The history of Naples is full of legends and myths, which are lost between truth and fantasy, between streets and alleys, between lights and shadows. The love legend of ‘A Bella Mbriana is one of these and, along with the Munaciello, one of the most popular. Unlike the Munaciello she is the good spirit of the house, depicted many times as a beautiful woman well dressed in white. A myth, a legend, which tends to disappear among the new generation, yet very rooted in popular belief.
Even the popular Neapolitan singer Pino Daniele has titled “Bella ‘Mbriana” one of his most famous songs and from this song took the title an entire album published in 1982.
The tradition tells of a beautiful princess, so beautiful as unhappy, and of her love never lived. A love so strong and absolute that, once lost, it had caused an absolute emptiness in her. She was so desperate, that her reason had not held up. So much so that the girl went mad, and her madness led her to wander through the alleys of the city, like a shadow, looking for something or someone she would never found.
The king, his father, desperate, not knowing what to do, to protect her, he decided to anonymously reward those who opened their home to his poor daughter, rewarding with anonymous gifts the inhabitants of the houses in which the girl was welcomed and fed.
Thus was born the legend of a mysterious female figure, who lives in neapolitans homes and protects them. For local people, she is the spirit of the house and ensures well-being and health to those who live there. However, It is difficult to see or meet her, because she appears only for a few moments and if a human eye catches sight of her, she turns into a gecko or hides among the curtains moved by the wind. The Bella Mbriana is the protector of the hearth and its inhabitants. Good with the good people and vindictive with the villains: never should you offend her by saying that the your house is small, damp, dark. Even if she is a good spirit, never offend her because she can even cause the death of one of the family members.
She likes order and cleanliness and for this reason a neglected house makes her angry. When a moving was decided, people tried to talk about it outside the home, so as not to let her know anything, in order not to attract her anger.
She is invisible and is invoked in all difficult situations that compromise family serenity.
She is also called Meriana or ‘Mmeriana, from the Latin “meridiana” just to identify the woman as a shadow under which we can repair ourselves.
Even today, the older people, as a sign of respect, whenever they enter or leave their home, send a greeting.
Last important detail, in the house you always have to leave a free chair because could enter the Bella ‘Mbriana and sit down to rest. If all the chairs were occupied she could go away with all the disasters resulting from the lack of hospitality!
Even if you don’t believe in legends, in Naples when you enter a home is considered education greet the lady. A simply “Buonasera Bella Mbriana” (good evening Bella Mbriana) could help us!
Local Sources. Images from web.