Evil Eye

0
Exorcism
Doctor John (19th century)

 The causing of illness, misfortune, calamity
and death by the looks of strangers and by envious
looks. amulets and incantations (see charms) ward the
danger off.

The evil eye exists around the world, dating to ancient
times. The oldest recorded references to it appear in the
cuneiform texts of the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians,
about 3000 b.c.e. The ancient Egyptians believed in
the evil eye and used eye shadow and lipstick to prevent
it from entering their eyes or mouths. The Bible makes
references to it in both the Old and New Testaments. It is
among ancient Hindu folk beliefs. Evil-eye superstitions
have remained strong into modern times, especially in
Mediterranean countries such as Italy and in Mexico and
Central America.

There are two kinds of evil eye: deliberate and involuntary.
Most cases of evil eye are believed to occur involuntarily;
the person casting it does not mean to do it and
probably isn’t even aware of it. No revenge is sought for
this hazard.

Malevolent, deliberate evil eye is called “overlooking”
and is a form of witchcraft that can bring about misfortune
or catastrophe: illness, poverty, injury, loss of love,
even death. Witches were said to give anyone who crossed
them the evil eye and to use it to bewitch judges from
convicting them.

The involuntary evil eye typically occurs when
someone, especially a stranger, admires one’s children,
livestock or possessions, or casts a lingering look on
anyone. Unless immediate precautions are taken, the
children get sick, the animals die, the possessions are
stolen or good fortune in business turns sour. If the evil
eye cannot be warded off, the victim must turn to an
initiate—usually an older woman in the family—who
knows a secret cure.

Besides envious glances, the evil eye comes from
strangers in town, or anyone who has unusual or different-colored
eyes—a blue-eyed stranger in a land of
brown-eyed people, for example. Some unfortunate souls
are said to be born with permanent evil eye, laying waste
to everything they see. High-ranking people such as noblemen
or clergy sometimes are believed to be afflicted
like this. Pope Pius IX (1846–78) was branded as having
the evil eye shortly after his investiture as Pope in 1869.
Driving through Rome in an open car, he glanced at a
nurse holding a child in an open window. Minutes later,
the child fell to its death, and from then on, it seemed that
everything the Pope blessed resulted in disaster. Pope Leo
XIII (1878–1903) was also said to possess the mal occhio,
as the evil eye is known in Italy.

The evil eye is most likely to strike when one is happiest;
good fortune, it seems, invites bad fortune. Small
Hand positions to ward off the evil eye
children and animals are especially vulnerable. In many
villages, it is considered unwise to show children too
much in public or to call attention to their beauty. Likewise,
it is not advisable to display possessions or brag
about successes.

In 19th-century Ireland, animals who were under the
influence of the evil eye were said to have been “blinked.”
In order to save such animals, local wise women were
sought for ritual cures.

The primary defense against the evil eye is an amulet,
which may be fashioned from almost any kind of material.
Common shapes are frogs and horns, the latter of
which suggests both the powerful Mother Goddess (a bull
is her consort) and the phallus. Another popular amulet
is the “fig,” a clenched fist with thumb thrust between the
index and middle fingers, which also suggests a phallus.
The roots of the phallus amulet go back to the ancient
Romans and their phallic god, Priapus. Another name for
him was Fascinus, from fascinum, which means “witchcraft”;
the evil eye is sometimes called “fascination.”

Romans employed phallic symbols as their protection
against the evil eye. In Italy, it is still common for men
to grab their genitals as a defense against the evil eye or
anything unlucky.

The ancient Egyptians used an eye to fight an eye. The
udjat eye, also called the Eye of God and Eye of Horus,
appears on amulets, pottery and in art, warding off the
forces of darkness.

Other defenses include bells and red ribbons tied to
livestock, horse harnesses and the underwear of children,
which divert the attention of the evil eye. Gardens are
surrounded by protective jack beans. Other plants act as
amulets—the shamrock in Ireland and garlic in Greece.
In Hindu lore, barley, a universal remedy supplied by the
gods and the symbol of the thunderbolt of Indra, god of
war, thunder and storms, will avert the evil eye.
Without an amulet, quick action is important when
the evil eye strikes. One should make gestures such as
the “fig” or “horns” (holding up the index and little finger).
Spitting is a powerful remedy, a hold-over from the
ancient Romans and Greeks.

Cures for the evil eye usually involve reciting secret
incantations, which typically are passed on from mother
to daughter within a family. In Italy, an initiate diagnoses
the evil eye and performs the cure with a bowl of water,
olive oil and, occasionally, salt. A few drops of oil
are dropped into the water (sometimes salted). The oil
may scatter, form blobs or sink to the bottom. These formations
are interpreted to determine the source of the
attack. The initiate drops more oil into the water while
reciting incantations and making the sign of the cross on
the forehead of the victim. If that fails, the victim is sent
to a sorceress for further treatment.

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Exorcism
Doctor John (19th century)

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