Italy, a land known for its rich history, art, and cuisine, is also a country steeped in superstitions. Italians have a deep-rooted belief in superstitions that have been passed down through generations.
These superstitions often blend seamlessly with daily life, shaping cultural practices and influencing decision-making.
Let’s delve into the fascinating world of Italian superstitions and explore some of the most common beliefs that continue to hold sway in this enchanting Mediterranean nation.
1. The Evil Eye (Malocchio):
- The belief in the evil eye, or “malocchio” in Italian, is widespread throughout Italy. It is thought that envy or jealousy can cast a malevolent gaze upon an individual, causing harm or misfortune. To ward off the evil eye, Italians often use “cornicelli” or small red horns, sometimes worn as jewelry or hung in homes.
2. Lucky and Unlucky Numbers:
- In Italy, numbers play a significant role in superstitions. The number 13 is considered unlucky, much like in many other cultures. Conversely, the number 17 is also considered unlucky because when written in Roman numerals (XVII), it can be rearranged to spell “VIXI,” which means “I have lived” or “I am dead.” On the flip side, the number 7 is associated with good luck.
3. Friday the 17th:
- While Friday the 13th is widely feared in some cultures, in Italy, Friday the 17th is considered unlucky. It is a day when people take extra precautions to avoid accidents and misfortunes.
4. Black Cats:
- Contrary to some Western superstitions, black cats are considered lucky in Italy. They are believed to bring good fortune, especially if one crosses your path. Black cats are often associated with witches and have a positive connotation in Italian folklore.
5. Superstitions Surrounding Weddings:
- Italian weddings are steeped in traditions and superstitions. One common belief is that the groom should carry the bride over the threshold of their new home to ward off evil spirits. Additionally, it’s considered unlucky for the bride to wear green, as it’s thought to bring bad luck.
6. Red Underwear for New Year’s Eve:
- Italians often wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year. This tradition is believed to bring love and positive energy into one’s life.
7. Throwing Salt:
- Spilling salt is considered bad luck, but Italians have a remedy for this superstition. To counteract the bad luck, they toss a pinch of salt over their left shoulder with their right hand.
8. Knock on Wood:
- Like many other cultures, Italians also have a “knock on wood” superstition. When making a positive statement or expressing a hope for the future, people will often knock on wood to ensure that the good fortune continues.
9. Bread Superstitions:
- In Italy, wasting bread is considered unlucky. Crumbs should be carefully gathered and disposed of respectfully. Additionally, it’s thought to be bad luck to place bread upside down, as it symbolizes poverty.
10. Superstitious Gestures: – Italians have several hand gestures believed to bring good luck or ward off bad luck. The “corna” gesture, made by extending the index and pinky fingers while folding the middle and ring fingers down, is used to protect against the evil eye. Another gesture is the “figa,” a fist with the thumb protruding between the index and middle fingers, believed to ward off curses.
Superstitions are an integral part of Italian culture, adding depth and intrigue to daily life. Whether it’s the subtle act of tossing salt or the more overt use of amulets, these beliefs continue to thrive in contemporary Italy, connecting its people to their ancient traditions and heritage. While some may dismiss these superstitions as mere folklore, they remain an essential thread in the rich tapestry of Italian culture, enriching the experience of both residents and visitors alike.
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