about the oil and water bit. Whenever we got a headache, the"Evil eye" was the cause, of course. Mom would get a soup bowl and oil.
Then she would dip her finger in the oil and make the sign of the cross continually on our forehead all the while saying some prayers in Italian, which I could not understand, even though I understood Italian in my youth. After the prayers she would dip her fingers in the oil and let drops fall into the water. As I remember, the shape the oil took in the surface of the water indicated whether the "Evil eye" had been removed. If it had the headache was gone! If not she would repeat the ritual a second time and it usually did the trick. Never had an aspiren until I enlisted the the Air Force in 1948 and any veteran knows the cure for everything was 2 APCs. Oh yes, in 1954 I was sent to Korea and my wife, who is British, stayed with my parents for that year. Not only did she become an accomplished Italian cook but attests to the fact that Mom's oil and water really worked on her too!
From Bob Collins, 20 Jan 1996:
The following is from HYGEIA, June, 1926, "The Immigrant Mother as Seen by a Social Worker" by Dorothy G. Spicer:
"There was Mrs. Vitelli's baby, who was so plump that a neighbor said, 'Oh, doesn't Tony look just like a cow?' Immediately...the baby grew black and frothed at the mouth. To see if he was 'overlooked,' or afflicted by the dreaded Evil Eye, a drop of oil was put into a glass of water. Instead of spreading over the surface of the water, the oil stayed in one place and looked just like an eye, thus proving the nature of the baby's ailment. A cure was wrought by bringing in a woman whosaid an incantation learned on Christmas eve. Anyone taught the incantation on the eve of Christ's birth haspower to cure 'overlooked; persons; consequently, old wives knowing the charmed words are still much sought after, even in this country." (P. 319).
From Arthur Urbano, 26 Apr 1996:
Whenever my grandfather tells his stories about his grandparents when they came over from Italy, we all sigh and say "Not that one again!" It's funny.
I am so thankful now that my grandfather repeated his stories over and over again, because I've committed tham to memory and they've helped me with my research. It's been fun trying to prove and disprove these legends. I'm surprised, most of the legends my grandfather tells are 90% true! My grandfather, Tony CUCCA, was born in Providence, RI. In fact so was his father! But both of his grandfathers, Stazio CUCCA from Ciorlano and Luigi PEZZA from Prata Sannita (both in Caserta), came to America in the 1890s.
There was one legend in particular which I love to hear, but my grandmother cringes whenever my grandfather is about to tell it. She always tries to change the subject.
My grandfather tells us that his grandmother Filomena SQUEZIA from Capriati a Volturno was a really mean lady. She never got along with my grandfather's mother Filomena PEZZA (her daughter-in-law). They used to argue all the time. FInally, when Filomena Pezza was pregnant with my grandfather, her mother-in-law told her that she hoped they would take the baby out with a pitchfork! In response my grandfather's mother said "I hope you never see him!" At this point my grandfather will pause, look at all of us with his finger pointed straight up and conclude, "She died a month before I was born! It's the truth!"
Well, I wasn't sure if it was the truth, so I went to the Rhode Island State Archives and looked up Filomena Squezia's death record. You know, she died Jan 15, 1911 and my grandfather was born Feb 8, 1911! It was true. A real live family curse and a legend proved to be true.
Now I'm trying to figure out how she died. The death record says she died of "Acute Cholecystitis" or something like that. Maybe some of you doctors out there can help me out.
From Tony La Bella:
My father has told me of many occasions that my nonna performed the ritual for a variety of reasons. That included curing a sickness, answering a particular question, or to remove a curse that someone might have placed on an individual in the family. While he doesn't remember the exact incantations, my grandmothe would place water in a bowl, and while making the sign of the cornu, drop oil into the water. If the oil combined it was a favorable sign, if they separated, it was not. She would repeat this a number of times until, I believe, until she was pleased with the outcome.
My father seemed to indicate that this skill was passed down from generation to generation. As a matter of fact, he said that my grandmother once told him that her "mentor" (her aunt) would not teach her certain spells and incantations because they were too terrible and dangerous.
From Jo Tedesco - 8 May 1996 (Reggio Calabria):
The other thing to add was that the 'power' had to be renewed yearly at Christmas time I think! Grandfather had mother taught as an insurance to make sure the oxen didn't get sick!
