Have you ever felt suddenly dizzy, with a strong headache, maybe even feverish and nauseous for no apparent reason? What would you think if I told you that someone probably looked at you with envy, or gave you a compliment without acknowledging God, and cast on you the evil eye? Would you disregard the comment, thinking it’s just an old superstition and it has nothing to do with you and our super modern laser, nanotechnology and space exploration world of 2013?
Do you enjoy rock concerts? Do you like heavy metal? Then you are probably familiar with the signature hand-sign, the sign of the horns, that late vocalist Ronnie James Dio used during his days with Black Sabbath. Dio made the gesture popular among heavy metal fans, even though he was definitely not the first one to use it. What you might not know is that he learned it from his grandmother, a southern Italian, who used this gesture to defend and protect herself and her loved ones from the “malocchio” or evil eye.
Today, celebrities like Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston, Britney Spears, Brad Pitt and Richard Gere have been seen wearing jewelry and amulets known to guard against the evil eye.
The evil eye is a negative force that is exerted when someone stares at you or your possessions with envy, in an unfriendly and unkind manner, or praises and compliments without mentioning God’s intervention. In the human victim, it may cause dizziness, pain, headaches, vomit and fever; if it’s an animal, it may die or fall ill; if it’s an inanimate object, like a shop, a farm or a ranch, it may cause it harm, its destruction or loss. Newborns, babies and young children are the most susceptible to fall under the power of the evil eye, and it can be deadly for them.
The evil eye is known as matiasma or vaskania in Greek, avin ha’ra in Hebrew, ainal hasound in Arabic, malocchio in Italian, olho gordo in Portuguese, bla bland in farsi, mal de ojo in Spanish, mauvais oeil in French, bosen blick in German, overlooking in Great Britain. The belief in evil eye goes back to ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and near-Eastern texts, which would make it over five thousand years old. It is older than Greek and Roman civilizations, has been mentioned by Plato, Plutarch, Theotcritus, Hesiod, in the Bible’s both Old and New Testaments, by Shakespeare, Bacon, Jane Austen, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allan Poe. Anthropologists, psychologists, sociologists, classicists, folklorists, missionaries, church authorities, ophthalmologists, theologians have studied the evil eye throughout human history. Today, the evil eye “continues to be a powerful factor affecting the behavior of millions of people throughout the Indo-European and Semitic world.” (Dundes, 1992)
The evil eye must have something inherent that allowed it to emerge and flourish in almost every culture in the Middle East, West Africa, North, Central and South America, Central and South Asia and Europe for more than fifty centuries. It has survived natural disasters, world wars, discoveries, inventions, revolutions, watershed events and human milestones. Though sometimes linked to sorcery and witchcraft, the evil eye is regarded as part of our human nature. It does not necessarily imply a wish to harm or hurt, and no training or studying is required to cast it. The perpetrator is not always aware of his wrong doing, and it may be involuntary. In some cultures, it may be people with green or blue eyes, people who drink, women who are childless or covetous, jealous and envious.
The cure from evil eye is as varied as the amulets used for protection and the cultures it is part of. In different places and religions, people use prayers, holy water, eggs, olive oil, lemons, rituals, spitting, wax or coal dipped into water and smoke.
Today, Hindu people protect their houses, businesses, and vehicles from evil eye with a lemon hung with chilies in a bead, their newlyweds by applying kumkum powder, a powder made from saffron and turmeric, on their cheeks, and kohl, a dark cosmetic powder, on children’s cheeks, or by tying a black cord around the children’s hips. In Bangladesh you can see a black dot on one side of children’s foreheads, or behind girls’ earlobes. In Mexico, mothers will ask you to touch their children if you praise or compliment them, and they will crack an egg in a glass of water, praying, and place it under the bed of anyone suspected of having the evil eye. Aprotropaic, or protective, amulets range from a hand-shaped amulet with a blue eye, known as the hamsa hand: the Hand of Myriam by Jews and the Hand of Fatima by Muslims, to nazars, or evil eye stones, disks or concentric dark blue, light blue, white, and dark blue circles in Turkey, deer’s eye seeds in Mexico, red cords or strings in India, a horseshoe charm in Egypt, a charm in the form of a horn in Italy, a charm made from cat's eye shells in America and England, to blue stone beads. In Greece people will spit three times when praising or complimenting. Dutch people will paint a wide black stripe on farmhouses, the Irish have charm phrases and Chinese will spit over their left shoulder in order to deter or protect themselves from evil eye. People will use rainwater gathered on April 27, place salt or coal in children’s pockets, bless wine, blow smoke into children’s mouths, request a priest to pray a certain prayer. You will see jewelry, necklaces, charms, symbols, strings and beads on doorways, wrists, necks, ankles, hips, vehicles and on newborns and children.
Whether you believe in the power of the evil eye today or not, it is definitely a belief shared by millions that has remained an important part of the everyday life of people all over the world for thousands of years.