Daggers, pistols and blood bonds: how the Mafia works
A strict moral code, archaic initiation ceremonies and… Uxbridge? When a Mafia criminal known as “The Professor” was discovered living in a West London suburb, his humdrum semi-detached house seemed an odd fit for a notorious Cosa Nostra boss, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Domenico Rancadore, who was a member of the Sicilian Mafia Cosa Nostra from 1987 to 1995, has been convicted of Mafia association and extortion.
Though he fought his first extradition attempt on human rights grounds, the former fugitive is now waiting to hear whether he’ll be sent to Italy for a seven-year sentence.
But does the criminal group he belonged to deserve its chilling reputation? And how does The Godfather in cinema measure up to real life as a mafia godfather?
The Sicilian Mafia is 150 years old and has historically seen several hundred murders per year. In 1992, all Italian Mafias were responsible for more than 300 murders, though this fell by 80% between 1992 and 2012 - down to 70 reported mafiarelated homicides in 2012. And in the last few years, Cosa Nostra’s number of members has dropped from 5,000 to 3,500.
The Mafia is still linked to drug trade but make their living from lucrative extortion rackets and its political links, but their power has faded in recent years as local businesses take a stand against the constant extortion.
But while the income and political power of the Sicilian mafia varies, the group is known for its rigid hierarchies, organisation and strong sense of tradition. Regardless of the strength of the mafia, there are some customs that never die.
Once a Mafia recruit has proved himself a reliable criminal, they join the organisation through a strict initiation ceremony.
Although the Mafia refers to itself as a “family”, there are very few blood ties. Instead, political status within the organisation is volatile and constantly subject to threat.
The Mafia are often associated with food, and are known for the love of big meals and Italian dining. But, the Mafia are not friends of good food and agriculture, damaging Italy’s food production – poisoning the land with carcinogenic waste – as Italians pay higher food prices because of mafia infiltration of the agricultural economy.
Cosa Nostra members can be very religious and have strong links historical links to Catholicism. Mafia bosses have traditionally enjoyed the authority bestowed by religion – they make sure to walk alongside the priest in local religious processions and sit in the front row of the church.
In 2007, seized mafia documents found that members of Casa Nostra have strict rules about punctuality and lust. Here are the group’s ten commandments: 1. No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it. 2. Never look at the wives of friends. 3. Never be seen with cops. 4. Don’t go to pubs and clubs. 5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife’s about to give birth. 6. Appointments must absolutely be respected. 7. Wives must be treated with respect. 8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth. 9. Money cannot be appropriated other families. 10. People who can’t be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn’t hold to moral values.
The Mafia has shown signs of adapting to modern life, and reports suggest that the criminal gang has even infiltrated renewable energy businesses.
There’s no doubt that Sicily is on the right path to fight the Mafia and the past two decades has seen Cosa Nostra’s influence fade.
But the group has a secretive and rigid organisational structure that will take generations to break, and historians warn that the story of the Mafia does not progress smoothly.
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