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The Strange Power of Evil Eye

By Quinn Hargitai
19 February 2018


When it comes to warding off the mystic malevolent forces of the world, there is perhaps no charm more recognised or renowned than the ‘evil eye’. Ubiquitous in its use, the striking image of the cobalt-blue eye has appeared not only in the bazaars of Istanbul, but everywhere from the sides of planes to the pages of comic books.

There’s a key distinction between the evil eye, which is a curse, and the eye amulet, which dispels the curse

In the last decade, evil eye imagery has most frequently appeared in the world of fashion. Kim Kardashian has been photographed on numerous occasions sporting bracelets and headpieces featuring the symbol, while fashion model Gigi Hadid jumped on the trend in late 2017, announcing that she would be launching the EyeLove shoe line.

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This recent endorsement from A-list celebrities has resulted in the surfacing of countless online tutorials for making your own evil eye bracelets, necklaces and keychains. Though all this attention would suggest the evil eye is seeing a sudden surge in popularity, the truth is that for thousands of years the symbol has maintained its steady hold on the human imagination.

(Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Eye idols carved out of gypsum alabaster have been excavated at Tell Brak, Syria and are believed to date from before 3500 BC (Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

To understand the origins of the evil eye, one must first understand the distinction between the amulet and the evil eye itself. Though often dubbed as ‘the evil eye’, the 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. 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.

(Credit: Alamy)

In ancient Egypt, the Eye of Horus, also known as a Wadjet pendant, was buried with pharaohs to protect them in the afterlife (Credit: Alamy)

In essence, the curse of the evil eye is not a complicated concept; 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. The concept is well captured by Heliodorus of Emesa in the ancient Greek romance Aethiopica, in which he writes, “When any one looks at what is excellent with an envious eye he fills the surrounding atmosphere with a pernicious quality, and transmits his own envenomed exhalations into whatever is nearest to him.”

(Credit: Alamy)

The Hamsa is an amulet in the shape of a palm with an eye in the middle embraced by Jews, Christians and Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East (Credit: Alamy)

The belief in this curse spans cultures as well as generations; to date one of the most exhaustive compilations of legends regarding the evil eye is Frederick Thomas Elworthy’s The Evil Eye: The Classic Account of an Ancient SuperstitionElworthy explores instances of the symbol in a number of cultures; from the petrifying gaze of Greek gorgons to Irish folktales of men able to bewitch horses with a single stare, virtually every culture has a legend related to the evil eye. The eye symbol is so deeply embedded in culture that, in spite of its potentially pagan connotations, it even finds a place within religious texts, including the Bible and the Quran.

Plutarch said those best at delivering the curse were blue-eyed

An eye for an eye

Belief in the evil eye has transcended mere superstition, with a number of celebrated thinkers attesting to its veracity. One of the most notable examples was the Greek philosopher Plutarch, who in his Symposiacs suggested a scientific explanation: 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. More often than not, those said to be most adept at delivering the curse are blue-eyed, likely due to the fact that this is a genetic rarity in the Mediterranean area.

(Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The ancient Phoenicians put eye symbols on beads they strung together as necklaces (Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Though the theory that some possess a more potent glare capable of inflicting harm is quite common in the lore of the evil eye, not all correlate the power with an inherent ill will. Some cultures view the ability to bestow the curse as an unfortunate burden, a curse in itself. For instance, Elworthy makes reference to an archaic Polish folk tale that tells of a man whose gaze was such a potent carrier of the curse that he resorted to cutting out his own eyes rather than continuing to spread misfortune to his loved ones.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Gigi Hadid, whose father is Jordanian-American of Palestinian descent, has a line of shoes featuring the eye symbol called EyeLove (Credit: Getty Images)

With such an ardent and widespread belief that a stare held the power to inflict catastrophic misfortune, it’s no surprise that the people of these ancient civilizations sought out a means to repel it, which led to the earliest iterations of the nazar amulet that we know today. Just how far back do these go? “The earliest version of eye amulets goes back to 3,300 BC,” Dr Nese Yildiran, an art history professor at Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University, tells BBC Culture. “The 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.”

(Credit: Alamy)

The Eye of Providence, often embraced by Freemasons and meant to symbolise God’s omniscience, appears on the back of the US one-dollar bill (Credit: Alamy)

While the alabaster idols of Tell Brak seem to be one of the oldest eye amulets discovered, they are a far cry from the typical blue glass we know today, the earliest iterations of which didn’t begin appearing in the Mediterranean until around 1500 BCE. How were these early prototypes of Tell Brak distilled into the more modern versions?

“The glass beads of the Aegean islands and Asia Minor were directly dependent upon improvements in glass production,” Yildiran explains. “As for the colour blue, it definitely first comes from Egyptian glazed mud, which contains a high percentage of oxides; the copper and cobalt give the blue colour when baked.”

(Credit: Kino)

The eye has come to represent surveillance and the fear of being watched, as in Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent sci-fi film Metropolis (Credit: Kino)

Yildiran makes reference to several blue Eye of Horus pendants excavated in Egypt, asserting that these could in a way be seen as the most influential predecessor to the modern nazar. According to Yildiran, early Turkic tribes held a strong fascination with this shade of blue because of its connections with their sky deity, Tengri, and likely co-opted the use of cobalt and copper as a result.

