VS: What is this?
P.S.: This is a cornetto, a horn, which was gifted to me by my wife when we started dating, so something like 30 years ago. hmm. I actually have two, because once I thought I lost it and my wife bought a new one for me. I have always carried it with me, in my pocket. Every place I go, everything I do, this object is with me. Always. I take it out of the pocket just when I am at home.
VS: You said you lost it once, what did you feel when this happened?
P.S: I don’t know exactly. I guess I was sorry. Not like desperate, but yeah sorry.
VS: What does this object represents for you then?
P.S.: Mhh, I don’t know. It’s difficult to explain. It’s something like a lucky charm, a sort of protection that helped me through the years especially in my job.
V.S: How so? do you think the good things that happened derived from this object?
P.S.: I cannot tell if what happened to me was because of this object. What i know is that since I have carried this object with me, everything in my work-life turned from negative to positive, everything got in its place. One thing, then the other, then again another one. Every single thing fell into place.
[stops talking for a bit, in a moment of reflection].
Yes. It is not lucky in the sense that I buy scratch cards and I win. No, it’s something in a greater sense. It has to be seen from a wider perspective. It is almost like it helped carrying out the process smoothly.
My informant is my father who was born in Belgium from Italian immigrants and who spent the majority of his lifetime in Italy. His wife is Italian as well, and this is relevant considering that this particular object was gifted to him by her. When asked about this piece, my informant put much emphasis on the fact that the cornetto was given; indeed, in the Italian tradition, for the horn to be lucky and prosperous, it never has to be acquired ‘in first person’, but it always has to be necessarily gifted, otherwise it won’t work, or worst, it could even bring bad luck. Furthermore, in Italy it’s quite common for people to carry with themselves a cornetto, either in the form of jewelry or, like in this case, in the form of talisman.
I have seen my father, my informant, carrying this object with him since I have memory. So I decided to delve more into what the object really meant for him, and this is when this conversation happened.
I have always been extremely fascinated by this object, whose origin mainly derive from the Southern regions of Italy, but that with time was diffused in all parts of the country. It is interesting to notice that the South of Italy has always been considered more connected with superstition, magic and beliefs, than other areas, and this was for much time accompanied by a sort of prejudice Northern Italians would have towards inhabitants of the South. As a matter of fact, especially in more Modern and recent times, the South of Italy has been subjected to sorts of discriminations also because of the high levels of superstitions and popular beliefs present in the area, as they were associated to illiteracy, ignorance and obsolete traditions. I stressed the word “modern” times because I believe it to be highly indicative and relevant for this analysis. In fact, Northern Italy was the first area to be industrialized at the end of the 19th century, making it more advanced and ‘educated’; consequently, the South remained more attached to the past and the un-littered culture. An interesting observation now arises: while many nations used folklore and past traditions as an incentive and a symbol for nationalistic spirits and will of independence, Italy didn’t. The reason probably lies in the fact that, despite its small size and its unification in 1861, since the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Italy had never been a untied country. On the contrary, throughout centuries, it had been governed by many different powers, which controlled different parts of the nation and influenced them with different traditions and lifestyles.
Beside the political-geographical value, the horn is said to be an amulet against the Evil Eye and it is said to have really ancient roots, it being the emblematic representation of the phallus of Priapus, the Greco-Roman divinity of prosperity. In order to be ‘effective’, it necessarily has to be red, which is the color of blood and life. In this way, also a connection with the female counterpart is established, the color red representing the woman’s fertility and sensuality.
The union of these two elements -shape and color- provides the object with a mystical value related to homeopathic magic: because of the law “like produces like”, the horn not only exemplifies the perfect emblem of prosperity and fertility, but it is also meant to attract prosperity and fertility upon the one who carries it.