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It’s really nice to be of Italian heritage. I mean, we can’t ALL be Italian! If I wasn’t Italian I would probably choose to be Irish; or Greek. Tough choice.
Growing up Italian means growing up in a culture filled with rules and lots of ideas which might be deemed superstitious nonsense. One of the rules was that you never told Grandma or Aunt Philomena that her ideas were superstitious nonsense. Never.
Some of them are pretty quaint.
The “evil eye” for example. Mal Occhio.
Its the look one person gives to another when they are jealous or envious. According to Grandma it is the way to put a curse on others to cause them misfortune or physical pain. Head aches. Diarrhea. 🙂
Grandma said it was the reason one never spoke about the family’s business with outsiders and never ostentatiously displayed wealth. It might cause neighbors to be jealous and give you the mal occhio. It never occurred to her that Uncle Bruno might get envious and give another family member mal occhio.
for your neck to protect you
In any case, one could protect against mal occhio by wearing un corno – the horn – around one’s neck. Resembling a chili pepper un corno was usually available in red coral, gold or silver and represented an animal horn. It was used to ward off evil spirits that mal occhio might bring upon you from a jealous neighbor. The horn of course once represented the Moon Goddess and was at one time sacred.
for your new car!
It was a tradition in my neighborhood that when one bought a new car, especially a nice one, your family always got you un corne to hang from you rear view mirror. A big corne. After all, a new car would lead your neighbors to think you were doing well and bring the mal occhio down upon you and your new vehicle.
My maternal grandfather had a giant pair of real horns from a Spanish bull hanging in his Latticini Freschi dairy store to protect us against mal occhio! They even had blood painted on the tips.
True observant Catholics were not exempt from such beliefs and there existed a rich mixture of religion and superstition among the old time immigrants.
For example, there is a patron saint for just about everything and every condition affecting mankind. For example if you are having trouble with your eyes or blind, you pray to St. Lucy. Why? To intercede for you. It might also be that “Luc” is Latin for “light.”
St Lucy was martyred during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian and, according to legend, had her eyes put out before her execution. The legend of Lucy having her eyes put out does not appear in records until the 15th century – some 1,200 years after her martyrdom. At that time it was further noted that when she was being prepared for burial her eyes had been miraculously restored. 🙂
Lucy is often depicted in art as a young woman holding a palm representing martyrdom in one hand and two eyes in the other. Or she is represented by a plate on which are two eyes. Seems a bit pagan if you ask me.
Lucy is the patron saint of Syracuse in Sicily and Perugia on the mainland; her feast is celebrated on December 13. She is also the patron saint of stain glass workers, peasants, glaziers, salesmen and……writers. She is invoked against hemorrahge, dysentery, diseases of the eye, and throat infections according to Wiki.
Now why pray to a saint to “intercede” on your behalf when you can pray directly to Jesus? Well in the Italy of 1900 and centuries before a peasant requesting ANY favor needed a “racomandato,” a recommendation from a”prominenti,” a person of influence to carry his request to the person who could actually grant the request. One needed friends in high places. It fits right in with the general belief in the intercession of saints.
St. Christopher was the patron saint of travelers, drivers and surfers! St. Damian of doctors and barbers. St. John Bosco was patron of printers and publishers. St. Thomas More of statesmen, lawyers and court clerks.
St. Dymphna was one you prayed to for relief from sleepwalking and mental illness. St. Kentigern, patron saint of Glasgow for relief from bullies and verbal abuse.
And St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.
See Wiki for the complete list. 🙂
Which brings us to St. Joseph, earthly father of Jesus, a carpenter and family man and how he has recently become the patron saint of real estate agents. Rumor had it that he could work “miracles” with wood. Now, real estate agents, psychics, religious artifact stores, the Home Depot and eBay are all in on the act.
Having difficulty selling your home? Bury a statue of St. Joseph on the property!
The practice of burying a plastic St. Joseph to help speed the sale of a home dates at least to 1984 in the U.S.A. In 1990 it seemingly became all the rage, with realtors buying plastic saints’ statues by the gross. The standard practice calls for the statue to be dug up once the property has sold and placed on the grateful seller’s mantle or in another place of honor. Some, however, who have trouble remembering where they interred their statues prefer to leave the buried saints where they’ve been placed to help protect the properties for the new owners. (Which may not work all that well — some believe leaving the statue underground will cause the land to continue changing hands.)
But why Joseph, you ask? Why not another saint — say, St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes?
Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, is the patron saint of home and family in the Roman Catholicism. According to one of the hottest new customs, the statues are buried upside down and facing the road in front of a house for sale.
“Actually, different realtors quote different placements of the statue:
• Upside down, near the ‘For Sale’ sign in the front yard. (An upside down St. Joseph is said to work extra hard to get out of the ground and onto someone’s mantle.)
• Right side up.
• In the rear yard, possibly in a flower bed.
• Lying on its back and pointing towards the house “like an arrow.
• Three feet from the rear of the house.
• Facing the house.
• Facing away from the house. (One who tried this reported the house across the street sold, and it hadn’t even been up for sale.)
• Exactly 12 inches deep. ”
The custom of burying St. Joseph has become so widespread that some religious goods stores even offer a Home Sale Kit, which includes a plastic statue, a prayer card, and an introduction to the St. Joseph home sale practice.
Prudent realtors also recommend the following advice in addition to burying Joe:
“For this practice to be fully effective, the seller must, of course, first do such practical yet all important chores as completing all necessary fix-up, properly staging the home and finally, adjusting the price so as to exactly reflect market value.” Right.
Now as a wise old 21st century man I’m not nearly gullible enough to be taken in by such obvious superstition. Grandma maybe; but not I.
On the other hand there is a tale about one home seller who planted St. Joseph in his front yard. When the house didn’t sell, he moved St. Joseph to the rear, then the side, turned it upside down then thoroughly disgusted dug up the plastic and threw it in the garbage.
A week later he read in the newspaper that the town dump had been sold.
“Believe it or not!”
P.S – To my scientist brother-in-law and his wife trying to sell their home in the wild southwest so he can come back here to Florida and be close to the rest of the family I ask –
“What can it hurt?“