Miscellaneous Beliefs

Red Ribbon Around The Steering Wheel

From Denise Lovasco Denner - 7 Aug 1996:

I remember my grandmother was always worried about 'curses' and she always seemed so superstitious. One thing that stuck with me was the use of a red ribbon. Whenever a family member bought a new car they had to bring it to Grandma. She would tie a red ribbon around the steering wheel while saying some prayer or verse and then she would toss in a pinch of salt. I'm not sure of the significance of all this but she was convinced ( as were the rest of the family) that this would prevent serious accidents. Even though my grandma died when I was only 12, I have always kept a red ribbon around the steering wheel of my cars. I have added a St. Christopher medal to the ribbon (can't be too careful).

Healing with String & Abating Storms with Blessed Palm

From John Prave - 17 May 1996:

My grandmother used to perform a ritual cure that involved a lengthy piece of string. She would draw forth the string in segments, measuring each segment from the tip of her elbow to the tips of her fingers, and with each drawing forth of a segment of the string she would recite certain prayers. I believe that if the came out even, that is if the last segment corresponded to the distance from her elbow to her fingers, then it was an auspicious sign that the cure would work. This was a ritual that was passed on from mother to daughter and she would not reveal any of the prayers which she prayed or any of the other particulars. I know I don't recall exactly how it went, but my description here is fairly accurate.

Also, I recall on the occasion of a very severe thunder storm that my grandmother took some dried blessed palms that were in the house since the previous Palm Sunday. She set them afire and tossed them out into the storm. Within a very short time the storm abated.

Mustard Plaster and Those Candles

From John Castagna - 23 Sep 1996:

The smell from the mustard plaster is still clear in my mind. Since mustard plaster is still commonly used today, I guess that its benefit has been proven (?) for colds and such. What I never understood, however, were those lit candles that my mother used to put on my chest and then place a glass over them until the flame went out. There was supposedly some old world idea that the vacuum (formed by using up the oxygen under the glass) would suck the sickness out of your chest. I don't know how well they cured sickness, but hot wax dripping down my chest was never very high on my list of favorites.


From Rose Albrizio, 10/19/96:

Now that fall is here and Halloween is coming, can any of the PIE-sanis help me with these two seasonal requests.

1. A recipe for Ossi dei Morti - bone-shaped hard cookies with a meringue topping.

2. Can anyone complete the words to the following fragment of a pattycake rhyme, probably in dialect, which I vaguely remember my grandmother playing with me. It ended with taking the baby's hands and slapping her face.[No it wasn't child abuse - just taking her hands and touching her face stinging slap].

Mani, Mani Morti

Tutti s'en apporti

. . ......................

un' bella schiaffatone.

Rose Albrizio rambler32@aol.com

Grass Cross & Ghosts

From Bob Russo, 8 Nov 1996 (Ripabottoni, Campobasso & Foggia):

...Most of what little I know came from my mother and grandmother. I do know the people there were very superstitious as evidenced by some of the things my grandmother used to do. . .like making a cross from two wide blades of grass and pinning it to the ground with a knife in the center. This was supposed to prevent being hit by lightning in an electrical storm. Also, they believed you could see the dead on All Souls Day if you peered through a pitchfork!

She was also convinced that she saw a ghost -- a woman who suddenly appearednext to her as she was walking home at dusk from working in the fields. The woman talked with her, then as they approached a cemetery, told her that she was leaving and not to look back. Now frightened, my grandmother began to run and as she looked over her shoulder she says she saw a form flying toward the cemetery.

Of course I don't believe a word of any of it, but just to be sure, I do sometimes resort to the grass cross although we seldom get electrical storms here in California! >grin<

"Mau Mau"Ghost

From Jo Tedesco:

I heard an interview yesterday with the leader of an acoustic (imagine!) band called Mau Mau from Torin. This band apparently sing in the Piedmontese dialect. What was interesting though was that the lead singer said that they called the band Mau Mau because apart from being the Kenyan? political/nationalist movement from the 60s it was also a word which in dialect meant someone who was dirty/poorly dressed etc. Also they were a very multicultural band.

In my dialect my parents would talk about the mau mau - but it meant something like a 'non-existent' ghost. For example - if the door were to suddenly slam shut and somebody said - what was that? the answer could be "era lu mau mau". Anyone else use this term?