Monday, October 8, 2012
The mano fico, also called figa, is an Italian amulet of ancient origin.
Examples have been found from the Roman era, and it was also used by the Etruscans. Mano means "hand" and fico or figa means "fig," with the idiomatic slang connotation of a woman's genitals. (An English slang equivalent might as well be "pussy hand.") It represents a hand gesture in which the thumb is thrust between the curled index and middle fingers in obvious imitation of hetorsexual intercourse.
Whether made as an apotropaic gesture or worn as an amulet, the mano fico is used for magical protection against the evil eye. In this it resembles other hand gestures and hand images that ward off evil, including the hamsa hand, the eye-in-hand, the mano cornuta (horned hand), and the interlocked thumb gesture.
A regionally popular amulet, it is primarily found in Italy and in America among descendents of Italian immigrants. It also shows up on a Peruvian package amulet and in a South American charm vial, both reflecting colonial European influences.