From Vincent Paratore - 8 May 1996 (Sicily):
My father was one of these that could perform the removal of curses or "evil eye". But as I recall, he would not pass on this ritual to me,when he the ritual was completed he would cut thru the water oil mixture with a knife making the sign of the cross. He was always reluctant to perform this ritual. It always took something out of him.
From Maria Seminara Commodore, 8 May 1996:
Tony and PIEsani, Many times this procedure was done on me when I lived in Sicily and even after we came to the USA. Mostly to get rid of a terrible headache (possibly caused by Malocchio?).
There was always a lot of jealousy among relatives anÝbody stared at you too long, it was taken as Malocchio and for whatever reason you ended up with a splitting head-ache!
Personally I believe the cooleness of the ceramic with cold water on your head always brought relief and of course a little of mind over matter might have helped.
From Arthur Urbano, 08 May 1996:
Tonight I asked my grandmother about the malocchio. She's 80 and was born in the USA, her mother, from Teano, used to perform it. Apparently my g-grandmother would perform this ritual to get rid of headaches. She would get a bowl of water and pour some oil into it. If the oil formed a large circle in the middle of the bowl, the ritual worked and the headache would go away; if not, well, it didn't work.
This seems similar to other rituals that people have been describing. It seems that paganism persisted in the old world.
From Tom Lazzara, 9 May 1996:
Subject: Sole a Testa/headache
Pie-sanos, Not sure if this comes under superstitions or home remedies bt it works. On hot summer days after playing outside all day I would sometimes have a headache in the evening. My mother would place a hankerchief over a glass of water and with my head in her lap would turn the glass over on my forehead. Done rapidly none of the water would spill. After about 30 seconds bubbles would start to rise up in the inverted glass. When there were no more bubbles she would remove the glass and the headache would soon be gone.
She said the headache was caused from "sole a testa" (sun in the head). I don't remember how old I was when I questioned the Authenticity, but being a dubting Thomas I did. I had her do it a second time and a 3rd time to see if it would produce bubbles again. It didn't. I figured it was just air bubbles from water that may have leaked out, so I had her do it when I didn't have a headache, No bubbles. But the next time I had a headache, guess what, there were bubbles. Try this on a hot day sometime, I think it works better then a cold wash cloth. It draws the heat out of your head. Maybe thats why I have never been known as a Hot Headed Italian, Hard Yes, Hot No. Given some the messages that have been burning up the keyboards
Maybe now would be a good time for all of us to try it.(myself included) Water use to be cheaper
"VIVA L'ULIVO" Gianfranco
From Nick.DiValerio, 9 May 1996:
My mother, born in Italy, always had this ritual performed on her when her headaches became unbearable. She explained that the headaches were so bad because someone had evil thoughts about you. Call it supersition, but it seemed to work more than it doesn't. However, the ritual can only be performed by certain people. It has to be taught by someone who practices.
From Nick - 25 Aug 1996:
My GM was born on Christmas day in 1882, and as such, was reputed to be able to cure the unfotunates who'd been given the Evil Eye by a "Jettatori". I recall adults & children coming to her home, where she would place cold water in a dish, then say something in Italian, which ended with the afflicted 's name. Next, she would let a few drops of olive oil run down her little finger, into the water. At this point, all gathered around the dish to se if the oil would disperse or conglutinate. She would then make the sign of the cross above the water with scissors, screwrdiver, & knife.
From Joe Tambe - 26 Aug 1996:
Mal Occhio is a subject I have some knowledge about from my Sicilian heritage. Mal Occhio literally means the "evil eye". Many people believe that with a strong, severe look, someone could put a curse on you. In this case, the curse caused sickness, (fever, headache, stomach ache, etc.).
When there was the belief that perhaps the illness was caused by "mal occhio", an aged woman (preferably a relative), was called in. The afflicted person was made to lie down or sit in a chair.
A large, shallow bowl was filled with water and held over the head of the afflicted. With the index finger, three drops of olive oil were dropped into the bowl of water. At the same time, she said and made the sign of the cross to bless the afflicted. If the olive oil drops remained in normal single drops, it was concluded that the sickness was not caused by "mal occhio". However, if the olive oil spread out over the water, sometimes even sputtering, then that was "proof" that mal occhio was the culprit. At that point, the woman shifted into a curative prayer: "Let the mal occhio get behind you and God bring you ahead". After several repetitions, the water was changed and the olive oil applied again. If the drops were normal, the curse was lifted and the person would get well in a short time. If the drops continued to diffuse, the prayers were repeated and the process repeated over and over sometimes with success, sometimes not.
