Cimaruta

i.e., cima di rata, sprig of RUE. An amulet to preserve the wearer from the evil eye, and one of the most potent of charms in use in Naples. A representation of the plant these days, but obviously the real thing originally. It is absolutely necessary that it is of silver and carries the silversmith's hallmark, otherwise there is no virtue in it (Gifford). It contains a compound charm as well as representations of the plant, comprising a hand, moon, key, flower (interpreted variously as vervain (Valiente) or orange blossom (Gunther. 1905), horn or fish (as phallic emblems), cock or eagle). Additionally one sometimes finds a heart, serpent, cornucopia and cherub, all contained in an amulet that is typically about 7 x 5cm. The charm must have originated in an ancient practice of holding in the hand a sprig of rue taken from the plant, and later a dried sprig may have been attached by a mount to a charm or ribbon round the neck, which was how it was worn in the time of Aristototle, who recorded its efficacy (W Jones. 1880). Elworthy. 1895 records an early Etruscan amulet that is very similar to the modern charm, so the cimarute must be one of the very oldest of existing amulets. This one was made of bronze, with no subsidiary amulets (Gifford), and it has to be said that there is no real evidence that it was used against the evil eye, though the modern charm has three main branches, each branch ending in a clenched fist, the thumb pushed between the index and middle finger, the classic protection against the evil eye.

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