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Evil Eye

Sudden bursting headache or a collision with your brand new car? According to the ancient Greeks you are probably matiasmeni: a victim of the evil eye.

Everyone has heard about it and in many cultures worldwide its accompanied by superstition. Those affected by the evil eye can end up with bad luck, loss or other disease and destruction. The evil eye is about more than 5000 years old. Centuries ago it was already feared among Greeks and Romans, but nowadays also among Hindus, Buddhists and Surinamese and Arabic Christians and Muslims. What exactly does this concept entail and where does it come from? 

The meaning

Basically it means harming something or someone with your gaze. The idea probably originated as an answer to inexplicable adversity that occurred in the health of people and nature: a failed harvest, a child who became seriously ill, a cow that barely gave milk. - It was all because of the evil eye. The oldest references to the evil eye were found on clay tablets from the earliest Mesopotamian culture, around 3000 BC. In cuneiform script the word ig-hul is used, literally "angry eye".

Consciously or unconsciously sending the evil eye

Because every modern language nowadays has a word for it, you can also recognize it in terms such as ogri ai, evil eye, the Eye of Fatima or nazar (Turkish and freely translate into ‘’gaze’’). It refers to a curse that someone sends you unconsciously or consciously. An important characteristic of the evil eye is therefore that this "curse" is wrapped up in a compliment that someone makes, which actually contains some form of envy.

On the one hand there is admiration, on the other hand greed / jealousy. Of course, you can’t know whether there really is genuine joy or an aggressive, envious emotion at the basis of a compliment. We are talking about a creative (negative) energy as an invisible force that is projected onto an object or person with adverse consequences for them.

That energy then has a harmful effect on someone's mind because of their superstition/belief and fear and therefore vulnerability. The affected person may, for example, become ill or lose something. An affected object can be broken or lost. It may even be that the person with the evil eye himself is not aware of it. Giving a compliment is then used to hide the underlying envy. In some cultures, eg Ireland, it was previously forbidden by law to give someone the evil eye. If you had big striking, deformed or blue eyes, or if you were blind or visually impaired, you soon became suspected.

Protect yourself against the evil eye

Everything desirable can therefore fall under the spell of the evil eye. This fear goes so far that parents try to divert attention from the intelligence or beauty of their children, out of fear of jealousy from others. Children and pregnant women in particular are receptive to the evil eye.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to protect against it:

  • Amulets: wearing an amulet or a piece of jewelry in which the nazar symbol, a blue eye - sometimes accompanied by the hand of Hamsa / Fatima -, or the black bead (ogri ai bead) is incorporated. The aim is to distract those with the evil eye by drawing their attention to these symbols. This amulet averts evil.
  • Reciting holy verses: Muslims and Christians, for example, recite verses from the Koran or the Bible.
  • Bluing: To prevent their babies of ogri ai people from the Surinamese culture wash their children with blue dye. This bluing is originally a whitener of textile and is therefore seen by them as cleansing. The baby is bathed in it, or a blue dot is placed on the forehead or behind the ear. This way the baby is protected before receiving maternity visit or going outside. It’s also a tradition among Surinamese to start the new year with cleansing the soul and thus protecting against ogri ai by doing a Lobi Na Basi Wasi, a spiritual herbal and flower bath with bluing.
  • Kohl: a mixture of soot and charcoal by the Egyptians, where the Indians used Ayurvedic ingredients for their recipe and the Arabs used antemonium. Although Kohl is nowadays used as make-up, it was originally intended for babies to avoid the evil eye or avert it by drawing a dot in the middle between the eyebrows or behind the ear.
  • Spit (Yes. Spit!) three times on the floor or say "ftou, ftou, ftou" - this is also used to prevent you from accidentally giving someone the evil eye or evil tongue, in case you are not aware of your bad intentions and cause disaster for someone.

Handy to know, because everyone can get and give the evil eye. That looks can kill is a widespread superstition or lies in human nature itself. In any case, it still plays a prominent role in the actions of peoples from the Middle East and other parts of Africa, Central America, Asia, and Northern and Southern Europe - just about everywhere.

Culture related

Quite special: though it’s a supernatural idea, the general belief around the evil eye is not so much religion-related, but rather culture-related, which means that every nation has its own version and preferences for combating nazar. So far, no religion, science or legislation has succeeded in eradicating faith in the evil eye.