From Maryann Ruperto - 27 Aug 1996 (Abruzzi):
Hi Nick, Last night when I read your posting about the evil eye to my mother, I asked her if she had ever heard of this. She looked at me very seriously and said not only had she heard of it, she had seen it done many times! Her sister, my aunt, used to do this. Not everyone can do this, only people with some "special" abilty. Anyway, my aunt used to pour the oil (as you indicated) into a dish, if the oil disappeared, it meant that someone had put the evil eye on you. She would then pray over this dish. This little ritual was also able to "break the spell". My mother said that she had seen it where the oil disappeared and there was no sign of it anywhere. You could put the dish away, it was clean. My mother did not know anything about scissors, screwdrivers, or knives.
This ritual is only supposed to be passed on to the persons godchild. I hope this sheds some light on the subject.
From Arleen Gould - 27 Aug 1996 (Calabria):
Just got off the phone with the mother-in-law and read her the letter about the 'Mal Occhio'. Her mother would use this on them as children when they had headaches, etc. but she asked if any one remembers the prayer that went along with it. She said that you could only pass it on to someone on Christmas Eve. (So let's a pretend it is Christmas Eve, I won't tell if you don't.) Also she said that a 'Red Ribbon' would protect you from the Mal Occhio. So make sure you have it on before you type the prayer.
From Bob Fanelli:
My father, whose grandparents were from Riccia, Campobasso, said that his grandmother used to cure the Malocchio for children in their family. She would take a saucer or bowl, put a little water in it, pour in some oil, then take sewing threads and lay them in the shape of a cross in the floating oil. Afterwards, she would take the thread cross and lay it on the stomach of the sick child.
He also remembers that it was the practice among the neighborhood boys, in Edge Hill, PA, if they wanted to give someone the Malocchio, to make the sign of the horns and jab it towards the person. At the same time they would make a mean face at the victim. But, he said, it was just kid's stuff and not taken seriously.
From Bob Fanelli:
Philadelphian Charles Godfrey Leland collected folk beliefs in Tuscany in the late 19th century. Here's what he had to say about the "oil on water" custom we've been discussing, as he learned it from a woman (a strega) in Florence.
"I am making an incantesimo with oil....
Take the flask with oil - a small one- make with it thrice the sign of the cross on the head and face, saying:
'In nome del cielo,
Delle stelle e della luna,
Mi levo questo malocchio (o altra cosa),
Per mia maggior fortuna!'
Then with the same bottle or vial, make three crosses with the right hand over the glass of water, exactly from side to side, also making the corna or jettatura with the forefinger and little finger of the left hand extended, and the middle and ring finger closed, or held by the thumb. And these extended fingers rest on the edge of the tumbler.
While doing this the strega repeats:
'Befania! Befania! Befania!
Chi mi ha dato il malocchio,
Me lo porte via!'
Then pour in, or let fall, very carefully , three drops of oil. If they combine at once, it is a good sign, or an affirmative to any question. If you wish to know whether you are to find what you seek, or meet a friend, or anything of the kind, all will go as you desire. But if the three drops remain apart it is a bad or negative sign.
Then to thoroughly explore all the chances, this ceremony is renewed three times. And every time throw the water and oil into the street, or a court. Should a man be the first to pass, all will yet go well. If a woman, the omens are still unfavorable. And then once more make the castagna or chestnut, the sign of the thumb between the fore and middle fingers, which is far more potent than the corna (even the Roman writers call it terrible); note that this also is on the edge of the glass, with the left hand, while with the right, the oil is dropped skillfully so as to make a cross of oil, repeating the Befania invocation three times as before.
And if, after all, the oracle is unpropitious, drop into the glass about a teaspoonful of salt, and repeat the formula of 'Befania'. Should the oil turn a whitish color, this is a sign that the Befania relents and that all may yet go well.
But if she be deaf to every spell... Then drop into the glass a hot coal....This mixes the oil and water despite of all the devils. And this done you go forth with the fierce, proud feeling that, though every omen is against you, you are to prevail by a strong will."
