The Evil Eye

By Rubin, Norman A. | The World and I, November 2010 | Go to article overview

The Evil Eye


Rubin, Norman A., The World and I


In most cultures there is an extreme fear of the 'Evil Eye.' People will recite incantations, give signs, and will do everything possible in order to avoid its fateful curse.

It has been said of those possessed with this malevolent gift, that "their breath caused wind; their length is a thousand miles; their aura if of evil and ill wind. As living beings they have human faces, a scaled snake-like body, and livid in color. They guard treasure, lust after young women, extol the muscular prowess of the male; by blowing they turn the air in the cold of winter; and by exhaling their foul breath they cause the withering of the land and of peoples."

Julius Caesar, Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler, Sadaam Hussein, and the Biblical Og of Balshaam are among those believed to have possessed the 'Evil Eye.' A story from the 'Thousand Nights and One Night' tells of the misery caused by the curse of a sorcerer with the 'Evil Eye:

"It is related, O auspicious one, that there lived in the city of Bagdad, after the reign of many Khalifahs and before the reign of many others, a wicked and vile sorcerer with an 'Evil Eye.'"

The devilish man would only look at his victim with a baleful eye, mutter incantations and then cast a spell over him: "By the powers of darkness, demons, devouring beasts ..."

Indeed, among certain peoples, the conception of the 'Evil Eye' is so strong to the point of paranoia. Even an innocent look is suspected of wishing harm; the more so if it is accompanied by a compliment or two. The offender, the 'Jettitore' (endowed people) on the threat of bodily harm, is then asked to spit on the ground to annul the threat of the "Evil Eye'; while the offended will make one of those gestures against it--the 'mano' or the 'figa'. The gestures, with two extended fingers (index and little finger) rudely signify sexual intercourse, and according to well-known authorities, "will divert the object of the 'Evil Eye' by tempting it with sexual desire."

Evil burns all it beholds

The 'Evil Eye' is an idea accepted by many cultures throughout the world, though it originated around the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Belief in it has spread wherever superstitious belief is in force. (1) Envy, jealousy, hatred, malice, contempt, hostility, astonishment and exaggerated admiration can all be transmitted through the eye, and Russian scientists have even recently claimed to have shown that the human gaze has immense physical energy and that the eye emits high frequency rays of wavelength--80 micrometers.

The 'Evil Eye' is often depicted as a 'Single Eye' (2), the one that sees for its own benefit. But is also known as the 'Double Eye' to account for the fact it hides evil under the mask of friendship. In later folk-lore this myth was linked to witches who, according to their victims, could be recognized by their having two pupils in each eye; who glared with both evil eyes on those who pried into her secrets. This fear is with us today as many men continue to avoid the stare of a strange woman.

Envy was believed to be one of the causes of the 'evil eye', it was considered unlucky to have one's belongings praised: The use of some qualifying phrase such as, "As God wills" or "God bless it" to annul its envious threat is still in use in some European countries. The 'Mishnah' (collection of Jewish oral laws) confirms that the 'Evil Eye' is brought upon by jealousy, which turns to hate.

The evil that it causes can affect both the offended and the offender; and one should avoid the 'Evil Eye' of jealousy. Thus, a religious Jew, when asked on his health or welfare will answer "Blee Ayin Rah" ("Without an evil eye"); namely he is satisfied with his condition and will not look with envy on a person in a better situation. In Spanish tradition, one should accept the fate of the 'Evil Eye' with the hope that its curse will be limited and that it will pass quickly. …

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