One of the most awful consequences Adam and Eve had to face once they had been chased from paradise was the awareness of being vulnerable. Storms would sweep them away in a second. Diseases were waiting just around the corner and wild animals searching for food. Life was short and not easy. How could they carry on with courage and faith? By observing nature and its creatures, by learning from them. And then by reassuring themselves in every possible way. For thousands of years, the sacrifice of animals, plants and humans was a widespread way to gain a deity’s favor. It turned out to be even more important to learn how to ward off accidents and bad luck before they turned up. In this ancient Egyptians were particularly attentive. For them, the mere pronunciation or writing of a word would confer autonomous life to it. If the word referred to diseases or ferocious animals, it was essential to write it with attention and wisdom so that it could not materialize and turn into bearer of disasters. The three points (…), hieroglyph for “desert”, was used to avert this disaster: one simply divided the potentially dangerous word intwo and put the three points (desert) in the middle, so the two halves could not join together again. When it was about a person it was customary to accompany his name with the formula Ankh Ugia Seneb, “life, strength, health”. The protection was activated and the person safe. During the ages, mankind refined the technique by learning how to interpret portents in the form and the color of lightning, from flames, the movements of animals, the numerical value of letters of a name or a sentence. Charms and amulets guaranteed the bearer fortune, long life, prosperity, offspring and anything else he believed important in his short existence on earth.
All this obviously belongs to the past. By now we are in the twenty-first century and we don’t need supernatural help and protection from the deities to be all right. Yet in Florence, in the Mercato Nuovo next to Ponte Vecchio, there is a dark, almost black statue of a wild boar with a perfectly clean, sparkling snout. All around, people are waiting their turn to touch it. Could it be that it truly brings happiness, long life, fortune, prosperity and, by all accounts, the promise to return to Florence?
Anneliese Rabl …. finding a life in Tuscany