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Monday, September 13, 2010

The demonic evil eye -- a reason for the creation of eye shadow?

It’s time for another magical Monday post. For this week I’ve chosen to discuss the demonic evil eye. This power is a look, which many believe is capable of causing injury or bad luck for the recipient of the dark magic.

Belief in this superstition dates in recorded history to the cuneiform texts of the Babylonians around 3,000 BC. Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians used eye shadow and lipstick to prevent the evil eye from entering their eyes and mouths. Was that the reason for the origin of these beauty practices?

In other cultures and records, the evil eye is present in Hindu folk beliefs, as well as being referenced in both the Old and New Bible Testaments. It remains a modern superstition in Italy, Central America, and Mexico, known as "Mal de ojo." It was on a cruise port day in Cozumel when I first saw the Nazars, evil eye prevention charms, hanging in markets. At the time, I had no idea of their uses/history. They looked like lovely folk art to me.

Apparently, the evil eye can be cast accidentally or deliberately. In the case of the latter, it is called “overlooking.” This form of witchcraft can cause illness; poverty; injury; loss of love; even death. Symptoms of the illness may include diarrhea and constant crying, usually affecting infants and children, however, adult females can also be affected.

The spell occurs when someone, usually a stranger, admires another’s children, livestock, or possessions, or merely casts a lingering look. Unless precautions are taken right away, the children fall ill, the animals die, possessions are stolen, good luck ends. If the evil eye cannot be stopped, an initiate (often an older village woman) must supply a secret cure.

To be capable of casting an evil eye, a person is usually a stranger with a different eye color than the locals. Or some individuals are born with an evil eye which lays waste to everything they behold.

How might you avoid the evil eye?

The primary defense is to carry an amulet of a frog, horn, fig, or red ribbon. The horn and fig represent a phallus, associated with the Roman phallic god Fascinus. In many Latin American countries, parents today commonly tie red ribbons around their children's wrists or ankles. Probably more socially acceptable than a frog, horn, or fig tied to a child.

The protective Nazar talismans are disks or balls, consisting of concentric blue and white circles (from inside to outside, dark blue, light blue, white, dark blue) symbolizing an evil eye. These are commonly used throughout the Middle East, often on Mediterranean boats and planes. The hamsa hand is a variation of this talisman. Folklore states the staring eyes are supposed to bend the malevolent gaze back to the sorcerer.

If you find yourself caught without an amulet or talisman and in need of protection, the hand gesture of a clenched fist with the thumb thrust between the index and middle fingers is said to work well. Another simple gesture which will protect you, is to make the sign of the cross with your hand and point the index finger and the little finger towards the supposed source of the spell or victim. This was described in the first chapter of Bram Stokers novel Dracula, published in 1897:

When we started, the crowd round the inn door, which had by this time swelled to a considerable size, all made the sign of the cross and pointed two fingers towards me. With some difficulty, I got a fellow passenger to tell me what they meant. He would not answer at first, but on learning that I was English, he explained that it was a charm or guard against the evil eye.

Beware the evil eye!



References: The Encyclopedia of Demons & Demonology, Rosemary Ellen Guiley; Wikipedia, Evil Eye

5 comments:

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Fascinating! I'm Jewish and we totally believe int he evil eye - never say things like...oh, my car is running so well...that's a surefire way to attract the evil eye!
When I was a kid, my grandparents did things like tie blue ribbons around our wrists or paint the doors to our homes blue. I have an old hamsa - or a hand with an eye in the middle to wear around my neck.
What an interesting post!

Marsha A. Moore said...

Thanks for sharing that extra info, Julia. It's amazing how such an old belief is still in our culture today. I enjoy seeing how these ideas transform through the years.

Marsha

Karen McGrath said...

This is so interesting, Marsha. In in the New Testament, the evil eye is associated with jealousy and cannibalism resulting in the term "back biting." It's a specific spirit that attacks others.

Marsha A. Moore said...

I didn't know the exact connection. Thanks, Karen. Fascinating.

Rebecca Ryals Russell said...

What a fascinating post! I'd heard some of this but some was new.

This would make an awesome guest post for my own blog and the Teen Word Factory blog - interested?