Around the world there are many cultures where people believe in the curse of the evil eye. Some live their lives in fear of having it placed upon them. Others are convinced that they have been cursed by the evil eye. Everything from bad luck, to sickness, from poverty to infamy, is blamed upon someone giving them the ‘stare’.
What is the Evil Eye?
It’s simply a look or glance by someone suffering from envy. In some people they are said to have the power of giving the evil eye even when they have no ill intent. For example, Pope Pius IX was accused of such power after his investiture in 1869. Driving through Rome, he glanced at an infant being held by his nurse at a window overlooking the parade. A few minutes later the nurse dropped the child to his death. From then on the Pope was bad news—everything and everyone he blessed or touched would suffer misfortune.
Malevolent Evil Eye
Known as ‘overlooking’, this is a form of witchcraft deliberately invoked to cause suffering to the recipient. In the western world, it was particularly feared all across Europe. If a farmer lost his flock of sheep to disease, suspicion fell on anyone who was a little ‘different’. The local wise woman, the new family in town, or anyone who might look odd, especially those with different color eyes. It was common to hide children from strangers, as just a glance might be their undoing. If the villagers thought that the evil eye had been cast upon them, immediate action was called for in order to ward off the curse.
Accidental Evil Eye
Like Pope Pius IX above, some people just couldn’t help it. Everything they had contact with seemed to be affected. There is a Polish folk tale of a man who cut out his own eyes rather than continue harming his people. The pain of bearing the ‘gift’ of the stare was too much to deal with. Those accused of such wickedness were often treated as criminals or witches and executed.
Confusingly, the amulets worn for protection against the curse are also called the evil eye or nazar. They are usually blue due to the fact that they originated in Egypt where the cobalt and copper in the clay turned blue after firing in a kiln.
Amulets are typically blue glass beads worn as charms on necklaces, bracelets and other jewelry. They are often set into a background of yellow or gold.