Saturday, April 19, 2014

Superstitious Rituals

Last week, Joan over at A Rolling Crone, wrote a blog post about the full blood moon. I left Joan a comment, a tease really. She had asked if anyone had any mysterious superstitions to share. This is for you, Joan.

All four of my grandparents came to this country from Italy around 1910. My parents were the first generation born here and raised in East Boston, basically "Little Italy". Though my parents moved to the suburbs, my upbringing was very old world.

If you complained to my mother you had a headache, she would say someone was putting the "evil eye" on you. That is, wishing for something bad to happen to you. The cure for the headache wasn't a couple of tablets of aspirin, but a ritual. Hopefully, detailing the ritual won't be breaking some sort of taboo. We never really spoke about it. I'm not sure if this ritual was done in all Italian households or just mine. I assume my mother learned this ritual from her mother.

To begin, Ma would get out a soup bowl, a tablespoon, a knife, and the gallon can of Filipo Berio olive oil. For my mother and my grandmother, Filipo Berio was the de rigueur olive oil. My mother used this brand until she was in her mid-80s and then she complained this brand was too expensive. She would use a cheaper brand, and she would watch the store circulars to see when Filipo would go on sale so she could stock up. I'm not sure if the brand of olive oil makes a difference.

Ma would fill the soup bowl with water and carefully pour the olive oil into the spoon. While holding the spoon over the bowl of water, Ma would dip the index finger of your right hand into the oil and then let the oil drip  from your finger into the bowl. She would repeat the dipping two more times.

If the evil eye was not upon you, the oil would drop into small, neat circles on the surface of the water. If you were under the influence of the evil eye, the oil would spread into huge circles almost the size of a quarter or larger. Ma would then take the knife and cut the water in the shape of a cross. This was also done three times. The water would be disposed of in three different locations: the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink, and the toilet. After the ritual, the spell would be broken.

If you grew up in an Italian household, did your grandmother or mother perform this ritual?


  1. We use this brand of Olive Oil, in fact it's sitting next to the cooker at this very moment. Thankfully I don't have a headache!

  2. Wow! We just took orange chewable children's aspirin.