Friday, July 20, 2012

The Strega's Mark of the Devil...

My mother tells me i was born with a tiny red dot on the my right arm and hand. She believes this is because she ate cherry Popsicles while pregnant with me. She was told by the doctor that it would go away and not to worry. Neither happened. Of course this is the same doctor who believed that antibiotics would cure sneezing. The spot grew as i did and was a full blown vibrant red birthmark in no time at all. My mother continues to worry about everything under the sun to this day- though i am quite certain she forgot about the birthmark and only remembers it when i visit wearing short sleeved attire.

As a kid in Catholic School i was subjected to the paranoia of mean nuns anytime they noticed my birthmark. Each one would grab my arm and in that nails down a parochial school chalkboard scream, that only nuns can do... "Dear Lord, were you burned?"  To their dismay i was not maimed in a fire. Combine this with the curse of being left handed. Some would make the sign of the cross or mutter a prayer. The only explanation could be that this was indeed the mark of the devil. Pray for her dear Baby Jesus. Save her from the gates of hell and the communists. Lord hear our prayer.

Since it was too late (or probably too costly to have the cherry stain removed, my mother somehow switched me from a south paw to become right handed. This only bafffled the nuns more... and myself. I still vividly remember first grade teacher Sister Maryenella (sp?) pulling my short pixie hair while at the blackboard attempting to print a b. Instead i made a d. I am shocked my neck did not snap that day!

Sometimes i still don't know right from left, since i confused the word R-I-G-H-T with the word W-R-I-T-E during the process. I was writing with my left hand only to be switched to write with the right hand. You can see how that would mess up a 5 year old.

Tortured by classmates, mostly wretched boys and nasty pale girls with long blonde hair, i wore long sleeve white blouses under my plaid uniform through my entire 12 years of parochial school. Mortified that anyone would see it i did my best to hide the entire arm whenever possible. Sweaters, coats, gloves and several bangle bracelets and accessories during the summer.

"The scientific perspective is that birthmarks are the result of a skin abnormality linked to the formation of blood vessels. In folklore there are three theories appear across cultures and time. 
  1. Birthmarks signify are an omen which may denote a characteristic or life path.
  2. Birthmarks are leftover from a past life/ re-incarnation
  3. Birthmarks are the result of events that happened to the mother while carrying her child or actions she took during her pregnancy. Italian and Spanish folklore states that birthmarks result from un-satisfied wishes of the mother during pregnancy, such as wishing for certain foods."
The Italians believe that witches, known as Stregas have a birthmark on their arm, have all-black eyes, while practicing the healing arts with herb, potions and other magic rituals. Perhaps it is no wonder i decided to go into traditional Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture.

During my time in acupuncture college i had a delightful Chinese professor, Dr J Min Fan take my arm and say, "Oh Jeanie.. this is good fortune!" From that day on i embraced the wine stain. It was no longer hideous or a burden.  I used it as a temperature gauge. It turned colors during the seasons.
I noticed how it would turn bright red when i was angry or had a raging fever. Blue or Purple if i was cold. Just a reminder that we are all unique. Some of us just stand out more than others. Embrace diversity.

The temporary tattoo Breathe on the above photo is made by
at  Silver Tree Art on Etsy

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