Used by cultures around the world for thousands of years, the concept of the evil eye and its intentions are mentioned in everything from ancient religious texts to Shakespeare’s work. But what exactly is the Evil Eye?
What is the Evil Eye?
There's a distinction between the amulet and the evil eye itself. Though often dubbed as ‘the evil eye’, the blue ocular amulet is actually the charm meant to ward off the true evil eye: a curse transmitted through a malicious glare, usually one inspired by envy.
It stems from the belief that someone who achieves great success or recognition also attracts the envy of those around them. That envy in turn manifests itself as a curse that will undo their good fortune.
How Long Has the Evil Eye Been Around?
Though the amulet – often referred to as a nazar – has existed in various permutations for thousands of years, the curse which it repels is far older and more difficult to trace. It is mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts, as well as in many famous literary works, including the Bible, the Koran and Shakespeare's plays. The concept of the evil eye also appears in the poetry of ancient Roman poet, Virgil, where a shepherd laments the poor health of his stock:
"What eye is it that has fascinated my tender lambs?"
The earliest version of eye amulets goes back to 3,300 BC according to Dr Nese Yildiran, an art history professor at Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University.
In an interview with BBC Culture, Yildiran states "Amulets had been excavated in Tell Brak, one of the oldest cities of Mesopotamia – modern day Syria. They were in the form of some abstract alabaster idols made with incised eyes.”
This type of figurine known as an eye idol, made of stone and having incised eyes, has been excavated at Tell Brak
Why is the Evil Eye Blue?
A common theory connects it to the Egyptian Eye of Horus, the god of kingship and the sky. It's crafted from a turquoise-hued ceramic, the color representing the regenerative power of the sun. It’s unclear if the Eye of Horus was a precursor to the evil eye but both share vibrant tones of blue, with the evil eye taking the form of a glass bead with a black pupil, pale blue iris, white sclera and a deep cobalt blue outer layer.
Eye of Horus pendant, was buried with pharaohs in ancient Egypt, to protect them in the afterlife.
Which Cultures Believe in the Evil Eye?
The concept and its significance vary widely among different cultures, but it is especially prominent in the Mediterranean and West Asia. A 1976 cross-cultural survey by folklorist John Roberts found that 36 percent of cultures believed in the evil eye.
Greek philosopher Plutarch, in his book ‘“Symposiacs” suggested that the human eye had the power of releasing invisible rays of energy that were in some cases potent enough to kill children or small animals.
What’s more, Plutarch claims that certain people possessed an even stronger ability to fascinate, citing groups of people to the south of the Black Sea as being uncannily proficient at bestowing the curse.
How do you Protect Yourself From the Evil Eye?
Cultures that have Evil Eye amulets or some variation include Armenia, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, India, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iraq where an evil eye amulet is often hung in homes, offices, cars or worn as jewellery.
In the Middle-East it is tradition to bring an evil eye token to newborn babies, echoing the thought that young children are often the most susceptible to the curse.
The evil eye also features in Judaism. Over the centuries, Jews have employed numerous superstitious practices believed to to ward off the Evil Eye, such as spitting three times after a vulnerable person’s name is uttered, or saying, when discussing some future plan, “let it be without the evil eye” (“kinehora” in Yiddish).
Many believe the evil eye amulet to be a kind of supernatural force that casts or reflects a malevolent gaze back-upon those who wish harm upon others. Only by wearing an evil eye as an amulet is it possible to ward off the curse, as a means of keeping an eye on the world around you.
What Does Wearing the Evil Eye Protect You From?
Protection from those who come bearing bad vibes, envious ideas and sour grapes. Including (but not limited to) protection for your home, career, business, looks, vacation snaps, belongings and social media posts.