It’s taken me awhile to sort out this particular blog exactly the way I wanted it.
I’ve mentioned in a few different places in my blog and my website that I practice Italian folk magic, Italian-American folk magic to be specific actually. While this particular flavor of spirituality isn’t as well known or popular (for the moment being) it is very much alive and actually seems to be on an upswing of people wanting to learn more about it.
So, to make this post informative and useful, I’ve decided to break it down into the services I offer, which correspond to my own personal knowledge based on what has been passed down to me from my family, and also some information that I’ve learned from others.
The BEST book on this subject in English is Italian Folk Magic: Rue's Kitchen Witchery by Mary-Grace Fahrun (I also wrote a review for the book on amazon if you want to check that out), I also absolutely have to recommend www.italianfolkmagic.com/ one of the best blogs out there on this subject!
I’d also like to take a minute just dedicate this modest post to my grandparents, Jack (who passed away a few years ago), and Carmela (who passed away this past December). They told me almost every story, joke, song, or piece of folklore that I currently know about my family. So, I really just wanted to give credit where credit is due, these traditions were either directly given to me by them, or they inspired me to research more. Love you guys.
I actually wrote an entire post on Dream Interpretation which can be read here https://stephenpatrickmedium.weebly.com/blog/dream-a-little-dream
Interpreting dreams, dreaming true, mediumship through dreams, and dreaming of lucky numbers seems to be a skill people in my family have a bit of a knack for. My grandma taught me about interpreting dreams for numbers, and also passed down to me some my great grandma’s (her mother) interpretations of dreams. My grandpa also told me that his mother (my other great grandma), in addition to being a healer (which I will mention in a bit), had a dream book that she had brought with her from Sicily, and people would come to her to consult with her book when they had dreams.
I tend to occasionally consult a few of my favorite dream books, but I also use my family’s system as a guide when asked to interpret dreams. There’s a whole section in the book Italian Folk Magic on the subject, and if you can find a used copy of How to Dream Your Lucky Lotto Numbers by Raoul Maltagliati check that out, it’s Italian system (in English). Of course, as I mentioned in my other entry, my family (and most other Italian American families) has zero issues with using American style Dream Books in English, so those are arguably just as traditional if you want to work in an Italian-American system.
Working with the Saints:
While I work with several different Saints that I’ve developed a relationship with over the years, a few of them are part of my family’s ancestral spiritual tradition, meaning the devotion came over from Italy with my family.
Ironically, the main devotion in my own family isn’t actually to a “Saint” but is rather to the collective group of spirits known as “the Holy Souls ” or the “Blessed Souls” this essentially honors the dead who reside in Purgatory. Purgatory being a Catholic concept where a spirit is cleansed of sin in order to enter a state of grace and reside in Heaven. Of course, in folk tradition (at least from my experience) this isn’t always the case, and they are more often seen as just helpful spirits that exist in a somewhat ambiguous “spirit world” rather than the cleansing fire of Purgatory.
The next devotion extremely popular in my family is to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, whose intercession and prayers are linked to the Holy Souls, offering them peace and elevation from their state of transformative penance in the spirit world.
Another would be the Infant of Prague, I’ve actually recently become the current caretaker for my family’s life sized statue of the holy infant since my grandma has passed away this past December.
I’ve written about St. Joseph before in a post here, discussing his importance to Italians in general, but he’s also a very dear and loved Saint in my own family and my own spiritual path.
There’s also whole host of others: St. Gerard Majella, St. Therese, St. Anthony, St. Lucy, St. Rosalia, St. Januarius (San Gennaro), etc
When it comes to working with the Saints for clients (or anyone) in an Italian folk magic concept, it’s usually to gain a blessing from a particular saint for a specific reason. For example, if someone came to me and wanted their cards read about the health of their child and also wanted a special protection for them (specifically using Italian-American folk magic), I would most likely give them either a prayer card, medal, or rosary that I’ve worked on and blessed under the guidance of one of the Saints I work with, i.e. St. Gerard Majella if it was for the protection and wellbeing of a child.
I’ll also regularly do Novenas, Rosaries, or other various devotions to certain Saints around their feast days.
Probably the most well known aspect of Italian folk magic and folklore is the “malocchio” or the evil eye. Preventing it and curing it are so important that there is an entire host of traditions from every corner of Italy on how to deal with it. Most families have their own prayer or ritual for how to deal with it, and though they generally have somewhat similar frameworks, they are all unique. I’ve actually heard some Italian people use the word “malocchio” to literally sum up the entire practice of Italian folk magic in general.
In my own family, my great grandma on my father’s side (my grandpa’s mother) was particularly active at dealing with the malocchio, she couldn’t work in a conventional job at the time due to a disability, and being a widow, she helped support her family through her healing skills and baking skills, she sold bread, and she could cure people from the malocchio (and also interpret dreams, as I mentioned above.)
Through my own family, I know three different prayers and rituals to get rid of the malocchio. It’s interesting to be able to compare and contrast them, and I personally don’t feel one is better than another. If I need to pick a style, I usually consult with the spirits to see which is best for the situation.
There are many different forms of Italian cartomancy. Tarot Cards though basically universal at this point, started out as Tarocchi cards in Italy. There is also the wonderful La Vera Sibila deck, as well as a plethora of folk methods of reading cards and regional decks, like the Scopa deck. I’m personally a big fan of the Neapolitan version of the Scopa cards.
However, in my own family, American playing cards take center stage, they hold an almost quasi-sacred role in my family. Playing cards were present in every house, at every important event, and at every stage of life I can remember. They’re used for games, magic tricks, fortune telling, and as offerings. I regularly will leave playing cards at graves for family members as offerings due to their importance in my family.
The method I use when I read playing cards in an “Italian style” is actually one that I picked up from an antique book from when I was younger. It’s a pretty simple way to cut the cards and mostly involves dealing them out a few different times in rows. The key (as with any form of divination) is to just let yourself be guided by your spirits and be open to seeing the messages in the cards.