Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

   ErN 39, entry Nov. 2002   

izards, Leprechauns and Little Monks

There is a small lizard (photo) guarding our house; at least, I hope that's what it's doing. I realize that there are other evolutionary scenarios that call for the lizard to grow to the size of a komodo dragon and eat us, but I'd rather not dwell on that.

My wife's and my own current thinking is that the lizard represents a manifestation of the "monaciello" ("little monk"), a kind of Neapolitan leprechaun, a usually benevolent figure that protects you and, just maybe, might show you where treasure is hidden. He is one of the many such mischievous Pucks, leprechauns, imps and sprites that show up in various cultures around the world. Monaciello, as the name indicates, normally looks like an itsy-bitsy monk and is said to live in the wine cellar. We have no wine cellar. I am puzzled by that theological contradiction, but I have read that "monaciello" can also assume the shape of a cat or a serpent. A lizard is a serpent, of sorts, so maybe, just maybe...

So far, he (henceforth "he", since a "little monk", in whatever incarnation, is, by definition, a male) simply scurries across the room, stops and stares at us for a while, does that disgusting darting thing with his tongue, and then scoots away. My wife claims he is getting bigger. I, suggest hopefully that that comes from all the bugs he has been eating. (Indeed, our abode is remarkably free of insects.) He  has also replaced a previous, smaller lizard we found in the dearly-departed, shrivelled-up state some months ago. This is either (1) a good sign, in that there is, apparently, an entire cadre of good spirits dedicated to our well-being, or (2) ominous, in that maybe lizard number 2 killed lizard number 1 and is now just biding his time (see "other evolutionary scenarios" in par. 1, above) waiting for the return of the Age of Reptiles.

Indeed, my Neapolitan mother-in-law was convinced that ‘spirits’ (possibly a "monaciello" prankster) played tricks on her by moving things around the house. Once they moved her house-keys and before that they nabbed her sweater. I put quotes around ‘spirits’ because that’s what she called them. I suggested ‘hobgoblins', ‘demons’, or ‘howling hunks of ectoplasm’. One does not joke about such things, however.

—“I put them right there, and now they’re gone, mister young punk rationalist know-nothing unbeliever. How do you explain that?”

—“Easy, mother-in-law. You must have put them somewhere else.”

—“Ha! If I had put them somewhere else, then that’s where they would be, right? But they’re not there, either! So where are they, if you know so much? Besides, the things always turn up eventually, which proves they were gone in the first place.”


Now, I know that the supernatural exists or does not exist quite independently of whether or not I believe in it. Logical Positivists among you may argue with that statement, but then you brainoids have never tangled with lizards, so I suggest you get with the program.

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