Friday, December 27, 2013

The Evil Eye


Through the ages, people have always feared various forms of evil. Folklorist Alan Dundes, in his edited volume The Evil Eye: A Casebook notes that "the victim's good fortune, good health, or good looks — or unguarded comments about them — invite or provoke an attack by someone with the evil eye. If the object attacked is animate, it may fall ill. Symptoms of illness caused by the evil eye include loss of appetite, excessive yawning, hiccups, vomiting, and fever. If the object attacked is a cow, its milk may dry up; if a plant or fruit tree, it may suddenly wither and die."

People believed, and still believe, that some people possess the evil eye. Their glance or gaze results in loss of energy. They spread negativity wherever they go. They feed on other people’s energy. The concept of witch and vampire has its origins in this idea. Then there are people who grant energy copiously; these are the saints and the gods and the holy men, even performers and film stars, who attract vast crowds.

When children fall sick for no apparent reason, when things suddenly start to go wrong or when road blocks come your way repeatedly, people say, the evil eye has struck. The idea is prevalent in almost every corner of the world. Ancient Irish legends speak of the evil eye of Balor, the one-eyed giant which inspired the concept of the Eye of Sauron in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. The evil eye havoc, stemming from neighbor's envy, is called a curse or 'hex'.

The best way to understand the concept of evil eye is to accept the idea of auras. All human beings have an aura around them, known as the subtle body. It is a kind of energy shield emerging from our physical and mental health status. A beautiful or healthy object has positive aura, which is why looking at them makes us happy; they energize us. An ugly or unhealthy object has a negative aura, which is why looking at them makes us unhappy; they sap us of energy. It is possible to draw energy from positive aura objects and lose energy to negative aura objects.

An evil eye, on the other hand, can cause us to lose our aura, feel drained and powerless.

Ancient Egyptians believed that the 'Eye of Horus' protected one from the evil eye. Ancient Romans used phallic images to keep away bad luck. In Turkey, the blue 'Nazar' amulet is sold everywhere. In many Arab countries, one finds the hand of Fatima or Khamsa or Hamsa, which is a palm-shaped amulet to ward off the evil eye. Many Muslims believe that saying 'Mashallah,' or 'God wills it' creates a protective shield from the evil eye. The apparently modern idea of keeping your fingers crossed has its origin in using the Crucifix to keep away evil and ensure success.

In Edwin and Mona Radford's Encyclopedia of Superstitions they note that in many places "a cross-eyed or squinting person was almost universally feared. To meet one on the way to work is still regarded as a bad sign by miners, fishermen, Spanish bullfighters, and others who follow dangerous trades." Though such an affliction is clearly not the person's fault, nonetheless "any visible defect in the eye is readily associated by the superstitious with the evil eye." The evil eye is also said to be prevalent among the Roma (formerly known as Gypsies).

Babies and children are said to be especially susceptible to harm from the evil eye, and in many countries including Greece, Romania and India, praising a child publicly is sometimes considered taboo, for the compliment will draw the attention of the evil eye. In order to counteract the evil eye, parents of a thoughtlessly praised child may ask the person who gave the compliment to immediately spit in the child's face. Because the momentarily exalted youngster has been brought down a peg, any harm by the evil eye is unnecessary; this spittle salve is harmless yet insulting enough to negate the compliment.

The buri nazar (evil eye) is a big deal in India. It comes from the idea that a gaze can cause harm and commonly believed that, should someone curse you with it, the negative energy will bring about all kinds of illnesses and misfortunes. Anyone can possess an evil eye transiently. This follows envy, or even adoration, of something pretty or beautiful, like a child, who is most susceptible to nazar. Inadvertently, even a mother's gaze, can drain the child of positive aura resulting in sickness. The threat of this prompts people into taking enthusiastic protective actions ranging from drawing big black dots, the nazar ka tika, on babies’ foreheads to chanting mantras, and engaging the services of Hindu priests and astrologers, to ward it off.

The best way to deal with the evil eye is to avoid it in the first place, but there are ways to protect oneself. The method varies by culture, geographic region, and personal preference. Amulets can be worn to deter the evil eye, often using the color blue (symbolizing heaven or godliness) and an eye symbol. Charms, potions, and spells can also be prepared; garlic can be used to deter the evil eye, and some believe that just saying the word "garlic" offers protection.

Some shops sell nothing but talismans designed to ward the eye off. Often, people will hang up chilies, limes, and lemons as a homemade alternative. There are even places online that sell fruit-based wards to protect homes and offices against the evil eye, should you desire to improve your lot.

Alan Dundes notes, we "should keep in mind that the evil eye is not some old-fashioned superstitious belief of interest solely to antiquarians. The evil eye continues to be a powerful factor affecting the behavior of countless millions of people throughout the world."

Fair warning...before seeking retribution, seriously weigh if a suspected misfortune is actually from an evil eye attack or simply non-supernatural bad luck. The consequences can be deadly.

The Evil Eye: The Classic Account of an Ancient Superstition (Vol i)

Curses And Their Reversals - Plus: Omens, Superstitions And The Removal Of The Evil Eye

Death by Envy: The Evil Eye and Envy in the Christian Tradition


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