So … *clears throat* Yesterday while at lunch with Kalei, a beggar came to our table. Street performers, gypsies, and beggars who play or beg for coins are quite common in Rome. Depending on their attitude, I might leave a coin. I rarely do for gypsies, but for a good musical street performance, especially if they play one of my favorite songs by Juliette Greco “Sous le ciel di Paris” (Beneath the sky of Paris) I will leave a few euros. However, the beggar in question had an arrogant attitude. When I shook my head “no” she cursed me with a particularly heinous “Limortacci tua” which means “Death to you.” My instant reaction was to do a double hand gesture to ward off the “evil eye” which consists of my baby finger and index fingers raised while the ring and middle finger are folded. This is the “corna” or horns. It was instinctive and came from years of living in Rome and has become part of my acquired culture. The “corna” is not only a way to ward off curses, but can be in itself a curse. Another meaning of this hand gesture is a highly offensive one, because you are telling someone that their partner has been unfaithful to them, i.e. they are “cornuto” or wearing “horns.” NEVER do this unless you are prepared for physical altercation. The moʻo is my ʻaumakua, and when I am angered, (which is not often, as I am pretty even-natured), I refer to it as “they made the moʻo in me come out.”
Romans are very superstitious. People who are thought to bring bad luck are called “porta iella,” or “bringers of bad luck,” and when Romans (especially men) see this person coming they touch their genitals quickly with both hands folded into the “corna” gesture. When you need good luck, you buy a red horn, usually made of plastic. It works better if someone gives it to you. I think I will buy a few for good luck and as gifts. Today I want to bring Kalei to the “Bocca della Verita.” It is a round wall plaque of a god with hole for a mouth. You stick your hand in there and make a statement. If the statement is a lie, then it bites down on your hand and severs it. Perhaps you have seen Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the film “Roman Holidays?” The film has a scene where Gregory Peck inserts his hand into the god’s mouth and pretends that the god has bitten his hand. Kalei doesn’t know it, but I am going to play this trick on her. Hee hee. Shhhh, don’t tell, okay?
I will post again later and hopefully the next post will include pictures. I want to ask a few friends to illustrate cursing gestures. 🙂
Me ke aloha,