21 March 2014
The response I received from my last article about Legends & Myths in Malta was so overwhelming I couldn't resist to research for more legends, myths, traditions and stories to share with you. The wealth of spooky tales, urban legends and incredible discoveries on this island is truly breath taking.
The evil eye (L-Għajn)
Although quite strange the evil eye (L-Għajn) is still accepted as ‘a fact’. It is a belief that a person can place a curse on you just by looking your way. The Maltese believe that making the sign of the Qrun (the bull’s horn) will deflect such evil.
A line of salt on the floor behind the front door will also prevent the evil eye from entering the house. Should your house have negative energies, cleansing can be done by burning olive tree leaves at the stroke of midnight on Easter Sunday while saying prayers.
Spitting on your fallen hair before throwing it away was another precautionary measure to avoid the curse. (I wouldn't suggest trying this at your preferred salon or hairdressers)
Whenever there is a marriage or a new baby is born it is custom to hang a coloured ribbon on the handle of your front door. White is for marriage, blue for a baby boy and pink for a baby girl. A very sweet tradition that is unfortunately disappearing as a custom in Malta.
On a child’s first birthday several objects are placed in front of the child on the floor. Whichever object the child picks up first is said to represent their future occupation or destiny. Objects include:
- Rosary Beads / Bible - A Religious Person
- Pen - Writer
- Book / White-board marker - Teacher
- Thermometer / Stethoscope - Doctor
- Money - Business Person
- Egg - House full of things / Fertility
- Spoon - Chef
Research shows that the tradition dates back to the 18th century. The objects changed over time in relation to the skills and professions available. It was likely that the objects placed then were for traditional trades like carpenters, shoe makers and stone masons combined with army and religious based objects. In the past girls were presented with a different set of objects to boys, however this has now changed.
Parents usually take the liberty to add and remove items as they wish. There is no strict set that must be present and all recognise that this tradition is purely done for fun and does not truly represent the future career of the child.
Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum
Tradition holds that before the British government sealed up several tunnels, one could walk from one end of Malta to the other underground. One of these labyrinths, known as the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, harboured the bones of over 33,000 people who had been sacrificed by an ancient pagan Neolithic cult.
Miss Lois Jessup, while working for the British embassy, convinced a guide to allow her to explore a 3-ft square ‘burial chamber’ next to the floor of the lowest room in the last sub-level of the catacombs. Reluctantly he agreed and she crawled through the passage until emerging onto a narrow ledge overlooking a deep chasm. In total shock she saw a procession of giant humanoids covered in white hair walking along another ledge about 50 feet below her on the opposite wall. Sensing her presence the humanoids collectively lifted their palms in her direction and she felt a strong wind began to blow through the cavern and something big, ‘slippery and wet’ moving past her. She fled in terror to the lower room, where the guide waiting on her return just exchanged a ‘knowing’ look with Lois.
In August of 1940 the National Geographic reported that a group of 30 school children disappeared without a trace inside the Hypogeum.
Lois Jessup returned to the same passage after hearing that 30 school children had disappeared in the same chamber she had explored previously, only to find a new guide who denied any knowledge of the former guide’s employment. Reports however state that after the last child had passed through the burial chamber and onto the ledge, a ‘cave in’ collapsed the chamber and the rope connecting them to the lower chamber was found to be ‘cut clean’.
Grieving mothers of several of the children swore that for a week or more following the disappearance they could hear children crying and screaming ‘as if from underground’.
I have discovered so much that I can’t fit it all in this week. Next week I will tell you some of the more ghostly stories and sightings seen in Malta.