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Many Strange and Wonderful Superstitions are Practiced in Italy

It’s no secret that Italians are superstitious. This essay will investigate this fantastical world on the verge of religion and witchcraft.

Any culture can have superstitions, and we can all have them occasionally. Maybe we always wear that fortunate shirt before a test. Or we prefer to carry a lucky charm with us before a date, just in case.

Italians, though, take it a step further—as we do with everything. We are very scaramantici (superstitious) and do our best to stay away from anything that could portare male or portare sfiga (bring ill luck).

Non è vero, ma ci credo. (It’s not true, but I believe it)

This was the title of a 1942 comedy play written by Peppino de Filippo, which was made into a movie ten years later––you can find it on YouTube.

It perfectly reflects the average Italian’s relationship to superstitions. We might not rationally buy into them, but non si sa mai (you never know). Why risk it?

Whether we’re walking around the city, sitting at the table with friends and family, or relaxing at home, the supernatural is always present for us Italians, and we must be careful to avoid certain gross mistakes and appease fate.

Ah! Opening an umbrella in a confined space. Sacrilegious.

It doesn’t matter if it is “piovendo a catinelle” (raining cats and dogs). It’s quite unlucky. If you do it, someone will either urge you to close it and open it outdoors or give you a bad look (traiti un occhiataccia).

This belief is said to have originated in Ancient Rome, when doing so was viewed as an affront to the Sun deity. Due to the fact that impoverished homes used umbrellas to block the rain when there was a hole in the roof, it also represents financial difficulties.

(Passare sotto alla scala) Walking under a ladder

Simple fact: Italians don’t go below ladders. We simply avoid them like the plague because they bring negative karma. So you can be sure they’re not Italians if you see someone walking below a ladder.

This myth developed as a result of the widespread perception that an open ladder resembles the holy trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, represented by a triangle. As a result, treading on the ground underneath is disrespectful and defiant to God.

Sweeping a single woman’s feet (Passare la scopa)

This one is definitely pretty patriarchal. In Italy, which is perhaps not the most progressive nation, sweeping a broom over a woman’s feet signifies that she won’t get married. Perhaps we should simply toss this one out the window.

Il gatto nero (the black cat)

If a black cat crosses an Italian’s path, they will probably go the other way or take a different road only to get away from the feline. This belief has its roots in the Middle Ages. If a black cat crosses a carriage’s route, the horses could become alarmed and cause the carriage to derailed since horses frequently only notice the reflected yellow eyes of a black cat. Of course, the driver and passengers often had a bad experience as well.

Putting a hat on the bed (Mettere il cappello sul letto)

This is bad luck for all those who sleep in the bed––even when it’s you! In years past, a doctor or priest would take their hat off and put it on the bed to signal that someone was on the brink of death.

Buona fortuna vs. In bocca al lupo

You may have heard the phrase “in the mouth of the wolf” (in bocca al lupo) if you have ever visited Italy or if you know an Italian. Italians use this to wish someone luck, and the recipient should always react with the phrase “death to the wolf,” or “crepi il lupo.” The word “good luck,” buona fortuna, is not used since it tends to bring ill luck. Why, yes!

Salt and oil are lost

Always use caution while mixing salt and oil. Whenever they spill, it’s unlucky!

This belief originated in Ancient Rome, when salt and oil were prized commodities. It is similar to many other Italian superstitions. Since individuals were once compensated for their labor with a ration of salt, the term salary really derives from the Latin word salario, which means “salary.”

Therefore, wasting salt was equivalent to wasting money. Don’t forget to grab a pinch and toss it behind your shoulders if it falls. That ought to do the task and prevent any negative effects that your error could have.

Now you could feel overpowered. But keep in mind that you can prevent these perhaps fatal errors as well!

How to Get Rid of Bad Luck and Reverse a Jinx

Good luck gestures to reverse a jinx, such as fare le corna (doing the horns)toccare ferro, carrying around a cornetto (a little horn), grattarsi (scratching your genitalia), and hanging some red chili peppers at your doorstep should do the trick!

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