-from Charles Godfrey Leland, "Etruscan Magic & Occult Remedies", University Books, 1963, pp.311-312.
The author makes the point that, if at first you don't get the answer you want (or the result you want, in the case of the headache cures mentioned on PIE earlier), then you must persevere and bend the problem to your will. Catholic priests handled the important stuff - baptisms, communion, marriages, deaths - but the common people handled the simple, immediate problems you couldn't call a priest for. I mean, what do you think your parish priest would say if you asked him to come over and get rid of your kid's headache?
From Nick - 27 Aug 1996:
Certain individuals, usually having a physical mark-such as thick eyebrows or a scar, or belonging to an uncommon cultural or physical type, were regarded as Jettatore: that is, they are capable of giving the evil eye or another magic spell, both willingly and unwillingly. A person born on Christmas eve or day was thought to have the power to overcome that of the Jettatore (as was my grandmother, born Dec 25, 1882.)
Some of this info comes from "The Two Rosetos," (Roseto Valfortore in Foggia) by Carla Bianco U. of Indiana Press, 1971.
From Joe Tambe (my parents were born in Sicilia) - 28 Aug 1996:
Jettare is Sicilian for "Buttare" (Italian) which means to throw(out), or fling or cast(out). Jettatore (Buttatore) is one who throws(out) or casts(out). Throw out the dirty water, throw out the discards, etc. In this case , a person who casts out the evil spell. (As an aside, there is no "J" in Italian. In Sicilian, "J" is used in conjunction with a vowel-i or e to create a sound like "ye" as in "yet". So, "jettatore" in pronounced "yettatore" in Sicilian.)
From Steve Saviello - 8 Dec 1996:
In a little village high atop a hill, in Via della Padella number 2 to be precise, an old lady, part fairy part witch, passes the entire year in company with her grotesque assistants (the Befanucci) preparing coal, making sweets and toys and darning old stockings and socks. These are all to be distributed to children on Rome's magical night of nights, between the 5th and 6th of January. This seems the longest night of all. Every child is in awe of 'La Befana' a sentiment tinged with love and fear.
Dressed in black and huge, she comes, entering the houses down the chimney to leave her presents for the children: coal for the bad boys and girlsand sweets and candies for the good ones. The children prepare a plate of soft ricotta cheese for her, for everyone knows that she doesn't have many good teeth left. In origin this character is even older than Babbo Natale (Father Christmas or Santa Claus). Her festival has usurped an ancient pagan feast set celebrated on the Magic Night, the 6th day of the New Year, chosen by ancient Eastern astronomers according to their complicated calculations.
Epiphany was, therefore, pagan in origin. Only later was the day associated with the life of Christ. So strong was the remembrance of things past that two other events in Jesus' life were calculated to have taken place on this day: His Baptism and the Wedding at Cana. Indeed until the forth century Christmas itself was celebrated on 6 January. Until the end of last century La Befana could be found in Piazza Sant'Eustachio or in Piazza dei Cappellari where the annual Christmas fair with cribs and toys took place. Then because of the fashion for crinolins and large hooped skirts the fair was moved to Piazza Navona (where it is still today) taking the place of the four hundread years old spices market which had to bemoved over to Campo de'Fiori.
From Velma - 13 Dec 1996:
Nonnavelma's Befana Story
I've been off-line for a bit so please excuse me if I'm overloading you with Befana Stories. This is how my grandmother told it to me:
The three wise men were on their journey when they were stopped by an old woman with a broom who asked them where they were going. They told her that they were following a star that would lead them to a newborn baby. They asked her if she would like to come along with them at which she replied that she was too busy sweeping and cleaning up to go along with such nonsense. Of course, when the realization came to her that the baby was Jesus the Redeemer her regret for not having gone along with the wise men was so great that she is spending eternity taking gifts to good children on Christmas.
My mother was born in 1903. She lived with her mother and sister in a small village in Tuscany. Her father was a "figurista" and traveled all over the world with a band of men selling figurines door-to-door and was never at home. They were very poor as were most of the people in the village. I don't remember they're ever talking about a great Christmas Eve meal. I believe their big treat before going to Midnight Mass was roasting chestnuts in the fireplace. Midnight Mass was the highlight of the holiday. They would walk in the dark along the snowy "viotoli" to the bright and warm candle-lit church and together with their friends and relatives greet the Newborn King singing carols such as "Tu Vieni da Le Stelle, O Re Del Cielo." They would then return to their humble homes and set out their wooden shoes (zocoli) and wait for the Befana to come in the night. If they were lucky there might be a sweet bright orange waiting for them in the morning. The very fortunate might find a small sliver of chocolate along with the orange. A few nuts or berries would also be a special treat. But, if you had been bad -- a piece of charcoal would greet you when you awakened.
