Friday 13th has long been perceived as a terrifying day. Although the reasons for such fear are not very clear, it’s very common to expect some kind of misfortune on the day.  The root cause for such a superstition seems to lie in culture and religion, namely the belief that Judas was the 13th person to sit down by the table for the Last Supper; Christ was crucified on a Friday, and the execution of the very last Templar, Grand Master Jacques de Molay, happened on Friday the 13th – only after he cursed the pope.

On the other hand, our people, long known for their bravery and boldness, surely cannot be scared by one Friday that happens to be the 13th day of the month. They seem to know the reason behind every misfortune, and their language caters for this too.

Waqgħet xi Saħta fuqna!

Although what happens to us usually depends on our very own actions, the Maltese can’t help but attribute any mishaps to some curse that is placed on them by someone who they perceive to wish them nothing but harm. “Waqgħet xi saħta fuqna”is very often resorted to following a series of misfortunes that seem to follow one another without mercy. What would you tell to someone whose girlfriend has left him; whose car broke down and whose pet got lost in a matter of a week? “Mhux waqgħet is-saħta fuqu jew?” In fact, this belief is so rampant among the Maltese that some years ago they had a whole tv show  dedicated to curse, entitled Saħta fuq Uliedi (My Children have been Cursed).

Twieled taħt Stilla Sewda. Qisu tal-wegħda.

If a specific saying for whenever a series of misfortunes hits someone isn’t enough, as a nation we are also equipped with a saying that encompasses all the misfortune one endures from the beginning of time. We strongly believe in luck, and we’re so vociferous about it that we end up determining one’s fate just by how fortunate he seems to be. Did your friend develop asthma at 2 years of age? Did he fail in his tests at schools and is he still single? “Mela twieled taħt stilla sewda ħi! Qisu tal-wegħda.”

twieled taħt stilla sewda

Oħorġilha l-qrun!

The horned hand, considered to be a gesture of protection against evil, doesn’t seem to be a widespread trend around the globe, but the Maltese just love it. They are confident that such a hand gesture can protect them against the bad luck triggered by “Alla jbierek”, “Xi ħlew”, “il-Bambin ibierku” and any other saying that conveys awe or well wishes. So much so that Sharona and Diane, from Min Imissu (Who’s Next?) constantly splash out the horned hand when gesticulating.

Dik Daqqa t’Għajn

The horned hand is not always enough, as some bad luck that is grossly feared actually occurs. When it comes to physical or tangible harm, some of the Maltese, especially the elderly, manage to recognise an eye imprinted on the very same object/ body part they believe has been cursed. This belief is usually due to a long time of staring by those they perceive to wish them nothing but harm. “Hemm l-għajn m’intx taraha? Il-ferita proprja għajn qed tħares lejk.”

seħta, għajn

Baħħar!

To break the curse, many used to resort to a ritual practice known as tbaħħir. To succeed,  this required  a piece of cloth given by the very same person who is feared and burned in a frying pan. Now, that people are buying more clothes and sewing less themselves, the piece of cloth has been replaced by olive leaves, salt, garlic  and spirit, the latter to facilitate ignition. Ashes inside the frying pan are then taken around the house accompanied by the following phrase  (and many more)

“San Barnabaw,
Jekk hawn xi għajn titlaq minn hawn!”

Sounds like a logical way to break a curse. Doesn’t it?

tbaħħir, għajn, seħta

Just for the record, Friday the 13th this year shall be back in October.  Watch out!

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Clifford Jo Żahra

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