The Evil Eye: What is it? 

The Evil Eye goes by many names. It has been called Mal’occhio, Mal de Ojo, Nazar, Bla Band, Böser Blick, The Malevolent Gaze… some it has been considered mere superstition. Many cultures across the world, however, have folklore, ritual practices, and charms surrounding the idea of Evil Eye. What is it exactly? 

An Amulet of Protection

If you are not familiar with this term, an "amulet" is an adornment, charm, or piece of jewelry that is used for the purpose of protection. Throughout the world, the amulet known as evil eye can be found. Oftentimes it is a circle depicting an eye made from blue glass or blue beads. It can sometimes be depicted in the shape of the human eye with precious stones surrounding it. It can also be found in the image of the Hamsa. People wear it in jewelry, place it in their homes, or their cars, with the belief that it will protect them from the malevolent gaze. Sometimes people will even tattoo it on their bodies. Not only is it meant to offer protection, but is also a symbol of good luck in general. 

The Malevolent Gaze: An Unintentional Ill Wish 

While the Evil Eye is a protective amulet, it is important to discuss what it is protecting from. It is essentially an ill wish or misfortune wished upon someone. This ill wish is also called “evil eye.” 

When someone gazes or looks upon you or something that you have with a jealous or envious eye that person is said to bestow the evil eye. Sometimes it is also called the malevolent gaze. Another belief is that it can happen when someone is “over complimenting” or showing too much adoration towards another person or what they have.  It should be noted that it said that the person who is giving the evil eye, is often doing it without realizing it. Therefore it does not mean that the giver is necessarily “evil”. In many cultures, it is believed that children and infants are highly susceptible to the malevolent gaze.

The person afflicted with the evil eye has been said to experience strange headaches, loss of energy, a sudden fever or an upset stomach. Some cultures believe that it can even cause paralysis or death depending on the severity of the situation. The evil eye can be also placed upon gardens, crops, or livestock. It is also said to be the cause of overall bad luck.

Whether or not it truly exists, that’s up to each individual. If you are of the mind that evil eye exists, then fear not, there are healers, amulets/charms, and methods to rid yourself or someone else of the affliction. 

It should also be noted that self awareness and reflection are an important part of any spiritual practice. Before anyone goes pointing fingers at their neighbors or coworkers, it is advised to take some time for quiet introspection. See what is really going on and make sure that the root of the problem does not exist within. If you are experiencing strange headaches, fatigue, or an upset stomach, its always best to consult a doctor before deciding that it is the evil eye. When people start blaming others for all of their misfortunes, we begin walking on dangerous ground. We see examples of this in the history of witch trials throughout the world over the centuries (sadly, that's just one type of example). 

Origins of the Evil Eye

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the evil eye amulet came from. According to some art historians, the earliest version we have of the evil eye amulet dates back to Ancient Sumeria (3,300 B.C.E.). We can also see its origins in Ancient Egypt with the Eye of Horus. The Eye of Horus was worn as a protective symbol for both the living and the dead. Many also trace the origins of the evil eye back to Ancient Greece. The use of the blue eye was also used by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Romans, Phoenicians, and the Ottomans. As their empires expanded, the practices were brought to other countries and cultures. Most countries and cultures today have their own folklore, amulets, and practices to ward off the evil eye.

Modern and Common Practices in Evil Eye Folklore

Whether you wear this charm or have it in your home, the idea is to make sure that it is visible. That way everyone can see it. If someone gives you the evil eye, then the amulet is said to deflect it. Some people believe that it works like a mirror and sends the mal intent back to the sender. Others believe that it just deflects or dissolves the bad energy in general. Some believe that it holds the discordant energy in the amulet itself. Therefore, it is said that it will need cleansing at least once a week. This can be done with saltwater, incense, selenite, or lunar energy.  

Some cultures have people who specialize in removing the evil eye through ceremonies or practices.  In some parts of Italy, the removal of the evil eye is a method that  is passed down through family members (particularly the women). The idea is that if you have the evil eye, a close friend or family member will need to help remove it. In Mexico, you might seek out a curandera to assist in removing the evil eye. Each culture and locality will have its own methods. 

In addition to the evil eye amulet, here are some other practices that have been said to ward off evil eye: 

  • Making the sign of the “horns”. If you are not familiar with this, think of the sign Metal (the music genre). It is similar to the ASL for “I love You” (minus the thumb). This hand gesture was also used among the Scots and the British Isles. 
  • Cords or Bracelets or Amulets, especially for babies: In some cultures, babies are often said to be susceptible to evil eye. For their protection, some tie special cords or put bracelets around the baby's wrists. On the day of their christenings, many people will pin a special amulet underneath the baby’s christening gown. 
  • The Rowan Tree’s branches have been used to ward off evil eye. Some people would even braid thin branches into the tails of their cattle to protect them. 
  • Some people will spit. If they feel that they have been around the evil eye or have removed it from someone, they will spit so that it does not come back.
  • In Middle Eastern cultures, people say “Mashallah” meaning “God has willed it” when admiring a person or object.
  • In Greece, some people might say, “I spit so that I will not give you the evil eye”
  • It is common practice to give someone an evil eye trinket for good luck and protection.

Overall, evil eye amulets and charms are common in many countries and cultures across the world. Whether you believe in it or not is for you to decide.

September 29, 2022 — Denise Welling