|Posted by Dawn Luedecke on July 16, 2012 at 9:40 AM|
Last week I began what I plan to make an ongoing project of articles about the above subjects. I had briefly touched on the malocchio (evil eye), the mano fico or mano fica (fig hand) and the mano cornuto (horned hand). The latter two are meant to ward off the malocchio and other evil cast upon a person. Italians are never at a loss as to what kind of amulet they use to protect themselves against the malocchio. Today, we are looking at the Italian horn.
Corno, cornuto, cornicello. All refer to the word “horn” in Italian. The corno I wear on a chain with my cross has a significance to me, not only because I’m Italian, but also because my mother followed tradition and pinned it on me for my baptism. I can’t remember when I stopped wearing it, but somewhere in my early teens, I pulled the corno out of a drawer and have since worn it day and night (except when having X-rays taken or when I’m in the hospital). It’s been around my neck for over 45 years.
Gold Italian horn like mine
The Italian corno is a long-standing tradition against the malocchio (incidentally, I’ve also seen it spelled mal occhio). Some say it’s shaped like a wave. Others describe it as a horn of an antelope. The Calabrese once believed it was representative of the chili pepper, which was plentiful in the region. One explanation for the corno dates back to ancient times before the dawning of Christianity. The people worshipped the Moon Goddess Luna, who considered these horns to be sacred. After the Italians turned to Catholicism, the Moon Goddess was replaced by the Virgin Mary, both often standing on a crescent moon.
Because the malocchio touches far and wide, the horn is pinned on babies’ clothing right after they’re born. The belief was malocchio harmed pregnant women, nursing mothers and their babies, and nursing animals. Bearing fruit trees and milking animals were not spared from the evil eye. It was also believed the “eye” cast barrenness in the sperm of men. Traditionally, only men and boys wore the horn.
Cornicello (little horn), is what I wear. In Southern dialects, it is called cuornuciello. However, there are many variants to the spelling. This horn is much smaller, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective against the malocchio. Originally shaped similar to the twisted horn of an African eland, throughout the centuries it has evolved into what you see today.
In history, the Italian corno symbolized protection from all that was evil. Today, it’s worn as a fashion statement all over the world. Even in the United States, courtesy of the Italian immigrants who traveled across the Atlantic to seek a better life. Naturally, their traditions followed, the Italian horn included. People see the corno as a good-luck charm. Many have no clue why they’re wearing one. The corno is made of gold, silver (considered as sacred as the Moon Goddess in ancient times) or bone. Also coral, which I wear on occasion when I need a big dose of luck.
Then there’s the red, plastic Italian horn with a gold crown. Similar to the photo (*image unavailable at this time*)—which shows a corno made into a keychain—this horn is about 6 inches long and too big to carry on a keychain. Popular in New York and California in the 1970s, these horns were actually intended to be hung from a rear-view mirror. Don’t laugh—I had one in my first car when I was 16 and learning to drive. Add a cross, and there was no mistaking the car belonged to an Italian. I read that its “usage derives from the ancient custom of protecting draft horses and mules from the envious eye of strangers, concern for their well-being transferred to the automobile.” Whether or not that is true, it’s makes perfect sense to me!
You don’t have to be Italian to wear a corno. But it’s a great conversation starter at parties. Whether you believe in the malocchio, or if you’re simply into unique jewelry, what harm is there in having a corno hanging from a chain around your neck?
DANTE’S FLAME, book 3 of my Italian medieval series (release date July 11, 2012)
Alessandra Podesta writes illicit tales unsuitable for a young lady. Exasperated, her father sends her to visit relatives in Naples to curb her wild imagination. But in her undying need for adventure, she toys with the affections of her tutor and is forced to marry him. When she unknowingly falls into a dangerous game of supremacy between two countries, she trusts the wrong people and endangers her life.
French tutor Dante Santangelo is secretly aiding the French in maintaining their rule over Naples. When he is manipulated into marrying the visiting cousin of the Valente Family, he seizes upon the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the family, who are under suspicion of helping the Spanish. When Alessandra's life is in jeopardy Dante must choose between love and duty. Will he offer up his life to save Alessandra? Or remain duty-bound to the French?
The Wild Rose Press