Sunday, August 29, 2010

Inquiry, Search, Results, Applications


The Problem:

While cleaning out some of my fathers, miscellaneous possessions, I found the item pictured above. Since I inherited dad's curious mind, along with material odds and ends, I set myself the task of learning more about these bits of metal.


  • appears old
  • made of metal, possibly silver
  • number 13
  • 6 charms (hand with pinkie & forefinger extended; heart; bottle?; basket with flowers?; shell; purse with flower design) and space or empty chains for 7 more charms
  • Italian heritage

Educated guesses:
  • superstition involved because of the number 13
  • dated from at least the 1940s, judging from the other things in the same bag
  • possibly had some sentimental value


The people most likely to have personal knowledge of this curious trinket, my grandparents, father, and godmother, are no longer with us. I'll eventually check with my younger uncles, but, for now, I decided to press ahead on my own.

Since "13" is a number with a lot of superstitious connotations, I started with keywords like "Italian superstitions" "Italian charms" "Italian amulets." Within a relatively short time, I came across the term cimaruta (Chee-Mah-Roo-Tah). After that, my search was easy and profitable.


What I Learned:

  • The Italian concept of lucky and unlucky numbers is different from other parts of the world. Some older Italian Americans still hold the belief of lucky 13, especially when gambling
  • The Cimaruta is an very old charm rooted in Italian folklore. It is used for protection from the bad luck or the evil eye. Cimaruta or cima di ruta means ‘spring of rue’ and the branches of the charm are the branches of that most sacred plant.
  • The Cimaruta of today is evolved from ancient Etruscan amulets; historical uses are as protective charms against malevolent magic, witchcraft, and the evil eye, especially for infants.
  • The Neopolitan (both of my father's parents were from the Naples area) custom was to make charms of silver and blood coral since these two materials were sacred to the Moon Goddess (Luna/Diana) and to the Goddess of the Sea, Venus
  • The hand gesture known as the mano cornuta wards off the Evil Eye by extending only the pinkie and index finger like a pair of horns and pointing it down.
  • One example of a Christian addition to the design is the appearance of "the sacred heart" of Jesus. However, ancient Roman charms did include a heart symbol, which may indicate that the heart on the cimaruta is a later Christianization as opposed to an entirely new creation.
  • Vervain flower blossom represents protection; a vervain blossom, in Italian lore is connected to fairy lore (and folklorist Charles Leland refers to Diana as the queen of the fairies)
What I Surmise:
  • Since my father was never (overtly) superstitious, I would venture a guess that he was given this charm by a friend or relative
  • Alternately, it could have belonged to a family member and was cherished by dad as a memento
  • At first, I thought this protective amulet might have been intended to protect a soldier in battle; however, after learning more about the traditions associated with cimaruta, I wonder if it were meant to safeguard a baby
  • This Cimaruta varies from the traditional design; it may have been an inexpensive lucky piece for a gambler


I love to learn about the extras in life: family history, homey artifacts, local lore. In a school setting, inquiry-based and authentic learning makes classes more meaningful to students, empowering them to extend their experiences while acquiring "real" information.

Buffy Hamilton had her ninth graders research their surnames on Students might also be challenged to learn more about a family heirloom, local landmark, historic photo, etc.

The possibilities are endless.

"Cimaruta" by dmcordell
"Cimaruta amulet" from SymbolDictionary

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's NOT a Book...But It's Still Reading

While browsing the ALA fall graphics catalog, my attention was captured by a poster version of this trailer for It's A Book

It would appear, from the contents of the catalog, that the ALA equates reading for pleasure with the use of a physical book. The few computers pictured on posters or bookmarks were seemingly being employed for "research."

Although I'm a lifelong lover of printed books, I've just ordered a Kindle to use while traveling, fully anticipating that this device will increase my recreational reading rather than reduce it.

Are there lurking Luddites in the ALA organization? Shouldn't we be encouraging our students to read in any and every format?

Isn't engaging with literature what counts?

If any of you have the READ software, I'd love to see some posters of staff and students reading text via iPad, Kindle, laptop, or any other electronic device.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Role of School Librarians

Yesterday, I received the following information from Laurie Conzemius, SIGMS Communications Chair:
ISTE SIGMS has just released an important advocacy statement - "The Role of School Librarians in Promoting the Use of Educational Technologies". This document can be used to provide information on the important role that school librarians play in promoting the use of educational technologies in their schools and the need for libraries to have adequate available technologies. Please share this statement with administrators and other library stakeholders. See the document at

The statement was created by the SIGMS Executive Advocacy Committee - Lisa Perez, Doug Johnson, Joyce Valenza, Keisa Williams, Wendy Stephens and Ernie Cox. It was created at the request of ETAN to better help us advocate for school librarians. Watch for a call for volunteers in September for the SIGMS Advocacy Committee, chaired by Kathy Sanders, to continue this important work.

The opening sentence of the document is clear and uncompromising: "School librarians perform an integral role in promoting the effective use of educational technologies in their schools."

Technology in education is not an add-on or extra; it's an essential component in the toolbox of every teacher, especially teacher-librarians. Authentic learning experiences do not always require an online element. But when technology can extend or deepen understanding, appropriate tools need to be accessible to students...and teacher-librarians must be able to facilitate their use.

The ISTE SIGMS statement declares that, "Libraries support the curriculum, promote literacy development, and foster lifelong reading habits among children through the development of carefully selected print collections and the infusion of educational technology."

Print AND technology, not print OR technology. Our students need both, and it's the teacher-librarian's obligation to ensure that both are part of the library experience.

Please read "The Role of School Librarians in Promoting the Use of Educational Technologies" and share it with "administrators and other library stakeholders." Consider it a statement of how our profession can, and must, look in the the 21st century.

"science in the stacks" by SpecialKRB

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The New Learning Commons

Ernie Cox and David Loertscher at ALA 2010 Annual Convention

Although the weather in the northeast still indicates "summer," schools in many parts of the U.S. have already resumed classes.

Why not begin the academic year by taking part in the TL Virtual Cafe's upcoming webinar, on Monday, August 9th, 8pm EST?

Special guest, Dr. David V. Loertscher, will lead a discussion about "The New Learning Commons," and explain his concept of reinventing school libraries and computer labs as Knowledge Building Centers.

Join the conversation by accessing the webinar's Elluminate room 15 or 20 minutes before start time.

Past TL Virtual Cafe offerings have been both lively and informative... you don't want to be left out!

I hope to see you there.

Photo by dmcordell