We have four children, three in-law children, and eight grandchildren. I am at a loss as to what to buy for them at Christmas since they already have so much. Christmas Eve is at Nonna and Nonno's house and we open the gifts we are exchanging. We have a very large living room that is so filled with Christmas packages that we can hardly move. I often think of my mother who had made for herself a little straw doll which as a child she cherished. She often told me that she dreamed of having a little piece of fabric to make a little dress for the doll. How much we have to be grateful for those men and women who left their homes for far away places who deprived themselves of luxuries to save every penny, so that we would have a better life than they.
Let us remember those immigrants as we sit at our overladen tables and beautifully decorated trees at Christmas and thank il Re Del Cielo for their courage and foresight.
From Bob Russo - 13 Dec 96:
Father Carrillo, a missionary priest from Bari visited our town last week, and provided the following information:
The legend of La Befana is quaint. She is a very old and bent woman dressed all in black. Her hair is long and straggly, her nose is hooked, and she rides a broomstick. The legend tells how the custom of giving presents at Christmas began.
According to Fr. Carrillo, th legend says the three wise men visited her on their journey to Bethlehem in search of the Holy Christ Child. They asked her to accompany them but she said she was too busy. Later, after changing her mind, La Befana goes off on her own to find the Child. She continues to wander about Italy and at the Epiphany (January 6, when the Wise Men finally found the Christ Child), begins rewarding good children while cheating those who deserve punishment for their misdeeds. That's why in Italy, children receive their gifts on the Feast of the Epiphany (from La Befana) rather than from St. Nicholas(Santa Claus) on Christmas as do most of the world's children.
La Befana is the great gift-bringer in Italy. She comes quietly in inconspicuous garb. For those who are deserving, the reward is candy and gifts in their stockings. But for others, it is either a switch or a piece of coal or both. Fr. Carrilo says parents in Italy today can purchase a commercial candy that resembles pieces of coal.
Was Befana a witch or merely a pre-occupied old lady too greatly encumbered by her own household duties to assist the Wise Men? It is interesting to note, too, that St. Nicolas (accepted by many as the person we recognize as Santa Claus) is buried in Bari. He was born either in Greece or Turkey and was known for giving gifts to the needy.
Hopefully this is not a repeat of other La Befana stories already posted on PIE. I thought it interesting and consider it pretty authentic since it came from an Italian priest who is familiar with the legend, and of course, St. Nicholas who is buried in Fr. Carrillo's home town of Bari.
From Martin M. Morales
The following appeared in La Voce Italiana from Houston, Texas in 1993. I thought you would all enjoy it.
A witch on a broomstick isnt usually associated in this country with Christmas, but in Italy, all the buoni ragazzi (good kids) cant wait for old Befana to come riding in on January 6 for lEpifania (the Epifany).
The average Italian child has been busy writing to this buona strega (good witch), posting the letters in letter mailboxes attached to the presepio (nativity scene) in the piazza. Some of the furbini (little wise guys) know who really delivers the goods and make sure Babbo (Daddy) sees or even gets the letters, just for insurance.
Some believe that Befana is a version of the word Epifania, but apparantly there was also a character with a broom call Befana found on some Etruscan scratchings. The people in remote areas of the Emilia still call on her by that version of the name present or cure malocchio (evil eye). Even la scopa (the broom) is considered against evil.
In the Christian legend, she was a woman who had lost her husband and son about the same time that the Magi passed through town and asked her to join them. She was so involved in her sweeping (or purification) that she refused. When she finally decided to follow them, she could not find them, and ended up meandering forever with her broom and small sack of gifts, giving them out to kids like you (I hope.)
In the paesi (towns), groups of men will dress up like old ladies, just as soon as they get off work, to participate in the strange ritual associated with Befana. Wearing old dresses and carrying brooms, guitars and mandolins, their heads wrapped in kerchiefs and cigars in their mouths, they march up to the door of a neighbor and begin to sing:
Toca a voi, padrondi casa,
Amandarci la figiola,
Con una bell grembolata.
