Beliefs and superstitions constitute an important part of Corsicans traditions and heritage.
Corsica, mysterious island…
Many Corsicans are superstitious, and for good reasons: since centuries, the islanders are immersed in myths and beliefs. During traditional gatherings, elders told stories of witches, goblins, devil… Combining weird and wonderful but also truthful stories about bandits of honour, invasions, family rivalries… The oral tradition allowed tales and legends to pass from generation to generation.
It is from these different legends combining reality and fantasy that the Corsican soul emerged…
He related these facts to his close family and friends and the news were spread all over the mountainous valley of the Murianincu. The next morning, men from the hamlets of Reghjetu, Cioti, Serra, Serrale, Tribbiolu and Piazze rushed to the place indicated by the shepherd.
And so weddings were celebrated, and it was only songs, dances and music for days. Until the day a villager of Coccula, madly in love with Bellafiora, trussed her up on his horse and kidnaped her.
Arrived to the place called “Malanotte” (the cursed night), and just before he crossed the river, the horse stumbled and drowned into a waterhole, taking Bellafiora in its fall who shouted “be cursed!” before sinking.
Immediately, a thick fog covered the hills of Moriani’s pieve, and at dawn the curse started.
The young man and his father perished, taken by an acute pain in the heel. That same ache affected every men, and because this sickness started in the heels, it was called “A Calcagnetta” (the little heel).
Houses became empty, beings forsaken and bodies eaten by ravens. Ill people painfully crawled to the peak which overlooked the valley where is now situated San Mamilianu’s chapel. On the square was dug a mass grave, “l’arca”, and men went and waited to die there. Every time a new sick person came, they pushed the dying persons inside and took their place… That is how all the men of the Murianincu disappeared…
From Prete Carlotti “Martinu Appinzapalu”
Recently, when they decided to level the site in front of the chapel, the local council of San Ghjuvanni asked for a trench to be dug for the construction of a wall. Imagine their surprise when they discovered a succession of graves full of skulls and human bones. An anthropologist of Bastia’s area came to the conclusion, by measuring shinbones, that skeletons belonged to men measuring between 172 cm and 178 cm, real giants during this time.
Saint Lucy’s eye
It is a shellfish coverplate that we can pick on the beach after big storms. Its size varies from 2 millimetres to 3 centimetres.
It is during the 4th century that the legend of Saint Lucy started: a young lady from the Syracuse’s nobility was able to cure her mother – who was suffering from an incurable disease – through repetitive prayers to the Virgin Mary. Giving her sincere and unlimited devotion, she ripped off her own eyes and threw them into the sea in order not to turn away from her faith and to keep admirers away. Completely devoted to the cult, she worked numerous miracles. As an answer to her faithfulness, the Holy Virgin restored her eyesight, and gave her “Ochji belli e lucent” – eyes even more beautiful and radiant.
The shellfish’s coverplate called “Turban Snail”, localised on the Mediterranean shores, symbolises Saint Lucy’s eyes. It is said that wearing one wards off bad luck, and boosts good luck. It should be noted that we variants of this symbolism can be found in all the Mediterranean basin and beyond that, especially in Indonesia.
It is considered as a lucky charm in Corsica.
The Corsican Flag, A Bandera Corsa
No one can exactly tell the true origin of the Moor’s head. Several legends remain:
Moorish servant was plotting against the King of Aragon. A Corsican foiled the plot by bringing the Moor’s head in a white sheet. Grateful, the king said to him: “From now on, this will be the flag of your country”. During the Saracen invasions, Corsicans would impale the heads of the Moorish officers – who could be recognised thanks to the white headbands tied around their foreheads. During battles, brandishing the heads as trophies, Corsicans would take a psychological advantage over their attackers.
In History, some things are sure, so we know that the Moor’s head, whose headband was first covering its eyes, took its origins in Aragon. Aragon’s relationship with Corsica started in 1927, when Pope Boniface VIII gave the administration of Corsica and Sardinia to the Kingdom of Aragon. Aragon never ruled Corsica but gave his coast of arms to Sardinia (a Red Cross surrounded by four Moor’s heads on a white background).
In 1736, when Théodore de Neuhoff became the King of Corsica, he adopted the Moor’s head in his coats of arms. At this time, the head was turned to the right.
In 1745, when Ghjuvan Petru Gaffori attacked the citadel of Bastia – which was besieged by the Genovese – he adopted this flag. The headband was lifted up as a symbol of “Corsica opened its eyes”.
In 1760, Pasquale Paoli formalised Gaffori’s choice. He removed the jewels from the Moor’s head and had it turned to the left. In 1762, the Cunsulta di Corti adopted the Moor’s head in the Corsica coats of arms.
The “Mazzeru” is a sorcerer who predicts the death of human beings during his dreams. He hunts and kills the first wild beast that he finds, turn it over, and sees on its face the face of a person from his entourage who will die shortly. After that their lifespan cannot exceed one year and 3 days.
The “Mazzeru” isn’t judged as a bad person, but rather like someone strange and mysterious, since he kills against its will.