Naples is, without any doubt, the capital of the Lotto, the most popular public game in Italy.The Lotto represented and represents a key aspect of Neapolitan culture.
Origins and history of Lotto The game of Lotto originated in Genoa, in 1539. Initially it was used to bet on the senators candidates. Then, it spread throughout Italy (Piemonte, Veneto, Papal States, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies…) In particular Lotto spread to Naples in 1682, when Neapolitan people liked to bet on many events: e.g. on the sex of unborn childrens, on the disasters, on the death of politicians, etc. In the 1800s Naples became the capital of the Lotto. The Neapolitan people were firmly convinced that all reality could be translated into numbers to bet; this phenomenon, often, prompted the government to suspend bets to avoid the bankruptcy.
The Smorfia The Neapolitans consult the Smorfia to play the right numbers. The Smorfia, whose name comes from Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, is the “book of the dreams”. It consist of 90 numbers and it is based on the conviction that there is a correspondence between the dreams (and the occurences in reality) and the numbers. According to some theories, the origin of Smorfia is related to Cabala, the Jewish tradition in which reality itself is a set of meanings to interpret. The Smorfia is a book very close to oral tradition: several editions were composed of explanatory figures because, in the 1600s, not everyone was able to read. Furthermore, everyone in Naples was able to memorize the the figures represented in book and could exactly “draw” the numbers from dreams or from a real event. The Neapolitan passion for the game of Lotto is still alive and the Smorfia is still consulted from Neapolitans who hope to win: the Lotto, frequently, becomes a symbol of hope.
Numbers of Smorfia: some examples Each number corresponds with a character, a person, an event… 48: ‘o muorto che parla (the dead man speaking) 10: ‘e fasule (the beans) 18: ‘o sanghe (the blood) 23: ‘o scemo (the idiot) 25: Natale (Christmas) 42: ‘o cafè (the coffee) 52: ‘a mammà (mom) 55: ‘a museca (the music) 72: ‘a meraviglia (the astonishment) 75: Pulcinella (Pulcinella Mask) 90: ‘a paura (the fear)
Divine and supernatural world The game of Lotto is closely related to the divine and supernatural world: often, in fact, the saints, Jesus, the Madonna or dead loved ones suggest the numbers in dreams. The saint of the Lotto is Saint Pantaleone. He is olso the protector of future brides to which suggests the the numbers to play to win the dowry. According to tradition, before marriage, the girls prayed to the Saint for nine nights in a row; the ninth night they could hear some footsteps and a stick beating on the ground: the number of beats were the numbers to play. It is also said the souls of Purgatory appear in dreams and suggest the numbers to people that take care of them with the prayers. There is also a figure, called the “assistito”, that is between the real and the supernatural: he can interpret the dreams and the events from number. Frequently, the “assistito” comes also into contact with spirits of the afterlife who reveal to him the numbers.