A Made man, also known as a Wiseguy, Made guy, Man of honor, or Mafioso (plural: Mafiosi), is someone who has been officially inducted, usually as a soldier into a Sicilian or American Mafia family. Other common names for members include man of honor (Italian: Uomo D'onore), Goodfella and Wiseguy, though these can also apply to non-members who work closely with the Mafia.
Traditionally, in order to become a made member of the Mafia, the inductee had to be a male of full Italian (preferably Sicilian) descent. Today, it is believed that this requirement has been loosened so that males of half Italian descent through their father's line can also be inducted. Other sources say that a half-Italian through his mother's line can also be acceptable if he has an Italian surname. Because many third and fourth generation Italian Americans also have non-Italian ancestry (due to the mixing of ethnic groups commonplace in the United States), having an Italian surname seems to have become the prerequisite for Mafia membership. Some examples of made members who are not of full Italian descent include John A. Gotti, whose mother was of Russian and Jewish descent (she was adopted by an Italian-American family which is why her maiden name is DeGregorio), and "Cadillac" Frank Salemme, former boss of the Patriarca Cosa Nostra family in Providence, Rhode Island, who was half Irish. Philadelphia crime family boss John Stanfa was known to recruit men who were not of Italian heritage. One of the non-Italian men he recruited, John Veasey, became a made member of the Mafia.
An associate of a crime family who was in the police force or attended a police academy cannot become a made member of the Mafia. For example, DeMeo crew member Henry Borelli would never become a made man in the Gambino family, since he had taken the New York City Police Department entrance exam in the early 1970s, in spite of his usefulness as an enforcer and hitman. However, an exception to this rule includes Scarfo crime family capo Ron Previte, who was a former member of the Philadelphia police force.
Before being inducted a potential made man is required to have carried out a contract killing; thus, murders committed for personal reasons "do not count." Committing one's first contracted killing is referred to as "making your bones." Until the 1980s, one only had to be involved in a murder (such as driving the getaway car) in order to fulfill the requirements. It was not until the Donnie Brasco trials, which revealed that the Mafia was about to make undercover FBI agent Joe Pistone, that a rule was made that potential inductees must actually perform a killing.
When introducing one made man to another, the phrase "a friend of ours" is used, indicating that he is a member and business can be discussed openly with him; however, when introducing an associate or civilian with whom business should not be mentioned, the phrase "a friend of mine" is used. Made men are the only ones who can rise through the ranks of Cosa Nostra, from soldier to caporegime (captain, or "capo" for short), "consigliere," "underboss," and "boss."
To become made, the inductee is required to take the oath of Omertà or, "code of silence." Though the ceremony varies from family to family, it usually involves the pricking of the trigger finger of the inductee, then dripping blood onto a picture of a Saint, typically St. Francis of Assisi or the Virgin Mary, which is then set alight in his hand and kept burning until the inductee has sworn the oath of loyalty to his new "family," e.g., "As this card burns, may my soul burn in Hell if I betray the oath of Omertà," or "As burns this saint, so will burn my soul. I enter alive and I will have to get out dead." However, contrary to popular depictions in films, the burning of the image of the family's saint (sometimes a tissue is substituted) is not a test of will. The paper is juggled from hand to hand by the new member and it burns so quickly that no damage is done if he juggles the burning paper.
The ceremony is supposed to take place in a darkened room with at least two made men as witnesses. A gun and sword/knife are placed on the table where the mobster will take his oath. While this ceremony is still common among the Sicilian Mafia, Camorra and Five Families, many families in the U.S. do not perform this ceremony due to increased scrutiny by law enforcement.
After the ceremony the inductee is then a made man and a full member of the Mafia hierarchy. Inducted as a soldier (Italian: soldato), he is given certain responsibilities and privileges. The made man now enjoys the full protection and backing of the Mafia establishment as long as he remains in favor and earns enough money, of which a percentage of his earnings are passed further up the hierarchy.
To attack, let alone kill, a made man for any reason without the permission of those Mafiosi higher up in the organization is seen as a cardinal sin which will normally be met with severe retaliation, in many cases regardless of whether the perpetrator has a legitimate grievance. The made man was traditionally seen as "untouchable" by the law as well as by his fellow criminals, a man to be respected and feared.
For the majority of the 20th century in the East Coast families, killing a made man would be met with one of two potential outcomes, either a sure death to the person who killed the made man, or a mob war. A war would ensue if the boss of the soldier who killed the made man refused to surrender his subordinate for retaliation.