USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘cross’
Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Kinesthetic
Magic
Protection

Il Malocchio – Italian Evil Eye

Il Malocchio: “In Sicilian culture… there’s something called the Malocchio, which translates to bad eyes. So, it’s the idea that I can look at you and curse you just by looking at you. I can curse you by giving you some kind of eyes. Like you stick two fingers out, your index and your pinkie, and point it in their direction. That is to give you the malocchio. Like ‘I saw this guy the other day and I hated him so much I gave him the malocchio,’ and this is the symbol to represent it.”

Defense: “Italians put it in their car, it’s the horn of the rabbit, the corno. It looks like a pepper, everyone has one in their car, my grandma has one in her car, it’s like a little pepper. The horn tradition evolved from like, I think, when the horn animal, the moon goddess was sacred. You can wear it around your neck, people hold it in their car as a protective measure.”

Diagnosis: “To diagnose someone with having been struck by the evil eye, you have them drop three drops of olive oil in a bowl of water, and if the oil forms, like, the shape of an eye, the victim has received the malocchio, and they’ve been cursed. When the oil separates from the water, you had to make the sign of the cross, la croce, and you say ‘il nome del padre, del figlio, e dello spirito santo,’ which is name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit, to like protect yourself.”


 

The idea of “Il Malocchio” was introduced to the interlocutor throughout childhood, his grandmother and parents informing him of this belief while gifting him multiple “cornos.” He mentioned that he still has a corno with him at all times, even allowing me to view the one he kept in his bag. This belief remains in his life to present day which is why he is able to explain it with such clarity. Though he has kept some of the cornos, he stated that he does not entirely believe in the Malocchio as he keeps the corno by habit rather than by genuine faith in its abilities.

Although I have heard of the term “malocchio,” I have only experienced the evil eye through a Hispanic lens by way of the term “mal de ojo,” which is essentially the same concept. When a person falls ill or is subject to bad circumstances, it is generally fitting to blame an outside source. In this way, it is somewhat a visually contagious superstition because it can be passed through infection, usually with malicious intent. The supposed cure for the “mal de ojo” that I have witnessed involves a cross made of straw, and though I have not witnessed it, I have heard of the utilization of an egg to ward off the negative effects of the evil eye.

Customs
Gestures
Signs

A Catholic Tradition Honoring My Mother

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Spanish

Age: 20

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 13, 2017 (Skype)

 

Mike is a 20 year old man, born and raised in New York, who is a mobile phone salesman in New York City. He is a high school graduate whose family is of Puerto Rican Heritage.

 

Interviewer: Good Afternoon. You mentioned that you follow a tradition your Mom taught you. Could you explain please?

 

Informant: “Ya it is like I am Catholic you know you know and we really go by this Catholic thing like every time I do the cross. Every time I pass a Church, I do the cross. And I feel if I didn’t do the cross that I would feel different.”

 

Interviewer: You mentioned you would feel different, why?

 

Informant: “Like this was a thing, you know the do the cross, that I use to ah see my Mom do every time, you know, we were passing a Church. Like it ah didn’t matter if youse was on a bus or a car or like just walking down a street, um she would always cross herself.  Then… then I was, you know older then a little kid, ah every time she crossed herself you know and if I was wit her, she would stare at me if I didn’t cross myself.  So I guess, like um I would um feel different like I wuz disrespecting my Mother, you know.  So like , I am a Momma’s boy, she is very close. And um I don’t want to, you know give her anything that wouldn’t be very respectful. Does that make sense to you?”

 

Interviewer:  Yes it does. It is a very nice thing to do. Do you do the sign of the cross even when she is not with you?

 

Informant: “Of course, it’s like so deep in my bones and mind that it is like ya I am like a robot! When I see the church, like I have to stop and do my cross, you know.  It is so beautiful cause I see my Mom smiling a lot every time ah um I do that.”

 

Thoughts about the piece:  

Devoted Catholics worldwide have been making the “sign of the cross” since the 400s: http://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-origin-of-the-sign-of-the-cross/

Here is a demonstration of how to do this movement prayer properly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpRzqXG1dhc

 

 

 

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Kinesthetic
Signs

Cross yourself when you speak of the dead

“When you’re talking about someone who died, you have to do the sign of the cross after you say something, especially if you said something bad.”

 

My informant comes from an Irish-American Catholic family. Crossing oneself is a common gesture within this community, especially when talking of the dead. Although Catholics don’t technically believe in ghosts, the general consensus seems to be that speaking ill of the dead could lead to repercussions for the speaker. Crossing oneself could help with any negative effects of speaking ill of the dead. In addition, crossing oneself when speaking of the dead in general serves as a blessing and a way of commemorating the dead; it is a sign of respect.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Protection
Signs

After You Yawn

My informant told me about an old Irish superstition he knew:

“When you yawn, make the sign of the cross over your mouth to keep the devil from climbing in.”

He told me that he has done this ever since he was a little boy, and one of his uncles told him that after he yawned a devil had climbed into his throat. He also remembers his mother and father making the sign of the cross after they yawned.

I have personally never heard of this superstition until now. It shows how religion can create many customs and beliefs and how fear perpetuates them.

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