SU­PER­STI­TION IN THE SHADOW OF VE­SU­VIUS

Where Naples Coast & Islands - - Contents -

The horn, the hunch­back and salt thrown over the shoul­der: good luck charms to ward off evil

Naples and su­per­sti­tion are an in­di­vis­i­ble com­bi­na­tion. In the shadow of Ve­su­vius, su­per­sti­tion is a cult, a habit and a be­lief that, de­spite hav­ing no log­i­cal ba­sis, is in­dis­crim­i­nately em­braced by all so­cial classes. Be­ing su­per­sti­tious means ‘ be­liev­ing ir­ra­tionally that ob­jects, cer­tain be­hav­iours and rituals can in­flu­ence fu­ture events.’ In Naples, when su­per­sti­tion is at­trib­uted to peo­ple hav­ing evil pow­ers, it is re­ferred to as the ‘ mal­oc­chio’; the curse of the evil eye which some­one casts on things or peo­ple in or­der to do them harm. The evil eye or the look that one per­son gives an­other if they are jeal­ous is known, in Naples, as ‘ jet­tatura’, de­riv­ing from the verb ‘ gettare’ ( to cast). How can you pro­tect your­self from th­ese evil spells? The Neapoli­tan peo­ple have in­vented real tal­is­mans as well as fool­proof ways to de­fend them­selves. One of th­ese con­sists of plac­ing an un­rav­eled ball of wool on the thresh­old of your house in or­der to keep the evil spirit busy while they un­tan­gle it be­fore en­ter­ing your home. How­ever, when it comes to su­per­sti­tions, the field in which Neapoli­tans have ex­celled is the one re­lat­ing to good luck charms. The most com­mon are horse­shoes, the hunch­back, num­ber 13, a crown of gar­lic, a broom, a ball of wool and hot chili pep­pers, but the horn is the most pop­u­lar of all. The ori­gins of the horn as a good luck charm date back to an­tiq­uity and the dark ages when men as­so­ci­ated the power of an­i­mals with the size of their horns, wor­ship­ping horned an­i­mals as di­vini­ties. For cen­turies, fa­mous war­lords such as Alessan­dro Magno had them­selves painted wear­ing horn- shaped head­gear, be­cause the horn was con­sid­ered a sym­bol of power, sym­bol­iz­ing some type of di­vine power, Com­mon­ers, who were be­witched by th­ese war­riors, be­gan fash­ion­ing small horn- shaped good luck charms from hum­ble ma­te­ri­als such as wood or ter­ra­cotta. Over the cen­turies, horns be­came sym­bols of good luck, and were made from co­ral which peo­ple thought had the power to ward off the evil eye. Dur­ing Me­dieval times, th­ese tal­is­mans made their way across Europe, and Neapoli­tan jewel­ers be­came fa­mous across the world for their cre­ations. Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, horns must be red and

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