Thanks to the ever-vigilant Italian press, in this case the Corriere della Sera, we know exactly how the heirs of the Renaissance deal with dark days. They treat it the way they cope with any other attack of ill fortune: with magic gestures, objects, curses and careful attention to details that encourage bad luck.
The delightful (and sometimes not) details come from a new book on the superstitions of Italian VIPs, which contains warnings from the “Committee for the study of the Paranormal,” and a concluding note from Cardinal Ersilio Tonini. They didn’t ask me for any input, even though my new book on Naples contains abundant material on magic, including the best methods for warding off attacks from enemies with evil eyes.
The Evil Eye features prominently in Italians’ methods to fend off misfortune, but there are other sources of bad luck, ranging from an assistant who wears green underpants, a member of the audience dressed in purple–an evident evil eyer–and a dinner party with exactly thirteen people at the table.
What to do? One, a prominent astrophysicist, recites “Sh*t” three times. Another, a Neapolitan politician, hides a golden braid under her own golden hair. Another puts two big packages of kosher salt in her bath at least once a week, others make the symbol of what we would call “hook ’em Horns” and cross their hands across their lower body. Then there are those who always go on board an airplane with their left foot first, those who spit three times, and those who keep little statuettes of holy men and women (from Mother Teresa to Russian saints) and of course those who carry a cluster of cat hair…and finally an actress who touches her breast before going on the set.
I wonder what Mario Monti, the economist with the tremendous misfortune of becoming Prime Minister at a moment when Italy is teetering on the well-known abyss, has tucked away in his pockets to lure Dame Fortune to his side.
We’ll have to wait a bit for that book, but wouldn’t you love to read about the superstitions of world leaders? Does Barack Obama have a little icon to rub at tough moments? Does Nicolas Sarkozy curse three times? Inquiring minds want to know, because such things are at least as important as leaders’ statements on the economy…