They are only legends, but these mysterious and fascinating stories, take on a life all of their own.
Something causes these stories to pass through millions of commoners’ mouths, only through their
voice these stories become almost…..reality. “Bella mbriana” is just one of these stories, one of the
most beautiful. In the recent past everyone knew the Bella mbriana and even today there are those who
strongly believe in her existence.
But who is the Bella mbriana?
She is the spirit of the house, the angel of the hearth. The name is probably derived from the Latin
"meridiana". In fact it seems that this spirit appears, at will, in the brightest hours of the day. The lucky
few that claim to have seen her, describe her as a woman of marvelous appearance. A young woman,
with a serene and sweet face, a reserved spirit that flees from the eyes of ordinary mortals.
You can recognize her in a gust of wind that moves the curtain, or in an unusual shadow that is fixed on
the wall, nothing but a fleeting and intense appearance. If you happen to see her, be careful not to
touch her. It is said that even the elusive appearance of a human touch puts wings on her and turns her
into a wonderful butterfly. According to some, this spirit would be reincarnated as a gecko. This is the
reason Neapolitans consider the small lizard a well-accepted animal, because of its connection with the
mysterious Bella mbriana, they do not dare to chase it away.
Bella mbriana has for years been considered an additional member of the family. The elders usually
prepare an extra seat at the table and an empty chair if she wants to rest. They greet her as they enter
the house, as they do with a mother or a father: “Good evening, Bellal mia mbriana”. They invoke her
during the periods in which they suffered most from hunger, as is done with a God.
All possible courtesies are extended to Bella mbriana to keep her content. Yes, because this angelic spirit
that watches over and protects the house can become a real torment if she is not shown gratitude.
If you do not want to fall out of her favor, remember that (like any woman) she likes a clean and tidy
house. If you intend to move from the home, talk about it outside pf the home, because Bella mbriana
listens to everything. But above all, the legend has it that if anything ever ignites her anger, she could
even kill a family member. But they’re just legends, aren’t they?
Whether it is a butterfly, a gecko or a capricious woman, the Bella mbriana will forever (believe it or not)
be one of the most fortunate Neapolitan legends, like the Munaciello and the Janara.
Illustration courtesy of Alex Amoresano