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THE EVIL EYE M Y T H , T R U T H AND LO RE


THE EVIL EYE M Y T H , T R U T H AND LO RE


THE EVIL EYE GROWING UP

I am second generation American Polish, born and raised in Ohio. Growing up in a Polish family, we had many superstitions and rituals we followed. My mom was, and still is, the queen of superstition. Here are a few that I remember the most:

• Never open an umbrella indoors or bad luck will rain on you. • If you spill salt, you must take a pinch and throw it over your left shoulder to drive away evil spirits who are waiting to do you harm.

• Don’t sit directly on cement or you are asking for rheumatism. • If you want to succeed in something, or are afraid of a sudden change of fortune, you knock on wood three times or evil spirits will ruin things for you.


Anyway, I could go on and on; but of all the superstitions and rituals, the one that fascinates me most is the belief in the “evil eye�. The concept of the evil eye is that an envious gaze, a look that lasts unusually long, or high praise from some jealous or malicious person can bring you bad luck. Even if the person who praises you means you no harm; evil spirits can piggyback in on their words or looks, and put a bad luck curse on you.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

WHAT IS THE EVIL EYE? 6 WHO IS AFFECTED? 8 ACROSS THE GLOBE 12 VERBAL AND PHYSICAL AVERSION 14 EASTERN EUROPE 14 ITALY 15 UKRAINE 16 GREECE 18 IRAN 21 BANGLADESH 22 MEXICO 25 INDIA 26 PROTECTIVE TALISMANS 28 SUMMARY OF WORLDWIDE BELIEFS 30


WHAT IS THE EVIL EYE?

In modern culture, when someone looks at another with jealousy or with malice, than that person is said to be giving the “evil eye�. But did you know this figurative meaning is also closely related to the literal interpretation of the evil eye according to its historical origins. Literally, the evil eye refers to the supernatural ability to cast spells or exercise power over the lives of others with a mere glance. In ancient belief, individuals who were capable of this power had the ability to bring great disaster, physical illness or even death to their victim.

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The evil eye is a belief as old as history itself; in fact it is so prevalent that you can find mentions of it from the Greek and Roman times, also in the Sumerian texts, The Bible, ancient Middle Eastern, Egyptian and many Indian epics. The belief continues to manifest cultures and modern civilizations even today though not with the same seriousness as in the past. It was apparently first recorded by the Mesopotamians about 5,000 years ago in cuneiform on clay tablets and the evil eye may actually have originated as early as the Upper Paleolithic age. It seems that amulets meant to protect against it have been found in many parts of the world. In many a culture, it is a devastating ever present force and in some others, it is just bad luck, or as they say, a “jinx.”

THE WRETCHED GAZE OF ENVY, CLOAKED IN AN ADMIRING GAZE, HAPPENS TO BE THE MOST WIDESPREAD BELIEF IN THE WORLD

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WHO IS AFFECTED?

It is said that the most important times when the evil eye has to be avoided is at child birth, marriage or coming of age; however, the evil eye can be cast on any human as well as livestock or even an inanimate possession. It is believed that if you brag or show off and call attention to yourself or your possessions, that you attract unwanted attention and jealousy. Although there are differences in beliefs among different cultures, most agree that the people or things affected by the curse tend to dry, wither away or completely dehydrate. The afflicted may become sluggish and nauseous and suffer from a feeling of “having something inside you” — a lump in the throat. Some believe the evil eye can kill or maim livestock, cause mechanical failure in machinery, even topple carts of fruit and brick walls.

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Infants are especially susceptible. A young baby can die if the cure is not administered in time. Those who are aware of the dangers of praise often spit after paying a compliment. They may make a spitting motion or sound when offering praise to a newborn, or mutter “let it not be bewitched.” Compliments should not be given lightly. What do they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? The road to the evil eye is a similar case. For adults, the evil eye is not usually considered to be life-threatening. The cure is relatively simple, though it varies from person to person, as does the manner of diagnosis.

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TO REPEAT THE WORDS OF AN OLD HISTORIAN — CHILDREN ARE SAID TO WASTE AWAY UNDER THE EVIL EYE EFFECT AND THE COW TO CURDLE ITS MILK IN ITS UDDERS AFTER SUCH A GAZE


The cure is passed down the generations from mothers to sons and sons to daughters. Apparently parents cannot teach the ritual to children of the same gender; and Good Friday is the only day one can learn it according to many. There are loopholes. For instance, a mother cannot teach the prayers to her daughter by mouth; but the words can be written down on a piece of paper. If the daughter wishes to learn the prayers, she can choose to read them on any Good Friday. If the mother were to try to teach her daughter verbally, the rites would not work.

