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:)