I grew up in an Italian household with my parents, my Sicilian grandmother and my aunts and uncles. My Grandmother believed that if anyone in our family was feeling sick, had a headache, stomachache, or was just having bad luck, that someone around us gave us the Malocchio. Malocchio is when a jealous or envious person gives you a look, casting a spell on you and causing harm to you. My grandmother would say, “Someone gave you the evil eye and put a curse on you.”
If anyone complained about feeling sick, my grandmother would run to her room, find her necklace with a big Italian horn dangling from it and immediately put it around our neck. The Italian horn represented the horned animal the moon goddess and was considered to be sacred. Every Italian house had an Italian gold horn hanging some place in sight to protect their families from evil spirits and misfortune.
Once we had the Italian horn around our necks she would take us to the little Italian lady a few blocks away. My Grandmother said this woman had the power and knew how to get rid of the Malocchio. This old woman would have us sit down, she would fill a small bowl with holy water and have you put a few drops of olive oil into it. If the oil in the bowl formed a circle and got larger then we were diagnosed with having the malocchio. As the oil separated from the water she would tell us to make the sign of the cross and say, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” While we said this, she put her hands on our forehead and also made the sign of the cross on our forehead. She kept her hands on our forehead and she said a prayer in Italian.
Informant: The informant of this folklore is my grandmother Rosemarie Formica. She has lived her whole life in New York and is in her eighties. She grew up in Rosebank, New York a very Italian/Irish Community. My Grandmother preserves several Italian folk stories from her past.
Analysis: This is one of my favorite pieces of folklore I have heard. I have personally seen my grandmother give the malochio to someone and its hilarious. Although, it is a very serious ritual my Grandmother loves to joke with the original version and use it on NFL football players. Whenever I am watching a football game my grandma will come watch and give the opposing team’s player the malochio. This seems to be almost a version of voodoo.
Whenever I went to the beach when I was a child I was obsessed with digging holes. Whether it was digging holes for people to lie in or just trying to dig as deep as possible it was my favorite activity. It may have been because when I was younger I believed my aunts and uncles when they told me if I dug deep enough I would reach china. I knew it was unlikely but I was just a child and the next summer they put up signs telling children they could only dig three feet deep. This sign made me believe even more that I could truly dig to china.
Informant: The informant for this piece is William Winkenhower. He is seventeen years old, but heard this when he was about eight. William was told this by his father while on a camping trip in Carpenteria.
Analysis: This folklore is interesting because while the context of a child digging a hole to China is unlikely, in reality someone could probably dig a hole to china through the center of earth. Although very hard im sure its possible. As a child I would also try and dig a hole to China while I was on the East Coast of Jersey Shore. William hearing the same folk on the west coast makes me understand that this is pretty well known across the nation.
This is a prank that I tried with my friends at a birthday party. I was about twelve years old and I always remembered my mom telling me about candy bars in the pool during her days was a common prank. I went to the store before the party with my friend and we bought a Baby Ruth bar. When we got to the party we slipped the Baby Ruth into the water and it looked like someone had used the bathroom in the pool. A girl finally saw it and screamed and everyone got out of the pool. The parents came out and grabbed the pool net and scooped it out realizing it was still hard and wasn’t poop, but just a candy bar.
Informant: The informant for this piece of folklore is my brother Bradley Comisar. He heard this when he was about 12 years old. He heard this story from my mom Norma Comisar when she would tell him stories of her childhood.
Analysis: I have seen this same prank done in the movie sandlot. Im sure that is where my mom and her friends got it from, because the movie came out more towards their childhood. It is funny the different types of pranks that go on now compared to even a few years ago. Everything in today’s generation seems to base pranks off malicious acts and people getting hurt. In past times it seems the jokes were more original and meant for laughter and comedy.
I was always full of energy when I was younger. I would play with my friends down the street from my house all day during the summer. We went to summer camp one year at the beach and all wanted to go in the water. The camp instructors wouldn’t let us because we had just finished eating and told us we need to wait thirty minutes to digest our food. After thirty minutes they finally let us in the water.
Informant: The informant for this piece of folklore is my brother Bradley Comisar. He heard this when he was about 14 years old at the Santa Monica beach. He went to a camp with a bunch of his friends at the beach.
Analysis: To this day I am not sure if this is true or not. Could eating really effect your body’s capability to swim in the ocean? I have heard stories of people getting stomach cramps in the ocean when they go swimming right after eating. I have also heard several different versions of this with different increments of time varying from fifteen minutes to forty five minutes.
My family and I always go to Lake arrowhead during the summer to our family home. There is not much to do in Arrowhead but go in the lake. My family and I would go in the water all day and my fingers and toes would prune from being in for so long. My parents when they wanted me to get out of the water would tell me I would turn into a prune if I stayed in too long.
Informant: The informant of this folklore is Hannah Vaughn she lives in the Pacific Palisades. Hannah is nineteen years old and heard this from her dad while vacationing in Lake Arrowhead.
Analysis: I never understood the real reason why my skin would prune during the summers. I always thought it had to do with time of year, but as I grew older I realized it was from staying in the water for too long. Some of my friends in the past when they were younger were so scared when their parents told them they would turn into prunes they would get out immediately. It seemed like it was a way to get their kid out of the water without argument.