(The head of the household has a duty,
To send his daughter to us,
Send her alone down to us,
With an apron full of booty.)
At this point, the neighbor should open the door and offer the carolers some wine, cookies, oranges, and other little edibles. Sometimes, however, there are those who do not want to play. In these cases, the singers sing:
Su, venite, buona gente,
Son venute le Befan.
(Come on, and be good sports,
The Befane have come to you.)
If that doesnt do it, they end the chorus with:
O figliaci di puttene,
Ti pigliasse un accidente!
Oftentimes they are accompanied by their children, who carry panierini (little baskets) with which to receive the little gifts themselves. At night, their stockings will be hung to receive other little gifts, which also can appear in their panierini. The little diavoli (devils) can expect carbone e cenere (coal and ashes) and in some cases its even mixed with good stuff. Dipende (it depends.)
From Patricia J. Triaca:
Your post on La Befana seems most accurate from what I had been told about the custom from my father. He lived in Italy, Calamecca/Pistoia from the time he was 6 until he was l6. The custom must have travelled through all of Italy as Calamecca is in the Tuscan Apennines. He never remembers a Santa Claus as custom in Italy at the time he was growing up. Presents from the Befana did come on the 12th day and we always had a "Little Christmas" celebration at our house in honor of La Befana. There is also a cookie called Befana, very thin, almost like a sand tart, does anybody have the recipe? Would love to have it. Christmas trees were not a custom at all in my father's youth and I remember my paternal grandmother always being a bit shocked at people wanting to have a tree in the house! As my father was gravely ill this past summmer, his last memories were of La Befana and he kept speaking to me (in Italian) about it. So I think he was having happy memories!
From Bob Collins:
In the following, from 'Christ Stopped at Eboli' by Carlo Levi, the author, who is a prisoner of the Mussolini regime, describes a Christmas moment in the Basilicata mountain village of Gagliano:
"It was Christmas Eve and the forsaken land was piled high with snow. The wind carried the funereal tolling of the church bell, which seemed to come down from the sky. From every doorway good wishes and blessings were called down upon my head as I went by. Bands of children made their last rounds with a cupi-cupi [primitive noisemaker], and the peasants and their women took gifts to the gentry. Here the ancient custom prevails that the poor pay homage to the wealthy; their gifts are received as a matter of course and are not reciprocated. I, too, on Christmas Eve, had to accept bottles of oil and wine, eggs and baskets of dried figs; the donors were surprised that I did not treat them as well deserved tributes, but tried to evade them or at least make some simple return.
What strange sort of gentleman was I, not to countenance the reversal of the story of the Three Wise Men, but rather to welcome those who came to my house empty-handed?"
Ciao and Buon Natale
From John Monzo:
Does anyone have any stories about La Befana? I remember as a young child my Grandmother would dress up as La Befana and give out gifts to all the grandchildren.
I have not seen anything like this since my childhood and I guess as the older generation passed on so did the tradition of Befana in the U.S. I know that it is still alive and well in Italy since all of my relatives who still live there tell me about it.
I have a small Befana doll that my relatives sent back with my wife the last time she visited them in Italy and we have it out all year round in our house.
I live in South Philadelphia in a largely populated Italian neighborhood but you still do not see anything relating to Befana around the Feast of the Epiphany.
When I visited my family in Italy 4 years ago I was there during the month of January. So it was prime time for the visit of La Befana. I noticed in the candy shop windows that they sold "carbone" or black rock candy that actually looked just like pieces of coal. It was a very interesting time to be there and see all of my little cousins eagerly awaiting the visit of La Befana.
Buon Anno A Tutti
From Lou Alfano:
Egregi PIEsani: In reading the messages about La Befana and the mention of Babbo Natale, let
me offer my 2 cents' worth:
I believe that La Befana is the indiginous Italian Christmas time gift-giver, while Babbo Natale is merely an italianization of the British Father Christmas (the name translates as "Daddy (or Father) Christmas").
La Befana is a personification of the "spirit of the Epiphany" and can almost be considered a nickname for "Epifania," the proper Italian word for epiphany. This is quite fitting for a gift-giver since the Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Magi (or 3 Wise Men) to the infant Jesus, with their gifts of gold, frankinsence, and myrrh. The Magi were named Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar, according to tradition.
