What Is A Cornicello? History & Use Of The Italian Horn

What Is A Cornicello? History & Use Of The Italian Horn

Oftentimes when searching for protection amulets you may stumble across things that do not seem to make much sense. Most people who have been lurking around the esoteric spaces for some time will recognise symbols such as the pentagram, and these days the “Nazar” or “Evil Eye pendants”, but unless you are

4 Stacked red chillies

from the Mediterranean (and in the know), you may have come across a chilli shaped protection amulet and wondered “what the hell is that?”. I know I have! Which is why I endeavoured to find out more about this intriguing phallic shaped amulet.

Knowing that this chilli shaped amulet was an Italian/Mediterranean charm, at first I thought that the people of Italy must have just really liked chillies! This is apparently not the case. So if you are as intrigued as I am, read on further as I delve deeper into this strange looking amulet known as the Cornicello.

What Is A Cornicello?

A Cornicello (meaning “little horn”) is an apotropaic object (an object supposed to have the power to protect against evil or bad luck) which resembles a red chilli pepper or a twisted horn. It is sometimes referred to as “corno” or “cornetto” and is popular in Italian culture where it is often worn around the neck as an amulet or added to keyrings/ keychains or string to be hung on car mirrors.

cornicello amulet (chilli shaped red pendant) on a horseshoe


Traditionally fashioned from red coral and worn as an amulet, the Cornicello is said to deflect the evil eye (or malocchio) which is a curse usually brought on by jealousy or negative thoughts directed towards an individual which can cause bad luck and misfortune. These days the Cornicello is made from a variety of materials, and is available in many colours- popular ones being silver and gold.

What Is The History Of The Cornicello?

The use of the Cornicello was first seen in the Mediterranean region and dates to pre- Christian times, around 3500 B.C.E. 

What Does The Cornicello Represent?

The Cornicello is usually red as it was supposed to represent the triumph over one’s enemies (the red colour being the blood), and over Satan (as he is often depicted with red skin and red eyes).

Regarding its shape, some believe that it represents an animal’s horn which was used as a weapon of protection and self-defence. Others say that it relates to the Lunar Goddess, to whom horns were sacred.

How & Where Is The Cornicello Used In Protection?

The Cornicello has a very long history of use in the Mediterranean region as a protection charm/ amulet. In fact, there is archaeological evidence to suggest that the use of the cornicello as an apotropaic charm dates to Roman times.

Cornicello keyring

As stated previously, the Cornicello can be worn as a necklace/amulet, hung on a keyring, hung on a car rearview mirror, or anywhere you wish to deflect the Evil Eye.

The Cornicello is particularly prevalent in certain Italian regions where people often gift them to babies to ward off the Evil Eye (babies are said to be particularly susceptible to the evil eye). Some families even go as far as to pin a cornicello charm onto a babies clothing immediately before or after baptism to ward off the evil eye.

Another popular way of using the Cornicello is by tying it to the rearview mirror a car to ensure safe travel and negate any ill effects caused by the evil eye.

Being phallic shaped, the cornicello also has a reputation as male fertility symbol, often being worn around the neck to both ward off the evil eye and to ensure virility and fertility. Another folk story linking the Cornicello to fertility is its resemblance to a chilli pepper as chillies are known aphrodisiacs (there goes my theory that the Cornicello resembled chillies due to the Italian love of food and cooking).

According to Antonio Pagliarulo in his book “The Evil Eye”, farmers in Italy also tie the cornicello to the branches of new trees to protect them.

Can anyone wear a Cornicello?

Although the Cornicello has strong ties with Italian culture, it is not seen as

cornicello amulets for sale in market

a protected concept. The amulets are freely available and sold to tourists, therefore anyone can wear one so long as they believe in the protective powers bestowed by the charm.

Now that I know a little bit about the Cornicello or "Italian horn" I must say that I am much less confused! The information presented here is, I'm sure, just a brief snippet of the history and use of this long lived tradition of wearing chilli shaped amulets. If I have left anything out, or you have anything else to add, comment below. I would love to find out more.

If you are looking for Cornicello amulets, check out our cornicello keyrings here.

If you are looking for more information on the evil eye, check out the book The Evil Eye by Antonio Pagliarulo.  


Pagliarulo, A. (2023). The Evil Eye (pp. 67-68). Weiser Books.

Platts, T. K. (2016). 308| Devil's Horn. American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore [3 volumes], 307.

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