Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fear of Gratitude by Nannette Croce

Southern Italians believe in the mal’occhio or as phonetically pronounced in melded immigrant dialect “mal-oi-kia.” When someone gives you a compliment or comments on your good fortune, they purposely or inadvertently give you the mal’occhio, the “evil eye,” with the power to reverse your fortunes, unless the person follows with “God bless you.”

The small horn some Italians wear around the neck wards off the evil eye. Absent that you surreptitiously give the offending person “the horns,” a Texas Longhorns solute pointed outward.

Like knocking on wood or throwing salt over your shoulder, even if you don’t consciously believe a superstition, it plants its seed in your subconscious. On the upside the mal’occhio discourages bad behaviors like bragging and ostentation. On the downside, it makes public expressions of gratitude somewhat risky.

Announcing my good fortune to the world exposes me to the cosmic "evil eye." Safer to bluff like my grandmother did, “Huh, you think I have it so good? Well, let me tell you.”

It's been about five weeks now of counting my blessings to the public. So far no cosmic zap. Maybe it's not people who call attention to their good fortune the evil eye afflicts, but those who don't appreciate what they have or forget about those who have less or, worse, think it's a matter of just desserts.

Maybe, but just in case I think I’ll take that horn out of my jewelry box and start wearing it.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Familiar with that evil eye theory from my Sicilian grandparent and a few older friends. Isn't it funny how things get started and hang around forever?

Good post, N!

Kathryn Magendie said...

I love reading about these kinds of things - how different families or ethnic backgrounds or cultures or whatever see the world and react to it....

Barbara Quinn said...

Would that all it took to lead a charmed life was a charm, huh? My parents taught me about "mal occhio" and the horn, and I remember seeing hundreds of them hanging from vendors' stalls when I traveled in Italy. Fascinating take on gratitude. I think your humbleness will act as a charm and keep you protected all year.

Listen to our Podcasts