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October 24, 2014     Post-Gazette
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October 24, 2014

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Page 4 POST-GAZEI"rE, OCTOBER 24, 2014 L'Anno BeUo: A Yearin ltalian Folklore I ! Bewiched in Italy by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz Magic. That word resonates rather acknowledge them as like a sizzling charm on my family lore passed down by Sal Garratam  .... - lips. Everything involving through the ages. Yes, it magic fascinates me. I adore the Harry Potter books. One of my supreme guilty pleasures is the Hallmark film series The Good Witch, about a mys- terious woman that moves to a quaint little town and im- proves the lives of the resi- dents through her good-na- tured charms. My favorite Halloween costume is a witch's hat, sleek and mys- tical and classic. I think that works concerning magic so inspire me because it is a traditionally female-centric discipline. In ancient times, the village "wise woman" was a folk healer learned in the power of herbs and ready to assist the townspeople through travails like illness and childbirth. The folk heal- ers became negatively ste- reotyped as witches once male doctors rose into power in the later Middle Ages. Nowadays, it is nice to see the image of the witch rep- resent positive female power and magic. As Halloween ap- proaches, it is prime time to think of the mysterious and mystical side of life. My mind wanders to Italy, where one finds no shortage of magical and spooky folklore. I can think of many ex- amples in my own Italian- American family of strong and wise women. My grand- mothers fit the archetype of the knowledgeable folk healer. Their kitchens are cozy dens where something always seems to be bubbling and cooking. Moreover, my grandmothers brim with the stories, anecdotes and prov- erbs that can only derive from many years of hard- earned experience and wis- dom. Nonna Luisa, my mother's mother, has a dog- eared and faded notebook full of loose-leaf recipes -- not well-defined guidelines, but rather recipes depending on pinches of this and a little bit of that. I always marvel at her ability to create tra- ditional delicacies from memory, her hand trained by years in the embrace of family members cooking up their own recipes in their ancestral kitchens. In Euro- pean villages of yore, includ- ing those in Italy, older women like my grandmoth- ers were often looked upon as purveyors of folk rem- edies and magical cures. In Italy, this kind of folk prac- tice sometimes goes under the name Benedicarta, a loose term for blessings and cures that combine Catho- lic tradition with older pre- Christian lore. Most Italians who know of folk remedies, however, would not call them by any particular name but seems that along with deli- cious recipes and holiday traditions, magic is spread among many Italian families as welll Many of the superstitions, charms and practices rooted in Italian folk history still leave an indelible mark on the culture today. My grand- mother often speaks of malocchio, or evil eye -- the old Mediterranean belief that a gaze of jealousy or magic can impart real harm on someone. A folkloric test to verify if you are indeed under the spell of malocchio involves dropping a dollop of olive oil into a plate of wa- ter. If the oil molds into one large circle in the middle of the water, it is a sure sign that you are cursed, though fortunately special rituals will cause the drop of oil to disperse and relieve the cursel Another amulet against the evil eye still sold in many Italian shops is the corno, or a charm made out of lucky red coral shaped like a horn. My grandmother is always quick to remind me of a plethora of other Italian superstitions and customs that reflect this folk tradi- tion. Birds in the home are bad luck, for they symbolize death. Never spill olive oil, as it is a precious and un- surpassed staple of the Ital- ian kitchen. Always bless bread by making a Cross on the dough before placing it in the oven. These customs offer a fascinating glimpse (Continued on Page 8) 10 AM-12 PM November 6 December 4 A Boston Water and Sewer Commission Community Services Department representative will be in your neighborhood at the place, dates, and times listed above. Our representative will be available to: Accept payments. (Check or money order only-no cash, p/ease.) Process elderly or disabled persons discount forms. Arrange payment plans for delinquent accounts. Resolve billing or service complaints. Review water consumption data for your property. Explain BWSC customer programs. Need more information? Call the Community Services Department at 617-989-7000. Boston Water and Sewer Commission 980 Harrison Avenue. Boston, MA 021 19 A BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE OR NOWHERE? As someone who worked with the Massachusetts Mental Health Department for 40 years, I often travelled over the awful looking Long Island Bridge. The last time I did was about 18 years ago when I was escorting a DMH client to a state run shelter on the island. The condition of this bridge built in 1954 has been dete- riorating over recent de- cades. It probably should have been closed, razed and rebuilt at least 20 years ago. I often thought why it never happened was due to the use of the island as a modem-day leper colony for those in our society we wish not to see or hear. It was a place to house the throwaways, the home- less, the mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicts and troubled youth. Put them on an island and pretend the place doesn't exist. It worked quite well and who would ad- vocate spending millions on a new bridge to house people we would not see. For years, everyone knew a new bridge was needed but nothing happened until it was condemned and then the city was forced to act. However, was there really any excuse for officials going into a panic mode? As I read the page one story of the Boston Globe (Walsh vows to fix bridge, keep services on island, October I I], I won- dered what happened to a contingency plan that didn't involve panic on both sides. As I read about the police officer telling homeless cli- ents not to panic, he then instructed them to quickly exit the building and be pre- pared to leave the .island at once. What was the emer- gency? Was the island about to sink to the bottom of Bos- ton Harbor? Was the bridge about to crumble into dust? Then ironically, the news stow goes on to report on the buses driving them to new quarters on dry land over the condemned bridge. Obvi- ously, the bridge wasn't going down into the water yet. The evacuation could have been planned out over several days at a calm pace. City officials didn't have to act like it was time for the lifeboats. Folks living on the island didn't have to be herded off the island like cattle, did they? Mayor Walsh says a new bridge is coming and that the folks served by the services on the island will be able to return again. Personally, when I see an $80-90 million price tag and a five-year con- struction timeline, I do not see society's so-called "throw- aways" returning. Back in 1953, I can remem- ber as a child my parents tak- ing the family over to Long Island on a ferry from the North End to see my dad's stepfather at the old chronic hospital there. The bridge now in question was being built at that time. I don't see water transportation as a viable alternative to the bridge for those who find themselves liv- ing on the island or receiving services there. What happens if there's a medical emer- gency or a fire? A new bridge is necessary, but does society have the will to spend millions on a bridge to serve those who many don't want to see? I wonder if there aren't already a number of devel- opers looking at this island as a great place to develop and making a profit too. Over 45 years ago, a number of elected politicians were pro- posing a new residential neighborhood. Others talked about real waterfront res- taurants. Someone even proposed a casino, which I joked back then could be called "Treasure Island." When the old bridge is razed, the only way I see a new one built is if the island takes on a new and more profitable use. Personally, I think the folks served on this island should be integrated into the whole society and not shoved off to an island where folks are hidden from us. Bottom line though, was there really a need for all the panic? I think not! 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