Above are two cimaruta (pronounced "chee-ma-rue-ta") charms that I own. The cimaruta in the top picture is vintage, probably from the 1920-30s. The bottom image is a new or modern cimaruta charm. The vintage charm in the top picture is almost 4 inches in length while the charm in the bottom picture is about an inch in length. Believe it or not, the modern cimaruta is my favorite simply because its more aesthetically pleasing to the eyes, well, my eyes at least.
Cimaruta, meaning "sprig of rue", is an old Italian charm designed to protect the wearer from the evil eye. The basis of the charm is the belief that the rue plant is among the most powerful charms to repel evil and the evil eye, as well as a cure against it. The Italians are well known for their interesting charms. What makes the cimaruta most unique is that it is not just one charm but is actually composed of numerous charms contained on a sprig of rue rendered in silver.
Silver has been popular all throughout Europe as a charm against evil. Silver is linked to the moon and has a very long history in folklore in protecting from evil and evil beings such as vampires, werewolves and even witches. In fact, in some folktales a person can become a witch by shooting a silver bullet at the moon and in other legends the only way to kill a witch is by shooting her/him with a silver bullet. We all have heard that the only way to kill a werewolf is with a silver bullet. During the vampire craze through the 1700s, "anti-vampire kits" came stocked with silver crucifixes as well as silver bullets. So the fact that the cimaruta is cast in silver is indeed a source of its power. Today one can purchase cimaruta charms that are made from other metals but I would personally not recommend that such be purchased as there is really no reason why these charms can't be made in silver. They are relatively inexpensive.
The charms contained on the sprig of rue will vary. Not all potential charms are found on all cimaruta charms. Below is some information that I obtained through research after purchasing my cimaruta charms.
Silver - Protection from evil
Rue - Protection from the evil eye
3 Branches - The Trinity
Bird - Protection through intuition
Rooster - Protection via warnings of danger
Vervain Flower - Protection from witchcraft
Heart-Shaped Key - Protection in love
Flaming Heart - Spiritual faith and protection
Arm/Hand Holding Dagger - Physical protection
Moon - Protection of female sexuality, fertility, and female reproductive system
Cornucopia - Prosperity
Shell - Protection of prosperity
Horn (Cornicello) - Protection from evil
Knight's Helmet - Loyalty and valor
Gobo (Hunchback) - Luck
Serpent - Protection of male sexuality and fertility
Fish - Spiritual protection, symbol of Jesus and Catholicism
Frog - ? - Unsure but both the fish and frog are connected to water and "wetness" can protect against the evil eye or is a remedy for it.
Mano Cornuto (Horned Hands) - Protection from evil and the evil eye
Now we are getting into some controversial territory. Despite what you may read online, the cimaruta is old just not that old. As far as my research goes, I've found references to it dating back to the early 1800s. I have seen references that state but do not show that it dates back to the late 1700s and I'm willing to buy this claim. However, the cimaruta does not date back to Roman times or long before to the Etruscans. This leads me into the topic of "fakelore".
The cimaruta has been adopted or should I say "stolen" by self-styled witches who claim it as their own and who have invented fake lore, fake legends, and fake symbolism for it.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this here but in future blog entries I will discuss the type of people who are doing this and why they are fake. For now, just note that if you try researching the history and origin of the cimaruta you will read all kinds of false information online. This information comes from self-styled witches who want to claim this charm is pagan. They will even go as far as saying that it was a sign of those initiated into the "Society of Diana", an alleged witch secret society. I've even read claims that if you find a cimaruta with a "flaming heart" then such is an example of a "modern Christian creation" with the so-called "real" or "legitimate" charms not possessing any Christians symbolism. Of course this is an outright lie as all cimaruta charms were Christian as modern NeoPagan worship did not exist at that time and there is zero evidence for any underground pagan Italian cult that survived the coming of Christianity.
As far as use goes, these cimaruta charms are primarily used by women. They specifically were used by pregnant women, women in labor, and newborns, as all three were considered most vulnerable to the evil eye. Technically, a man could wear one but these charms were viewed as rather feminine and so most men would gravitate toward more masculine charms.
If you are interested in purchasing your own cimaruta charms then Peter Stone has some really good and reasonably priced ones. You can view them at the link below:
This is where I purchased one of my cimaruta charms from. One thing I did notice is that some of the charms included in the designs don't seem to be anything recognizable. I believe this is because Peter Stone jewelers may have been looking at images or even examples of vintage cimaruta charms and were unable to properly identify one of the myriad of charms on such. So my recommendation is that if you are going to purchase a cimaruta from Peter Stone that you are able to identify each charm on it before purchasing. If you notice something on a cimaruta charm from Peter Stone and it just looks like an unidentified blob or unrecognizable shape then just pass on that particular one. You really want to know what each charm is and means for your personal piece.
You can occasionally purchase vintage cimaruta charms on eBay and Etsy. However, keep in mind that such are usually quite costly. My vintage one in the top picture above cost me $200. I desperately wanted one that was up for bid on eBay late last year. It was perfect in detail and over 4 inches in length. It ultimately sold for over $600. Buy what you can afford, either vintage or modern. Just remember to only buy silver, preferably sterling.
One last warning, in my research online I found a witch that was offering a real "cimaruta" for about $80 plus s/h. What this turned out to be was not a silver cimaruta charm but was in fact a dried sprig of rue to which fake little plastic and clay charms were tied onto with string. Do not buy this. This is not a cimaruta charm. The seller was creating her own "fakelore" by claiming that what she was selling is the "real" charm that the silver cimaruta are based on. That's completely made up and quite false. Cimaruta charms have always been actual silver charms or pendants.
BONUS: Just something I do to bless and strengthen my cimaruta. I will steep rue in hot water to make a tea. I let it steep about 7 minutes. I then dip my cimaruta in the tea while saying a prayer or reciting a Psalm, such as Psalm 23, 7 times as well, taking it out and dipping it back in the tea in between. This is just something I do from time to time. Feel free to use it on your cimaruta if you like.