VIVA LA FAMIGLIA!
From Lorenzo Calvelli (Venice, Italy):
Did you know this ?
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col vestito alla "romana"
viva viva la Befana !!
Porta cenere e carboni
ai bambini cattivoni
ai bambini belli e buoni
porta chicchi e tanti doni !
From Louis Alfano:
I did not know this poem before. Thank you for sharing it with us all, and adding to our knowledge of the legend of La Befana. A rough translation into English would be:
La Befana comes at night
In tattered shoes
Dressed in the Roman style
Long live la Befana!!
She brings cinders and coals
To the naughty children
To the good children
She brings sweets and lots of gifts.
When I was a child in Brooklyn, New York, the grandson of Italian immigrants, I was told that Santa Claus would bring me coal if I was a bad little boy. I wonder if this idea originated in the legend of La Befana, or if bad children around the world are all told that they will get coals and cinders for Christmas.
VIVA LA FAMIGLIA!
From Lorenzo Calvelli (Venice, Italy):
On Sat, 6 Jan 1996, JOHN MONZO wrote: "That is a real nice little poem. Where did you get it from?"
I've just heard it since I was a child every January 6th, along with this "ninna nanna" (lullaby):
Ninna nanna, ninna oh,
questo bimbo a chi lo do ?
Lo daro' alla Befana,
che lo tenga una settimana.
Lo daro' all'Uomo Nero,
che lo tenga un anno intero.
Lo daro' alla sua mamma,
che gli faccia far la nanna !
From Bob Fanelli:
For those of you with kids or grandchildren, there's a good picture book by Tomie dePaola, "The Legend of Old Befana", Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980. dePaola is a great children's illustrator, who seems to be particularly fond of drawing old Italian ladies. He did another, very funny series about a witch, Strega Nona, as well as other Italian legends.
I enjoyed the various postings about Befana, but couldn't track down that reference to Etruscan Befana images. It may be that people have seen Etruscan drawings of a person with a broom and interpreted them to be Befana. There may be a good reason, too. The Etruscan were fond of depicting demons and such, and from what others have alluded to here, Befana was not simply a good, toy-dispensing witch. She was also seen as someone to be scared of - the bringer of ill fortune.
Here is an incantation to drive away bad luck, collected from Tuscany in the late 19th century. It may well be that these people inherited their folk religion from their ancestors who lived in the same place, the Etruscans.
"Take frankincense, both of the best and the inferior kind, also cummin seed. Have ready a new scaldino, which is kept only for this purpose. And should it happen that affairs of any kind go badly, fill the scaldino (or earthen fire-dish) with glowing coals, then take three pinches of best incense and three of the second quality, and put them all 'in fila', in a row, on the threshold of the door. Then take the rest of your incense and the cummin, and put it into the burning coal, and carry it about, and wave it over the bed and in every corner, saying:-
In nome del cielo!
Delle stelle e della luna!
Mi levo questo mal d'occhio
Per mia maggior' fortuna!
Befania! Befania! Befania!
Che mi date mal d'occhio maladetta sia
Befania! Befania! Befania!
Chi mi ha dato il maldocchio
Me lo porta via
E maggior fortuna
Mi venga in casa mia!
(In the name of heaven
And of the stars and moon,
May this trouble change
To better fortune soon!
Befania! Befania! Befania!
Should this deed be thine;
Befania! Befania! Befania!
Take it away, bring luck, I pray,
Into this house of mine!)
Then when all is consumed in the scaldino, light the little piles of incense on the threshold of the door, and go over it three times, and spit behind you over your shoulder three times, and say:-
Befania! Befania! Befania!
Chi me ha dato maldocchio!
Me lo porta via!
Befania! I say,
Since thou gavest this bad luck,
Carry it away!)
Then pass thrice backwards and forwards before the fire, spitting over the left shoulder, and repeating the same incantation."
-from "Etruscan Magic & Occult Remedies", Charles Godfrey Leland, University Books, NY, 1963. Sorry for the silly translations, but that's what was written. The author collected folk beliefs in Tuscany, and appears to have believed them himself.