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ACROSS THE GLOBE

THE TERM “EVIL EYE” IS KNOWN IN MOST LANGUAGES : 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

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English “bad eye”, “evil eye”, “evil look” French “Mauvais Oeil” German “böse Blick” Arabic “ayin hasad” (“eye of envy”) Armenian “Pasternak” Yiddish “aynore or ahore” Hebrew “ayin harac” Hungarian “szemmel verés” (“beating with eyes”) Polish “oko proroka” (“the eye of the prophet”) Sicilian “jettatura” (“casting”) Brazilian Portuguese “olho gordo” (“fat eye”) or “quebranto” (“breaker”) Spanish “mal de ojo” (“the eye’s curse”) Irish “droch-shuil” Greek “matiasma” or “mati” Hindi “Buri Nazar” or “Dishti” Turkish “Nazar”

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VERBAL AND PHYSICAL AVERSION

EASTERN EUROPE The power of the evil eye is sometimes said to be involuntary; however, more frequently malice or envy of prosperity and beauty are thought to be the cause. In medieval Europe, and popular in superstition today, it was considered unlucky to be praised, and is why the phrase “as God will” or “God bless it” was commonly used. In the Eastern world, the blue eye symbol can also be found on the Hamsa Hand evil eye charm. According to mainstream Jewish belief, this amulet is the Hand of Miriam, known in the bible as the sister of Moses and Aaron. HAMSA HAND

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MANO CORNUTO

MANO FICO

ITALY The belief that individuals have the power to cast the evil eye on purpose is more idiosyncratic to Sicily and Southern Italy, although the belief has certainly spread elsewhere, to the Southern United States and the Latin Americas. Such people are known as jettatore (projectors). They are not necessarily considered evil or envious, just born with an unfortunate embarrassing talent that causes others to avoid them. In ancient cultures, if you were thought to be the possessor of an evil eye, you were often negated by the rest of society and went unrecognized on the street without meeting anyone’s eyes.

In Italy, Mano Cornuto is a gesture in which the middle and ring fingers are held down by the thumb and the index and little fingers are extended outward like horns. Mano Fico is a hand gesture in which the thumb is inserted between the index and the middle finger. Both hand gestures are meant to protect against the evil eye.

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UKRAINE In Ukraine, if a person feels moved to praise a child, he or she follows the praise by spitting, to remove the taint of the praise. In other areas, praise of a child can be safely mediated by immediately touching the child, to “take off the eye.� If the praiser fails to follow these protocols, the mother may invoke religious aid by uttering a formulaic prayer or she may speak ill of the child to counter the damage caused by the praise.

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GREECE The Greeks believed that the evil eye could only be cast away through a process called Xematiasma. A person with a special healing ability would say a prayer that had been passed down through the family. Another common practice to see if the evil eye was truly cast was by testing oil. Olive oil is supposed to float in water ordinarily; however, if a drop sinks or if two drops of olive oil merge together, it is a sign of the evil eye. According to the legend, if a person really was afflicted by the evil eye, then both the victim and healer would repeatedly yawn after the prayer was said.

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One of the more curious Greek evil eye charms is the ‘lonely garlic’, a head of garlic with only one clove. You will find gypsies selling small ceramic or wooden heads of garlic that also have a blue stone on them. A snakeskin on your person can also prevent the evil eye because it neutralizes its power.


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IRAN Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan follow a more traditional prayer to cure the evil eye curse. They burn seeds of Aspand on charcoal, which releases fragrant smoke that has curative effects on the afflicted. This creates many popping sounds that pop the evil eye, breaking its curse. After this, a Zoroastrian prayer is recited. Traditional Iranian amulets include agate, shells, mother-of-pearl, stones, a panther’s claw, deerskin or deer horn, and the dried eye of a sacrificed sheep. Believers may sew shells into a child’s garment in order cast back the envious stares.

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BANGLADESH Sometimes children will have black dots drawn on their faces in an attempt to protect themselves from the evil eye. It is common in Bangladesh for young girls, who receive many compliments, to have a dot drawn subtly behind their earlobes.

