THE MANO CORNUTO
The mano cornuto is an Italian amulet of ancient origin. Mano means "hand" and corno means "horn." The charm represents a hand gesture in which the index and little fingers are extended while the middle and ring fingers are curled into the palm. The reference is to the horned head of an animal.
Whether made as an apotropaic gesture or worn as an amulet, the mano cornuto is used for magical protection against the evil eye. In this it resembles other hand gestures and hand images that ward off evil, including the hamsa hand, the eye-in-hand, the mano fico (fig hand), and the interlocked thumb gesture. A regionally popular amulet, it is primarily found in Italy and in America among descendents of Italian immigrants.
The mano cornuto shown here is a modern pewter reproduction of a 19th century silver amulet, probably from the area around Naples, where such charms were extremely popular. Older Neapolitan mano cornuto charms were also carved of blood coral.
The evil eye is believed to harm nursing mothers and their babies, bearing fruit trees, milking animals, and the sperm of men -- the forces of generation. The Neapolitan custom of making mano cornuto charms from silver (formerly sacred to the moon goddess Luna) and blood coral (formerly sacred to the sea goddess Venus) hints at the cultural survival of a link between the horned animal head gesture and ancient worship of a neolithic-era mother- or fertility-goddess whose consort was a male deity sometimes called the Horned God. Some archaeologists have theorized that the ancient belief in the sacredness of the horned animal head -- specifially the bull's head or bucranium -- derives from its coincidental resemblance to the female human genitals, consisting of a vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Whether or not this is the case, the mano cornuto is still a popular gesture made by Italian men to protect their genitalia from the evil eye.
copyright � 1995-2003 catherine yronwode. All rights reserved.
THE MANO CORNUTO