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Friday, March 23, 2007

Tony Soprano never did this

What a pleasure to stumble across this little ditty in a book entitled L’Europe des Sociétés Secrètes, published by Sélection du Reader’s Digest in 1980. Called the Initiation of a Mafioso,  it is presented here in its entirety, translated from the French.  Anyone who can shed further light on the provenance of this initiation is invited to comment. It would appear to be from the 1800's, but sadly, no details were included with the description of the ritual.

Initiation of a Mafioso

After having vaunted the merits of the fraternity and saluted the godfathers, the initiate, bound, had to enumerate the reasons for which he desired to become a fratello. On the table placed before him were found several objects: a miniature saint, a crucifix, a candle, matches, a pistol and several cartridges. The candle was lit.

“For my brothers, I pass my hand through the flame” the initiate swore as he performed the motion with the hand of the heart, that is to say, the left.

Then he offered his right hand, which one godfather held while another picked the thumb with a needle.

“I swear on my honor to be loyal to the fraternity and to spill for it, if necessary, my last drop of blood.”

Once this oath was pronounced, the image of the saint was smeared with the bloody thumb.
“What time is it?” demanded a voice from the shadows.

“Half-past, by my watch” replied the initiate.

“Since when have things been going badly?”

“Since the 25 of March, day of the Annunciation.”

“What were you doing on that day?”

“I was dancing with the devil.”

“And what do you worship if you are not the son of the Virgin Mary?”

“The Sun and the Moon” replied the initiate irreverently.

“What then is your God?”

“Aremi!” he then exclaimed, making reference to chance and one of the four card games popular in Sicily in the 19th century.

The candle was then blown out brusquely by one of the godfathers and the room plunged into darkness. Another was lit, illuminating a crucifix at the other end of the room.

“Initiate, prove your loyalty.”

It was then the moment for him to take hold of the pistol placed on the table and fire on the crucifix, crying:
“I will not hesitate to kill anybody, neither God nor my beloved wife.”

“There are a hundred who have passed before you.  Like these hundred and the first after you, do you swear to protect all of those who came before you and who will come after?”

“I swear it. And as the blood leaving my hand cannot return there, nor the burnt wax return to the wick, I will remain always a loyal brother to the fraternity and a pitiless enemy to its adversaries.”

Then several brothers advanced to free the initiate from his bonds.

“What are the three virtues of a brother of the Mafia?”

“Honor, duty, courage!” the newcomer proudly cried.

He was then taught the handshake which served as a sign of recognition: the right hand held with the index finger folded to touch the palm of the other with a circular motion, as each one said:

“Under my roof it does not rain.”

Then the initiate was clothed in the traditional garb of the old Mafia: black beret embroidered in silk and elegant jacket of black velour.  This uniform, too visible, disappeared around the middle of the 19th century. 

Translation by Daurade

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