The number 13… what does it make you think of? Do you think about it as a lucky number or do you postpone any important event until Friday the 13th is safely behind you?
I personally think of 13 as a good number (unless it’s the number of people around a table, more on this point later) and the mental association for me is ‘fare 13‘- to get a score of 13- when playing the totocalcio (football betting), but I know that in many parts of the world this is very much not the case. 13, especially if associated to a Friday, is for many a day of bad luck, a day to watch out for what the world may throw at you.
The fact that I, like most Italians, don’t instinctively fear Friday the 13th (maybe I shouldn’t have said this… ) doesn’t mean we are immune to superstition. Actually, il malocchio (the evil eye) and the superstition connected with it are hugely common in Italy and you might be surprised by how many usual acts are somehow affected by it.
Most of the superstitions we still witness in Italy are not Italian in origins, although they sure find themselves at home here. Some date back to Roman times, but many are much more ancient and can be traced back even to Assyrian times.
In many an ancient civilizations we find mention or anyway testimony of the idea of the evil eye, the eye of the envious that casting its glance on you casts a curse on you and we also find amulets and symbols expected to make it vanish. Consider the big apotropaic eyes in ancient Greece or many phallic symbols meant to pierce through il malocchio and destroy it and, more recently, crosses and cornets.
The list of superstitions still alive in Italy is long, but here I have collected 10, which I believe are still pretty widespread. I think most Italians, reading them, will probably say the famous words ‘non e’ vero, ma ci credo‘ (it’s not true, but i believe it). I personally am pretty careful with hats and umbrellas… how about you?
1. 13 a tavola (13 at the table): You should never have 13 guests at the table as this is reminiscent of the last supper, when guest n. 13 was Judas – we all know how that worked out
2. When at the table, with your safe number of guests, don’t spill salt, as this is the equivalent to throwing away money. If you happen to spill it, take a pinch and throw it over your shoulder as a counter measure
3. Be careful with your mirrors, as a broken one means 7 years of bad luck.
4. Don’t walk under a ladder: its triangular shape represents the Trinity and you need to respect its integrity
5. Do not open your umbrella indoors or it will bring rain
6.A black cat crossing a road is a sign of bad luck: wait until someone else passes ahead of you
7. The number 17, especially if it’s a date and it falls on a Friday. The origin of this seems to be the Latin spelling of the number XVII which can be anagram-med as ‘VIXI = I lived, therefore I am now dead’. According to a different story, 17 brings bad luck because it is reminiscent of the shape of a hanging man (according to the same story, 13 is lucky as the curves of the number 3 are reminiscent of a woman’s breasts)
8. Don’t sweep your feet with a brush or you’ll never marry
9. Never put a hat on your bed.
10. Never ever give a woman an even number of flowers, unless it’s 12 red roses.
And you, do you believe in malocchio and what do you do to avoid it?