In this day and age, humankind is surrounded by technological feats and wonders that continually evolve to suit modern needs. Technology and the price of progress have lead to the casting away of ancient beliefs and superstitions. Once, these beliefs and superstitions were strictly adhered upon to the point that both can limit a person’s actions in fear that the violation of such beliefs would cause tremendous horrible consequences. One such belief is that of the “Evil Eye”, a belief that has transcended time and culture.
The “Evil Eye” is said to be a powerful malicious force and it takes on many names such as “mal de ojo” in Spanish, “oko proroka” in Polish, “drishti’ in Indian and “mata ng Diablo” in Filipino among others. Whatever it is called, the Evil Eye’s effects are one and the same: a fortunate person may be bestowed upon with great misfortune via an envious and malicious person’s gaze. In some cultures, the infliction of misfortune may not be limited to visual contact alone, and may include somatic, physical contact and even verbal engagement (Evil Eye, 2006).
The Evil Eye is a force so evil that men, from common men to those in the higher hierarchies in society, in olden times have feared it to the point of limiting their actions for fear of their own safety. Recently, the belief towards the Evil Eye has been revived thanks to modern media (i. e. television programs, books, video games, comics etc. ) which spawned numerous references towards the subject. The Origin of the Evil Eye There are no precise records or writings on how and when the belief started, though there has been a number of written works that have been made in reference to the Evil Eye and its origins.
Some of these works include one done in the 19th century by Frederick Thomas Elworthy entitled “The Evil Eye: The Origins and Practices of Superstition” and a survey called “Terrors of the Evil Eye Exposed” (reprinted as “Protection from Evil”) by Henri Gamache published in 1946. A recent work by Professor Alan Dundes of the University of California in 1981 entitled “Wet and Dry: The Evil Eye” provides modern views about the belief in the Evil Eye. Prof. Dundes theorizes that the belief was originally from the Middle East, Mediterranean and Indo-European areas, and it was virtually unknown to the Americas, the Pacific, Asia, Africa or Australia until such time that these areas were exposed to European culture. Prof. Dundes also contends that the Evil Eye’s ability to inflict malice is linked to its origins. According to the professor, water is attributed to life and dryness is attributed to death in the Middle East, thus an Evil Eye actually causes living things to desiccate and eventually die.
This desiccating effect is shown by the Evil Eye’s supposed effects: vomiting, diarrhea and other gastro-intestinal symptoms in children, withering of plants, and the loss of sexual fluids such as milk and semen in adults (Yronwood, 2003). Though the Evil Eye is believed to have Middle Eastern/Mediterranean origins, the concept of envy is a universal one. If envy is universal then it can be assumed that the concept of the Evil eye is universal, given the fact that this particular belief is separated not by physical boundaries but by time.
The Western world for example has long denied the Evil Eye’s existence and influence because of cold Reasoning imparted upon to its people. Reason and logic dictates that the supernatural does not exist and therefore it must be believed in. It is only recently that the Evil Eye is believed upon due the influence of Asian and Mediterranean immigrants who have settled in the West. Asia is not unlike the West however, as the people in this area have since believed that the supernatural overpowers logic, thus the acceptance of the belief in the Evil Eye is more widespread and easily accepted in this area.
In any case, the Evil Eye is regarded as a powerful and ominous force to reckon with (Bey, 2006). Cultural Differences of the Evil Eye Belief Although universal, the concept of how the Evil eye afflicts the curse varies from one country or religion to another. The usual manifestation of the evil eye involves a situation in which an envious person effectively places the curse by looking or staring at a fortunate person. After the curse has been placed, the fortunate suffers unfortunate events in the form of dying livestock, withering crops or the occurrence of disease in the family.
In some cultures, the curse could also be inflicted by either greeting or mumbling an inaudible curse to the fortunate person (this particular gesture is known as ‘usog’ in Filipino culture). In Islam, the Evil Eye is mainly a part of folk religion rather than being integral to the religion itself. In Jewish belief, saying Keyn aynhoreh! (“No evil eye! ”) after someone has said praise or good news is quite customary. In parts of the world where light-colored eyes are rare among the populace, people with blue or lightly colored eyes are said to possess the Evil Eye, thereby bestowing the curse willingly or unwillingly.
This belief is reversed in European countries, as charms that resemble blue eyes are worn to ward against the Evil Eye. It is also generally believed that infants are especially vulnerable to the Evil Eye, thus they must be aptly protected from its effects (Evil Eye, 2006). Physical contact, and in some rare instances, eating with a person believed to possess an evil eye can also cause the curse to be passed on (Hare, 2006). These differences show that the Evil Eye is no mere ability but a force that is not restricted with just visual contact but with other forms of contact as well.
Aversions and Preventions Against the Evil Eye The curse of the Evil Eye can be transmitted through various means and as such, the methods of averting or preventing the effects of the curse also correspond to the method of transmission. “Nazars” are talismans that depict blue eyes (believed to avert evil eyes in most European countries) are commonly employed with the “Hamsa” or “Hand of Fatima” for extra protection. The Jews also believe that fish are not affected by the effects of the evil eye, so images of fishes are commonly made into amulets and charms to ward off the Evil Eye (Evil Eye, 2006).
Wearing a red string around one’s left wrist while reciting the Ben Porat prayer is also another Jewish belief to ward off the Evil Eye (Red String Bracelet, Protection Against the Evil Eye, 2004). Hand Gestures are also another way of warding off the Evil Eye, such as the mano cornuto and mano fico of the Italians. The mano cornuto is also called the horned hands in which the middle and ring fingers are held down by the thumb, thereby leaving the index and pinkie finger to form a pair of horns.
The mano fico on the other hand involves inserting the thumb between the index and middle fingers, and is usually thought of as a symbol for sexual intercourse. Both manual gestures are said to ward off the Evil Eye and is also used to connote sexual intercourse. In some Asian countries, a person is required to apply his or her saliva into a child’s body after he or she has praised the child in order to prevent the effects of the evil eye (Yronwood, 2003). Conclusion Superstitions and beliefs are still followed by many at this day and age, and it should be noted that both exists not to scare men out of their wits.
As an example, the evil eye, whether it truly exist or not, serves as a reminder that evil is a destructive and primal force that is always around, as with good. It also serves to remind every man to be wary of their actions, so as to not produce malice and envy towards his fellowmen. It should also always be remembered that although shrouded in mystery and superstition, the forces of good and evil truly exists are always seeking balance and that no one is excluded in this equilibrium. Good and evil cannot exist if the other is missing, thus the two forces should be regarded as being two sides of the same coin.
Bey, Hakim. 2006. Evil Eye. The Hermetic Library. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from http://www.hermetic.com/bey/evil_eye.html
Evil Eye. 2006. Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Evil_eye
Hare, John Bruno 2006. The Evil Eye Archive. Internet Scared Text Archive. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from http://www.sacred-texts.com/evil/tee/index.htm
Red String Kabbalah Bracelet: Protection Against the Evil Eye. 2006. The Kabbalah Center. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from http://www.kabbalah.com/k/index.php/p=life/tools
Yronwood, Cat 2004. The Evil Eye. The Lucky W Amulet Archive. Retrieved October 24, 2006 from http://www.luckymojo.com/evileye.html#averting