From a Man to a ‘Man of Honour’: The Role of Religion in the Initiation Ritual of the Sicilian Mafia

By Rossella Merlino.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article adopts an interdisciplinary approach to analyse the religious symbolism in the initiation ritual of the Sicilian mafia. Since the beginning of Cosa Nostra in the nineteenth century, the ritual of affiliation has been the official point of entrance of new members into the secret organisation. Through the analysis of the confessions of mafia defectors it is possible to explore what impact the ritual has on their identity and on that of the organisation as a whole. The article argues that religious symbols and language have been used by mafia leaders during the ceremony of initiation to add sacred value to the event, affect the initiates at an emotional level, and eventually establish their authority over new affiliates.

Keywords: Ritual of Initiation, Mafia, Cosa Nostra, Religion, Symbols, Performance, Ritual, Social Interaction

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 11, pp.59-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 802.852KB).

Rossella Merlino

PhD Student, Faculty of Humanities and the Social Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Rossella Merlino is currently undertaking PhD research at the University of Strathclyde. Her research interests are on the cultural dimension of criminal organisations with specific reference to the Sicilian mafia. She received her MA in Contemporary Italian Culture and History from University College London. She is author of Con il Volere di Dio: Bernardo Provenzano and Religious Symbolic Ritual, which is forthcoming in Modern Italy Journal.


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