Mafia Lore: Honour and Blood


There’s a legend that connects the Italian mafia* with the Garduña, a Spanish secret criminal society supposedly founded in Toledo in 1412. (Which may be entirely fictional.)

Three knights of the Garduña, goes one version of the story, fled Toledo after “washing with blood the stained honour of their sister”. Their names were Osso, Mastrosso and Carcagnosso. They were shipwrecked on the small island of Favignana, near Sicily, and there they laboured for 29 years, 11 months and 29 days, writing down the Code of the Garduña, its rules and its laws. From there, their roads parted.

Osso, devoted to Saint George, went to Sicily and founded the Mafia. Mastrosso, devoted to the Virgin Mary, went to Naples and founded the Camorra. And Carcagnosso, devoted to Saint Michael, went to Calabria and founded the ‘Ndrangheta. And all three societies were based on the same set of laws.


The song “’Ndrangheta, Camurra e Mafia” is an actual folk song of the  ‘Ndrangheta (the Calabrese mafia) about the above legend, and about the highest ideals of the Society: honour and blood. It surfaced in 2000, in “La musica della Mafia: Il canto di malavita” – a collection of mafia stories, sayings, rites and songs. You can listen to the entire CD here.

All in all, mafia lore is fascinating, and very very scary.

“Honour and blood”. *shivers*


‘Ndrangheta, Camorra and Mafia

One night, a long time ago, three knights set out from Spain.
They travelled from Abruzzo to Sicily, and then stopped in Calabria.

For 21 years they worked underground to establish the Society’s code,
laws of honour, of blood, of war, laws great and small and criminal.

And this code of blood and omertà was handed down from father to son.
These were the laws of the Society, laws that left their mark on history.

‘Ndrangheta, Camorra and Mafia are organized societies
‘Ndrangheta, Camorra and Mafia, honoured Sicily, Naples, Calabria

One morning in the middle of the sea, I saw a little boat sailing
with five sails and seven sailors, and one of them asked me:

“Tell me, lad, what are you seeking?” “Honour and blood”, I replied.
“If you get on this boat, we’ll find honour and blood on our way.”

And they took me to the sea, on a small island named Favignana.
All you people listening, this is a land so far away and so close.

‘Ndrangheta, Camorra and Mafia, laws of honour, laws of omertà
‘Ndrangheta, Camorra and Mafia, no mercy for those who break them

There we saw a castle with three rooms**; in the first one we smelled a rat,
in the second one, not three drops of blood were to be found, and in the third one we found a proper Society.

I was deemed worthy and deserving, I was baptized under the tree of knowledge.
I salute you all in the circle of honour, I am bound to you until death.

I’m the man for blood and honour, and I’ll ward off the infamous and traitors.
No forgiveness and no mercy, this is required from me in the Society.

‘Ndrangheta, Camorra and Mafia are organized societies.
‘Ndrangheta, Camorra and Mafia, laws of honour, laws of omertà

Original lyrics here. English translation cobbled together by me, Italian/Calabrese speakers are welcome to correct me.

* I’m using “mafia” as an umbrella term for all similar orginisations, and “Mafia” with a capital M for the Sicilian Mafia, aka the Cosa Nostra.

** The three rooms in the castle may be an allegory for the three organisations: Camorra is regarded traitorous (”reeked of infamy”), Mafia too soft, and ‘Ndrangheta the real thing – if you ask them, of course. I’m not sure about this interpretation. For one, it’s strange to hurl insults after such camaraderie and praise. And second, who the fuck considers the Sicilian Mafia “too soft”? But I can’t preclude it: if anyone does, it would be their rivals.

[originally posted by Rogue on tumblr]

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