{ comparàtico }


According to Raffaele Corso, who generously filled in a page of the Enciclopedia Traccani on this matter, the comparàtico[1] is a word through which several obligations associated to the role of being someone’s compare (masc.) or comare (fem.) can be categorised. Despite this attempt at ratification, being someone’s compare or comare can mean entirely different things depending on how the choice of taking up this role was made. One can be a comare di nozze, a bridesmaid, meaning they will walk the bride to the altar, put the ring on her finger, accompany her to her new home, and gift her something valuable. They can also be a compare di battesimo, meaning a godfather, and they will take part in the Christian rite and take care of the child should this become orphaned. But one can also become a comare by cutting a baby’s first hair or nails, or by piercing their ears for the first time. And although Corso reminds us that the rituals that bind the invisible but tangible ties of comparàtico vary in Italy from region to region, and even village to village, it is clear from his account as from our experience that the meaning of comparàtico is that of an informal institution of community-life akin to the idea of an elected family. Through the choices that institute the relationship of comparàtico, members of a community take agency over the structures that influence their daily lives. They decide which members of their families and friend group might be able to take care of their child, and who they can trust near their newborn with a sharp scorching needle. To bind oneself to another person in this way means claiming back agency over the way our relations are structured by way of imagination, magic and poetics. It is a simple act of survival and a celebration of that texture of life that produced us already as a common subject. The slow rhythms of Abruzzo’s comparàtico rituals, performed across a whole night and day, are a form of anachronistic resistance: herbs are foraged and exposed to the moonlight before being gifted and used to wash each other’s face. Red ribbons tie the young hands that laugh at the words of some ancient rite, and the lived reality of this moment becomes a shoe – that is a weapon – which can be thrown into the works of modernity, sabotaging for a moment the linear paradigms that will reshape us into ‘individuals’ tomorrow.


[1] “comparàtico s. m. [der. di compare] (pl. -ci). – 1. a. Il vincolo di cognazione spirituale che lega i compari o le comari di battesimo e di cresima ai loro figliocci, e i compari di nozze agli sposi. b. La spirituale relazione che due persone, in genere di sesso diverso, contraggono in seguito a varie usanze popolari (spec. in Calabria) il giorno di s. Giovanni Battista (24 giugno). 2. L’insieme delle cerimonie a cui tradizionalmente prendono parte le diverse categorie di compari.”

Enciclopedia Treccani

comparàtico s. m. [der. of compare] (pl. -ci). – 1. a. The bond of spiritual cognation that binds the compari or comari (comrades?) of the baptism and christening to their godchildren, and the wedding witnesses to the newly weds. b. The spiritual relationship that two people of usually opposing genders contract following several popular rites (especially in Calabria) on the day of St. John the Baptist (24th June). 2. The ensemble of rituals in which traditionally different categories of ‘compari’ take part.

Author’s Translation


Marta Pagliuca Pelacani