Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/155

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The Cimaruta. 133

prices at the coral and tortoise-shell, silversmiths', and jewellers' shops, which are patronised by rich and poor alike. In their show-cases may be seen rows of twisted pieces of coral, hearts fashioned from bone, shell, and coral, fists with fingers variously extended or doubled up, hunch- backed mannikins, pigs, nuts, trefoil, claws, horns, teeth, and many others besides. For the modest sum of half a franc anybody may become the possessor of a talisman warranted to avert all the manifold ills that flesh is heir to ; and even of up-to-date collections of such amulets, strung up together on a central ring so as to form com- plete batteries, which must be invincible in the struggle against all possible kinds of evil ! But in the smaller shops, in quarters frequented by a more rustic clientele, and in the provinces, the amulets are of less modern type, and, though of inferior workmanship, bear a closer resem- blance to those of older date, which are often to be picked up at the curiosity-dealers, and whose prototypes are to be found in museums.

It is the Neapolitan's firm conviction that an amulet of ancient type, well-worn and bearing the scars of many an encounter with the powers of evil, is none the less potent as a guardian against nefarious influences. It is a fact that those who believe most implicitly in evil powers are the nicest in their choice of amulets, and do not entrust their persons to any but charms of material, construction, and type, approved and known to have stood the test of ages, rather than to many of the much vaunted novelties which hang in the shop windows — such, forsooth, are hardly powerful enough to protect a dandy's watch-chain !

To-day I wish merely to draw attention to a certain group of charms especially dedicated to the service of infants. Two of these, the Sea- horse or Cavallo Marino and the Sirena, are simple, and often carry pendant bells like the corals which protected our childhood ; but the third type, the Cimaruta or Sprig of Rue, is a