I ASKED MARY JANE ABOUT CURSES. I asked Mary Jane about curses. Mary Jane has a hazy memory of her mother, when Mary Jane was a little girl, filling a bowl with water—or perhaps vinegar—and then carefully pouring oil—it must have been olive oil—on top of the water or vinegar in the shape of an eye—an oval shape. Her mother muttered softly in dialect as she did this. Mary Jane remembers that the bowl was the same one they used to put their Easter eggs in. Her mother referred to the curse as Mal Occh or Mal Occhio, the evil eye.

The defense against Mal Occhio was la fichi— la figya?, the word for the “fig”—a fist, with the thumb placed between the second and third fingers.

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