The red horn: a traditional Neapolitan lucky charm

One of the most complicated moments in a journey of mine is to look for a traditional souvenir: many handicrafts are disappearing and replaced by anonymous magnets, so I often decide to bring back home at least some flavours.

In Naples it is still possible to find a traditional souvenir that is as well something we still keep on using: ‘o curniciello, the red horn!

I am used to wearing two coral ones hanged at my working license and I have a clay one at home that was my parents’gift when I moved to this new house…

But which are its origins and which characteristics it must have (here the “rules” are as rigid as for coffee!…)?

Many people think it is a chilly pepper: not at all!

The shape of the horn was adopted with the development of Christianism, when it was no longer possible to show or wear a symbol that had become scandalous: the depiction of the male sex, luck, and plenty bringer in pagan cultures.

So, the phallic symbol received a less clear shape in order to keep on using it as an amulet and without law risks.

Its characteristics are three: “tuosto, stuorto e cu ‘a ponta”(in Neapolitan dialect this means: hard, crooked and pointed), it has to be handmade, red and given and that is not all… it has to be “tested”!

Being handmade it gets the positive energies of the craftman, after which, when it is given, its point must sting the hand of the receiver and if it breaks, do not get angry, because that is the proof that it works: it has absorbed the negative energies destinated to you!

We keep on giving it to each other for special occasions or just as a lucky charm to somebody we love without spending that much: it is common to find coral red horns from ten euros.

Sure, this clearly means that such a low price corresponds to a low quality coral, but it does not matter for us, because what makes its preciousness is our feeling towards our receiver.