Thanks to Martin Morales for that great posting about "The Befane", men dressed as Befana who go from door to door begging sweets. That's the first Italian example I've come across of mumming in Italy - a tradition I'm more familiar with in England and Ireland, and - of course - in America. Here it survives in the Mummers' Parade in Philadelphia, held on New Year's Day, and in the kids who come knocking on Halloween. Anybody have any first-hand examples or family traditions?
From Dominick A. Faust, 3 Jan 1996 (Calabria & Sicily):
Dear Piesanos, Over the Holiday weekend my father and I where discussing various superstitions. I have kept him abreast about the large spectrum of informative and knowledgeable people of PIE. And he agrees that PIE is a great forum for ideas and information. During our discussion my father mentioned something, he called "a pledge". He went on to give me an explanation of what he thought "a pledge" was !?! He was very young when he first encountered someone who made "a pledge".
The story as he remembers goes like this; his great aunt made a wish, and " a pledge". If the wish came true, she would walk the entire parade route, for the church of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, in New Jersey, in her bare feet. He believes her wish came true because she walked the entire parade route in her bare feet. Does anyone know the how and what is "a pledge" ??!?
From Denise Denner, 4 Jan 1996:
My mother made a "pledge" after my brother went to Viet Nam. She pledged she would not only attend church on every Sunday and Holy day but also volunteer on every dinner committee, cancer dressing, etc. if my brother came home alive and unharmed. She previously did not go to church at all except weddings and funerals. My brother is 52 years old now and my mother is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's but she still attends mass every week and on holy days at the home. Maybe this "pledge" is not superstition but faith.
From John Mafodda, 4 Jan 1996 (Sicily):
There is a celebration in New Jersey on July 16th the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This is held annually at Saint Joseph Church in Hammonton New Jersey. This celebration was started over 100 years ago by a group of Italian immigrants (My Grandfather included) from the village of Geso outside of Messina. They had come to this country, as many did at that time to find a better life and they brought with them a strong will, and a deep faith, and in this faith a profound devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. They formed a Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and promised that if She would watch over their crops and their families every July 16th they would hold a special devotion in Her honor.
This devotion started with a procession through the fields. They would sing the Ave Maria and recite the rosary, many would carry large candles. In the early days the procession would be led by someone carrying a pricture of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and when they had accumulated enough money they commissioned to have a statue built. The men of the society would then vie for the honor of carrying this full sized statue on their shoulders throughout the procession. Considering that the procession had begun to travel around the town a distance of Five miles and take upwards to 16 hours to complete this was quite a devotion.
People from up to 500 Miles away rent Busses and come to the Festival, and during the war years many a Mother and Wife prayed to Our Lady of Mount Carmel to bring their Men home safe. I have wittnessed many Women some in their 70's and 80's carrying large candles while walking in their bare feet the entire procession route in thanks for answering their prayers. My Mother walked in this procession until she was 79 Years old and could no longer make the trip.
Modern technology has taken over, they now roll the Statue through the streets on a specially constructed cart and the procession is much smaller and does not take quite so long, but non the less there are still people who would not miss a July 16th celibration of the Feast of Our Lady Of Mt. Carmel. I no longer live in the area but when the celebration falls on a Weekend I attend.
From Pualani Anzelmo Wagner, 4 Jan 1996:
We also had a celebration in Newark New Jersey, called the First Ward, meaning all Italians, was the procession of the Blessed Mother. On the day of the feast, old, young, would start out from the church, St.Lucy's on 7th ave. and walk to Garside St. up Bloomfield ave. and to Park Ave. and back to 7th Ave. This also was quite lengthy and the older Italian women would walk with rosary beads in one hand, and a candle in the other. Four men would hold the blessed Mother on their shoulders, and one man would be on the side of the blessed Mother, and they would pin dollors on Her dress which made of white silk and a blue satin veil for Her head.
It is said that a "novena" is made at the time of the passing of the blessed Mother, that if you give what ever you could afford, your prayers would be answered. My mothers pledge was never revailed to us children, but there were five of us children, and no father. My father died when I was only 9 years old,and my mother never remarried. To see the streets crowded as it was, and people reaching to touch and kiss the apron of the blessed Mother was a site to see. People would come out of buildings, and store owners would rush to see Her.
Now there is no more feasts in Newark, New Jersey, were the church would be open 24 hours, and now only open on Sunday for church services, and confessions on Sat. I went home to see the church, and can't believe my eyes! how small and different it looks. Where have they all gone!