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Italian Superstitions: Animals and Death

By Yona Williams    6/17/06

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As with all places, there are superstitions that deal with death and dying, as well as different animals. In this article, you will encounter beliefs involving death rituals to ensure that the spirits of the dead do not return to their home, as well as certain animals that are considered good or bad, in terms of luck.

 

When it comes to death, there are many rituals and superstitions involving the periods of time before, during and after dying. Many people are known to pay special attention to the beliefs concerning the things that are performed after a person has passed away. Several rituals are performed in hopes to keep the spirit of whoever died from coming beyond the grave to cause harm or misfortune to those they knew while they were alive. Even though loved ones and friends are going through a grieving period for the dead, there is still the fear that their spirit may come to haunt. After the ceremonies have been performed and it is time to bring the coffin and body to its final resting place, there is a superstition or distinct way of carrying out this task. A winding route is taken when carrying the coffin to the burial plot. Loved ones and friends are then expected to take a different route back to their homes or gathering place to ensure bad luck or the spirit does not follow them back. The taking of different routes is a measure used to “confuse” the spirit so that they are unable to find their way back home. It is often curious that the spirit doesn’t automatically know how to find their way back without “following” someone back. Another act to keep spirits from following their love ones home is to place salt underneath the deceased person’s head.

 

Apparently, the fear of the dead returning from beyond the grave is an important thought in the minds of surviving family members. There is a belief that dead spirits may attempt to return home to collect their favorite possessions. This could be anything from their favorite pack of smokes to an engraved lighter. Money is also placed in their coffin, as well as other items, such as anything that appeared to be their favorite item in life, including pipes, photos, trinkets or jewelry. It is ones thought that if the things that were important to them while they were alive are with them in the afterlife, there will be no need for the spirit to find their way back to their home to find them.

 

After the funeral, if you have returned home and found that you have forgotten to include something in the coffin, you can always try another tactic. Bring the item with you to the coffin of the next person who has passed away and enter it in their final resting place. It is thought that this deceased individual will meet up with the last person who passed away and be able to rely the possessions to them so that they will not return for the missing items. 

 

Animals play an important role in superstitions all over the world. In Italy, it is considered good luck to hear a cat sneeze. When it comes to birds, they are a different story- if they enter a household or are kept as pets within the house, it is considered bad luck. Some even go as far to avoid bird feathers being brought into the home. Peacock feathers are looked upon as the worst. This is because the pattern of this type of feather seems to display an “evil eye” on it.

 

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