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MEXICO One traditional cure in rural Mexico involves a curandero (folk healer) sweeping a raw chicken egg over the body of a victim to absorb the power of the person with the evil eye. The egg is later broken into a glass and examined (the shape of the yolk is thought to indicate whether the aggressor was a man or a woman). In the traditional Hispanic culture of the Southwestern United States and some parts of Mexico, an egg is passed over the patient and then broken into a bowl of water. This is then covered with a straw or palm cross and placed under the patient’s head while he or she sleeps; alternatively, the egg may be passed over the patient in a cross-shaped pattern while saying the Lord’s Prayer. The shape of the egg in the bowl is examined in the morning to assess success. 27


INDIA In India, women actually drew black lines around their eyes to both shield themselves from the Evil Eye, as well as ensure that they did not accidently inflict the Evil Eye on their friends. In India, one ritual involves a holy flame on a plate, which is moved around a person’s face to take in the damaging effects of the curse. Another ritual involves people spitting into a handful of chilies inside a plate and then throwing them back into a fire.

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PROTECTIVE TALISMANS

According to legend, one can be protected from the evil eye by wearing certain amulets or talismans, or can be cured by following specific instructions. These charms are called “apotropaic”, (Greek for “prophylactic” or “protective”) which is literally translated as “turns away”. They are meant to turn away or turn back harm. A common apotropaic talisman comes in the form of disks or balls that consist of concentric blue and white circles. Usually dark blue, light blue, white, dark blue from the inside out which represent an evil eye. This staring eye is meant to bend the malicious gaze back to its sender.

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In the Aegean Region and other areas where light-colored eyes are uncommon, people with green or blue eyes were thought to impart the curse, either intentionally or unintentionally, which is why these colors are used.


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SUMMARY OF WORLDWIDE BELIEFS

PERPETRATORS • Envious people • Those who excessively praise • Those who suffer from covetousness • Childless women • People born with the unfortunate propensity to inadvertently project the eye CAUSES • Overlooking (old British term; means gazing too long upon coveted item or child) • Praising without touching or spitting to void the damage • Deliberate projection from eye • Praising with envy or jealousy

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VICTIMS AND SYMPTOMS • Nursing infants (they sicken and cry; their mother’s milk may dry up) • Young children (they sicken and cry; they may vomit or become listless) • Any adult human, but newly married, or coming of age are most susceptible • Milk cows and milk goats (they dry up) • Fruit trees (they wither and die or they do not bear fruit) POPULAR CURES • Olive oil dripped into water with prayer • Coals or match heads dropped into water with prayer • Passing a whole raw egg over the face, then breaking it • Piercing a lemon with iron nails • Victim drinks three sips of holy water • Victim spits at giver of evil eye three times • Water or spittle from inadvertent perpetrator is passed to mouth of victim

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POPULAR PROTECTIVE CHARMS AND GESTURES • • • • • • •

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Refusal to accept praise on behalf of child Spitting on child Spot of soot or dirt on child so child will not look pretty Formulaic phrases Protective hand gestures Amulets that replicate protective hand-gestures, such as Mano Cornuto and Mano Fico Eye amulets or jewelry such as: the All-Seeing eye Utchat or Wadjet eye the Eye of Buddha Blue glass eye disk / Nazar Boncugu / Nazar Boncuk / Nazar Bonjuk Ojo de Venado or Deer’s Eye seed Hamsa hand Cord charms that decay and release a blue bead Red thread or red cord Crescent-shaped objects


While not everyone would profess a strong belief in the evil eye, most would agree that unusual staring from a stranger or even a friend can be alarming. The glare could be unfriendly, hostile, indifferent or even devoid of expression. Nevertheless, it can be startling to a person, not only because it lasts a few seconds too long, but also because of a perceived nonverbal implication from the one staring.

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To a Westerner, the “evil eye” may sound like something out of a goofy 1950s horror movie. But to many worldwide, the concept is quite real. The look in someone`s eyes is a reflection of his thoughts and it is only man`s natural self-preservation instinct, which tells him to be on guard when the person in front of him doesn`t seem right. While not everyone would profess a strong belief in the evil eye, most would agree that unusual staring from a stranger or even a friend can be alarming. We often talk of cold eyes, mean eyes and cruel eyes; but every so often, you come across something beautiful, extraordinary or glorious. When you see such a thing or person, secretly you envy them, you look at them deeply, in a manner of staring without even realizing. You sort of scan down this person or thing for their perfections or imperfections. You love it, you envy it, you want it, you crave it, you are jealous of it... yet despite all of these feelings, you do not have it. Instead of looking away you continue to admire it. Have you ever wondered why is it rude to stare? The reason behind it is the “evil eye”.

The Evil Eye  

A book about the belief in the evil eye around the world. It discusses who it affects, how to protect yourself, and different cultures view...

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