Discovery of Cornicello, a Neapolitan lucky charm

There are certain characteristics that distinguish Southern Italy from other parts of the world.

The colors of the sunsets, the fine black hair that waves in the sea winds, the warmth of the hearts of the region's inhabitants...

In short, the bottom of the Italian boot and, a fortiori, the city of Naples bear witness to an undeniable character.

If you have already had the chance to visit this city, you have undoubtedly come across strange red lucky charms in the shape of horns.

Called Italian horns or “cornicelli” (plural of cornicello), these little talismans are hung almost everywhere in the streets and in the markets. That said by the way, you can also find some on our site, like for example with this necklace with cornicello.

Many tourists choose to bring one back in their suitcase because this object is so representative of the city. Unfortunately, they often forget to take an interest in the origins, the history and especially the meaning of cornicello.

Don't worry, that's exactly what we're going to do together now.

Contents :

The horn: a powerful lucky charm linked to fertility

Its presence in current Italy

Cornicello and coral: the importance of red

The current use of the Neapolitan lucky charm

Bull with huge horns resting in the Italian countryside.

The horn: a powerful lucky charm linked to fertility

Since Antiquity, we have known that men use the power of certain symbols to protect themselves from evil. Simple folklore or real effectiveness, that is not the question.

Certain amulets, pendants and other lucky charms have long been considered powerful objects imbued with almost magical abilities.

No matter if you wanted to ward off a curse or bring good luck, there was always an item that met your expectations.

Concretely, the use of the horn began all around the Mediterranean in the Neolithic, around 3500 BCE. Ancient people then used it during rituals linked to fertility.

At a time when many children died at a young age and where the destiny of the clan was decided by the ability to continue generations, we easily understand the importance that fertility could represent.

In fact, a high birth rate was even seen by the tribe as an exceptional blessing.

The bull's horns, through their phallic shape and their link to an animal known to be powerful, were then used to give strength and power to men.

Women also used certain types of horns, but for a slightly different purpose. They were in fact seeking to provide the necessary vigor to their child to prevent him from dying in childbirth, and to ensure that the birth went well.

A cornicello bracelet, an Italian protective amulet and a mysterious Venetian mask

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Its presence in current Italy

In the Naples region too, it was animal horn that was most used by the population. Far from being limited to Italy, this practice is common to many peoples around the world.

From the American Indians to the nomads of Mongolia: the peoples who have attributed mystical properties to the horns are extremely numerous.

Already among the Romans, lucky charms comparable to cornicello were used as offerings, notably in rituals linked to the goddesses Venus and Luna.

With this in mind, the bone was often painted red (the color of love), these two goddesses were associated with the bubbling ardor which animates young people in need of adventure.

Additionally, bones were sometimes also used by followers of Priapus, the god of male fertility. No doubt the reason here is the same as for their prehistoric ancestors: the resemblance to the male sex.

It is also quite easy to understand what cornicello and its derivatives are when we look at their name. In fact, “corno” means horn in Italian !

An Italian horn is therefore a talisman or pendant in the shape of a twisted horn. Its material can range from gold to silver, including animal bones and of course the most common material: red coral (as for this one available on our site).

Cornicelli placed on a market stall.

Cornicello and coral: the importance of red

When coral is used, the color and shape of the cornicelli make them resemble small chili peppers.

A nod to this symbol or simple ways of attracting customers, the fact is that many garlands decorated with red peppers can be found almost everywhere in the streets of Naples.

In the Middle Ages, the color red had a double meaning for the Neapolitans : it symbolized victory over enemies, including the devil, but also luck.

In Naples, most red objects will therefore be seen (to varying degrees of course) as having a certain protective power.

Some craftsmen then had the idea, centuries ago, of creating a small red horn. They described their work with the motto: "Tuosto, stuorto e cu a' punta", which means "hard and twisted at the tip".

View of an Italian street filled with people strolling under bright sunshine.

The current use of the Neapolitan lucky charm

In reality, the original meaning of symbol has been preserved throughout history.

As we have seen, it was our ancestors who were the first to attribute a magical meaning to bones, and more broadly to everything they could find in nature. They then wore them as an amulet to protect and strengthen themselves.

In Italian culture, among others, the horn naturally personifies strength given its primary purpose, that of serving as a weapon for animals.

Additionally, the durability of the material can be interpreted as evidence of the salvation and immortality of the group which occurs via significant fertility.

This is exactly what the current cornicello alludes to. Over time, however, the bones were replaced by more symbolic objects, hence the shape we know today.

In addition to being worn as a pendant, cornicelli are also often hung from the rearview mirrors of trucks and cars. This is in fact the modern version of an ancient custom which aimed to protect horses by offering them a cornicello.

It is also not uncommon to find this Neapolitan lucky charm hanging on the doors of homes and businesses as a way of attracting luck to oneself.

One thing is certain: the culture of Naples is full of secrets and particularities that can really be fascinating to discover. Here is an article which deals with the subject and presents some particularities of the city of Naples.

Lucky charms featured in this article

Cornicello (or Italian horn) necklace

Cornicello (or Italian horn) necklace

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Red cornicello pendant

Red cornicello pendant

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.