7 Intriguing Italian Superstitions
Hi everyone, and happy Thursday! Thanks for reading my blog! Today I wanted to lighten things up and talk about something that thoroughly interests me. Call me basic, but I love all things astrological, witchy, and spooky. I love going to psychics, and I think it’s so fun to believe in things that can’t always be seen or explained. Knowing this, I don’t think it will be surprising to you that I love learning about superstitions. I’m guilty of truly believing some of them myself. Today, we’re going to learn about some of the Italian superstitions that I find fascinating. I already knew of a few of these superstitions from my family, but some I learned only when I arrived in Milan. Without further ado, here are some of my favorite Italian superstitions:
1. Lucky Number 13
I know, I know. This is the exact opposite of the American belief that 13 is an evil or unlucky number. In Italy, the number 13 is actually considered to be lucky! It is often associated with the Goddess of Fertility who controls the lunar cycles. This led to the belief that 13 could be associated with abundance and luck in life.
HOWEVER, there is one instance where 13 is considered quite unlucky- don’t ever sit down at a table in Italy with 13 people! Italy is a very Catholic country, and having 13 people at a table is reminiscent of The Last Summer. It is believed that Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, was seated 13th at the table. I remember when preparing for a holiday my future mother-in-law asked how many we would be, ensuring that it wasn’t 13. That was the first time I learned about this superstition, and have been wary of it ever since!
2. Unlucky Number 17
The number 17 in Italy holds the same weight as far as unluckiness goes that 13 does in the States. The reason for this superstition is that 17, written in Roman Numerals, is written as XVII. These numerals can be scrambled and rearranged to spell a Latin word: Vixi. This means “I have lived” which most people equate to death. In fact, you can see it on numerous headstones in Italian cemeteries. It is even noted that some hotels don’t have a 17th floor, and restaurants will sometimes avoid a Table 17.
3. Il Malocchio
The “Evil Eye”. While there is the belief of the evil eye in many cultures and countries around the world, it is definitely the one I most heard of and believed before arriving in Italy. The Evil Eye is said to come when compliments are disguised as jealousy, or someone wishes you bad things even to themselves. In my family, it feels like the Evil Eye was always a reasonable explanation for sudden nausea, mishaps at events, and unexpected headaches. My Nonna is always the first call when suspicions of the Evil Eye being present arise. She says her special prayer, and if she begins to yawn, she’s able to tell if the Evil Eye was in fact given, and if it was given by either a male or a female. She’s told me that this special prayer can only be learned on Christmas Eve, and I am determined to learn it one day. There are other ways to detect if the Evil Eye has been given, for example, dropping olive oil in water and watching if it stays separated from the water, or disperses into it.
There are also ways to protect yourself from the Evil Eye. You can wear the cornetto, make a hand gesture symbolizing horns by pointing your pinky and pointer finger out while the other fingers are in a fist, and my family’s favorite: wearing a red ribbon. One of my favorite rituals before big events is the distribution of red ribbons for each person to wear in their undergarments. I do believe that the Evil Eye exists, and that people’s energy can in fact be transferred to you.
4. “In bocca al lupo”- Good Luck
Usually in America, we say “Break a Leg!” to a performer before a show, or we simply wish good luck to someone before a big event. In Italy, people say “In bocca al lupo” or, “In the wolf’s mouth” as a sign of good luck. In correlation with the Evil Eye, people do not respond “thank you”, as this wish of good luck could be rooted in jealousy. Instead, Italians respond, “Crepi” or “Crepi il lupo” which means “May it die”. In more recent times, people have also started responding with “Evviva il lupo!”. This means “May it live”. This is because some people view “In bocca al lupo” as a wish of protection, so you hope for the wolf to live.
5. Kissing Bread
As I stated before, Italy is a very Catholic country. It is extremely important for Catholic Italians to respect bread as it is the symbol of Christ’s body during mass when it is consecrated. Italians believe that bread should always be treated with the utmost respect. This means bread should be face up, that you should do the sign of the cross over the dough of the bread while baking it, and you should never throw away bread without kissing it. My fiance´ always kisses bread before throwing it out, and I learned this superstition through him!
6. Don’t Sit at the Corner of the Table!
Singles- beware! Don’t sit in the corner of the table at dinner or you won’t get married! Italians believe that if you sit in the corner, quite an inconvenient spot, that you marry. I first heard my future father-in-law tell me this during one dinner at their house. I immediately looked at Valentino and moved to a new spot. While all in good fun, you can believe after that I made sure to never sit near a corner again!
7. Beware of Brooms!
Singles, watch out for one more thing: BROOMS. It is said that if someone is sweeping and they sweep over your feet, you will never be married. This one made me laugh when my future mother-in-law told me very seriously to pick up my feet as she was sweeping so the broom wouldn’t touch them. I apologized for being in the way and she responded, “No, it means you won’t be married if they touch!”.
I hope you enjoyed learning about some of my favorite Italian superstitions! Have a great week!!
Lots of Love ,