evil eye

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evil eye,

principally Sicilian and Mesoamerican superstition, although it is known in other cultures. According to the Native American version, a person who stares fixedly at a pregnant woman or a child or who is too admiring or physically affectionate with children may produce a malicious effect on their lives, whether or not by intent. In rural Sicily any person or animal was considered vulnerable to the evil eye, and many individuals wore protective amulets or charms to nullify its effects.

Evil Eye

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The concept of the evil eye seems to be found universally. It is the idea that someone may be able to negatively influence another person or thing simply by looking at him or her. The person with the evil eye may or may not be aware that he or she is causing harm. In some areas it is said that you have been "overlooked" if you are adversely affected by the evil eye. In Ireland, the term is "blinked." In some areas, the use of the evil eye is termed "fascination."

Fray Martin de Castañega, a sixteenth-century Spanish writer, claimed that the evil eye was actually a natural phenomenon, caused by foul thoughts producing evil emanations from the eye. Other writers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries agreed with him. The evil eye was recognized by the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and ancient Egyptians from as early as 3,000 BCE.

A glance from one with the evil eye may cause a cow to run dry, chickens to stop laying, a child to become sick, a field to go barren, or even death. It is frequently the unusual eye that is considered "evil." In the Mediterranean and other areas of dark-eyed people, a person with blue eyes is viewed with caution, while in areas of fair-haired, blue-eyed people, a dark-eyed person is thought suspicious. Many socalled witches of the Middle Ages were thought to have the evil eye, and an old man or woman might end up on the gallows based solely on the fact that he or she had a squint, a cast, or a cataract.

Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) was believed to possess the evil eye, as was Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903).

There are many amulets to protect from the evil eye; those of the Greeks and Romans are similar to many available today. Bright blue beads are a recognized defense against the evil eye. So, too, are various hand gestures and carved amulets of those gestures. The Romans' mano pantea is a hand with the thumb and first two fingers upright and the other fingers turned down. The Italian mano cornuta, or "horns," has the first and little finger up and the others down. The mano in fica, or "fig," has all fingers curled down with the thumb stuck between the first two fingers. This last is also a fertility sign, and as a sign of life is a defense against evil.

Doreen Valiente mentions that twining or interlacing knots were also considered a deterrent, the reasoning being that the evil eye would be distracted by the confusing pattern. Valiente says that the elaborately patterned belts traditionally worn by English nurses owe their design to this evil eye defense. She says, "In olden days a good deal of sickness was blamed on to the Evil Eye; so a nurse in particular had to be able to protect herself."

Talismans in the form of frogs and other unpopular creatures were thought effective as a defense, since they would attract the evil eye and draw the power to them rather than to the wearer. Another popular antidote was to spit. This practice was found in ancient Greece and Rome, among other places, and is also found today among Gypsies. Shamrock, garlic, barley, jack beans, red ribbons, and bells are all considered useful in protecting from the evil eye.

evil eye

1. a look or glance superstitiously supposed to have the power of inflicting harm or injury
2. the power to inflict harm, etc., by such a look
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