Beware Friday the 17th and Other Italian Superstitions

Pimsleur Approach • Italian, TraditionsComments (2)
Italian Horm

Italian Horn Image via Wikipedia

In the world of superstitions, Italians have a stronghold. While some superstitions can vary from region to region or even between families, there are some common beliefs that many Italians share.

This short guide will get you acquainted with the most ubiquitous superstitions so you can be prepared when traveling in Italy (or going to Nonna’s house!):

1. The bread better not be on its head:
Upside down bread is just bad news, plain and simple. Common to Italy but also known in most other European countries, this superstition holds that placing a loaf of bread upside down will bring terrible luck. In Italy, it is also connected to religious belief, since the body of Christ is said to turn into bread which is then eaten at communion. Because Italians are a generally very hospitable group, they feel it’s rather impolite to place the Lord upside down.

2. No fine feathered friends:
Some Italians don’t like to keep birds in the home, and owls specifically are thought to be harbingers of certain doom. Again the reason is twofold: they possess the “evil eye”; and in the bible, Jesus was denied three times before a cock crowed. And the Italians aren’t joking around with this superstition; they don’t even want feathers in the house. Better get rid of those trendy new hair extensions!

3. Friday the…17th?:
In Italy, some folks consider the number 13 to bring good luck, while the number 17 is thought to bring bad luck. See if you can follow this perfect logic as to why: the Roman number for 17 is XVII. Now if you take those same symbols and rearrange them to make the Latin phrase VIXI, it means “I have lived”, which can also be interpreted as “I am dead.” Makes sense, right? Clearly, the number 17 should be avoided at all costs.

4. Mom always said not to leave your hat on the bed:
Leaving one’s hat on a bed is not only messy and disrespectful to the person responsible for keeping the house neat and orderly, it’s also a surefire way to invite bad luck into your life. This superstition stems from the habit that priests had when they went to perform last rites on a dying person. In order to change into the garments required for this purpose, they would often take their hats off and leave them on the bed. Therefore, the laying of a hat on the bed is similar to extending an open invitation for the grim reaper to come knocking at your door.

5. It’s not just an excuse to wear jewelry:
If you’ve ever been to South Philly, Little Italy in New York, or any Italian section of most major cities, you have undoubtedly seen people walking around wearing a little horn around their necks. It serves two purposes; a fashion statement and protection against “the evil eye.” Italians can also remove the evil eye via a complicated ritual which involves the laying of hands on the forehead of a sufferer, then having them rinse their face with salt water, but the horn seems like much less effort, and it’s far more attractive.

2 Responses to “ Beware Friday the 17th and Other Italian Superstitions ”

  1. bank says:

    The evil eye is a look that is believed by many cultures to be able to cause injury or bad luck for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike. The term also refers to the power attributed to certain persons of inflicting injury or bad luck by such an envious or ill-wishing look.

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