The Omerta Code
Omerta was the tradition in which young men were initiated into the secret society of the Mafia. It evolved into the modern Mafia tradition of Mafiosi being “made,” that is, when they are allowed into the inner sanctum of the Mafia family. One of the requirements for membership in the modern Mafia family is to have killed someone or to have participated in a murder, even if the initiate isn't the one who pulls the trigger.
The code of the modern Mafia harks back to the Old-World traditions of the ancient Sicilian culture. In addition to the vow of Omerta, a second element of the Mafia code is a vow of total devotion and loyalty to the head of the family, or don. This comes from the ancient traditions of royalty and the divine right of kings. Among royalty, the clever kings determined that there could be no dissent or challenge of the monarch, because it was God's will that the king was on the throne.
The Sicilians go by the name Mafia, but there are actually three other crime groups on the mainland of Italy: the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta, the Neapolitan Camorra, and the Pugliese Sacra Corona Unita.
Another source of the Mafia tradition of total obedience to the don was the feudal system. This medieval social structure had a feudal lord in his castle lording over the peasant class. Serfs, as the peasants were called, worked the land and delivered the majority of the produce to the castle while they kept just enough for themselves to eat. This medieval tradition is carried on in the modern Mafia, where the people on the lower rungs of the hierarchy work for the good of those above them.
A third code of the Sicilian Mafia was the duty to offer help to anyone “in the family” that was in need and any person or group with close ties to the Mafia that needs assistance. The fierce loyalty to friends and equally fierce hostility to any outsiders is a cornerstone of both the Old-World and New-World Mafia.
The fourth code followed by the Mafia is the obligation to seek vengeance against anyone who attacks a member of the family. In its very insular unity, the Sicilian Mafia took an assault on one member of the family as an attack on the family as a whole. The Old-World term for this is vendetta. The Sicilians took it to an extreme that the American Mafia did not. The Sicilian Mafia would slaughter the entire families of anyone who offended them.
This is something the American Mafia did not do. In fact, they prided themselves for “only killing their own,” and anyone who violated that rule would be killed. The Sicilian Mafia of the nineteenth century are akin to the vicious Colombian drug cartels of the later twentieth century who routinely and ruthlessly wiped out the entire families, including the small children and babies, of their enemies.
The fifth code of the Sicilian Mafia is that its members must avoid interaction with the authorities. They could bribe corrupt policemen and crooked politicians, even intimidate and kill them, but they were not allowed to socialize with them.