It’s still a tradition in Turkey to bring an evil eye token to newborn children

The blue evil eye beads underwent a widespread circulation in the region, being used by the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and, perhaps most famously, the Ottomans. Though their usage was most concentrated in the Mediterranean and the Levant, through means of trade and the expansion of empires the blue eye beads began to find their way to all different corners of the globe.

Blind to its meaning?

What’s most fascinating about the evil eye isn’t its mere longevity, but the fact that its usage has deviated little over the course of millennia. We’re still affixing the evil eye to the sides of our planes in the same way that the Egyptians and Etruscans painted the eye on the prows of their ships to ensure safe passage. It’s still a tradition in Turkey to bring an evil eye token to newborn babies, echoing the belief that young children are often the most susceptible to the curse.

(Credit: Alamy)

In The Lord of the Rings, the Dark Lord Sauron is a supreme intelligence that exists as a disembodied eye, holding all of Middle Earth under his gaze (Credit: Alamy)

But one can’t help but wonder if as the eye morphs along with the mediums of the modern world, its meaning and history will eventually fall by the wayside. Some current interpretations have already incited fears of cultural appropriation, especially regarding fashion’s use of the evil eye in the Hamsa, which holds a sacred place in both Judaism and Islam.

The eye’s history is far-reaching and intertwines with many peoples, so many of the modern users do in fact hold a connection to it in terms of heritage; the aforementioned Kim Kardashian and Gigi Hadid, for instance, both hail from cultures in which the evil eye is a staple.

Yildiran doesn’t believe it is an issue.“The evil eye transcends this concern because it has been a part of a rather big geography, and open to all sorts of practices. It’s not difficult to imagine we will keep seeing motifs derived from the evil eye.”

Although the symbol may have the ability to transcend boundaries – be they cultural, geographical or religious – it may be worth considering its meaning beyond a mere trinket or fashion statement. The evil eye is a remnant from the very dawn of civilisation, harking back to some of humanity’s most enduring and profound beliefs. To wear an amulet flippantly without such knowledge might not only render its protective abilities useless, but incur an even more potent curse – if that’s something you believe in, of course.

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The Dangers of Evil Eye

Source: https://kabbalah.com/en/concepts/the-dangers-of-evil-eye

Rav Berg

Korach was a relative of Aaron, Miriam, and Moses. He was a powerful man, and as a result was able to gather 250 reputable, credible people to confront Moses. They assembled and said to Moses, “Do you think you are holy? We are all holy, God is within all of us, why do you consider yourself above us? Is this nepotism?”  God then told Moses, “Move and take the entire nation away from the 250 people that are with Korach or they will be swallowed up.” The earth then opened up and swallowed the 250 people, causing a plague and the deaths of many.

Here the Zohar is teaching us and bringing home the fact that the one factor responsible for every form of death is evil eye. Cancer, heart attacks, accidents, and so forth are not the true causes.

The first evil eye, strangely enough, occurs in Genesis. The Zohar explains that death came about because the snake was envious of Adam and jealous of the fact that he could not take Eve as his wife; remember this was a snake that could not only crawl, but could also stand up and speak. The Zohar goes on to say that the evil eye does not always mean we wish our enemy evil, which is only one aspect of it. The reason evil eye is so harsh—and I am not only talking about just for the perpetrator—is because it is very destructive. To wish evil is not the only procedure for evil, there are others.  Whenever we think that someone has something he should not have, even without realizing it, this too is evil eye.

The Zohar explains when someone steals, they at least benefit from it; when one steals a coat, for example, at least he or she gets a coat -never mind that they lose the coat later on. But when we have evil eye—and this could even be in a family, when one family member has what the other does not—what the individual has is zapped away from them. This is the power of evil eye. It is like a laser beam focusing in, having the strength to even cause a fire on that level. That is why it is so destructive, and a person can even die from it under various circumstances.

What did Korach want? A little recognition? Under the circumstances, was that so bad? Here, there was an opening and someone was able to zap the other person. With a relative, does one want to see the other lose? Not necessarily, they just also want what their relative has!

We cannot look around us and say, “I want or I lack something that someone else has.” It is only by comparison that we say “I don’t have this or I don’t have that.” It is so damaging, as the Zohar explains, that not only did Korach not get what he sought, but he also lost all that he had. Most misfortune, one way or another, has to do with our eye. We can at least receive immunization from it so we do not fall into that trap of the snake, which is what this portion is here to teach us. We do not want to look outside of ourselves, but rather need to prepare our vessel, through all our efforts, to receive. Preparing our vessel does not come simply; it is done solely by working through our difficulties and overcoming our challenges.

We need to be aware that thinking our lack can be fulfilled by having what someone else has is Satan’s primary weapon. It is so subtle that it takes a long time to even develop the keenness to be aware of it. The thing you desire may not be part of your paradigm in life, and when something does not come to us, it is because we have not built up our vessel to receive it. If we are missing something that we want or lack it is not because someone else has taken it away. In fact, the Zohar says that Korach wanted the benefits that Moses had, even though Moses would have been willing to give them away.

The Curse of the Evil Eye

Source: https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2019/03/the-curse-of-the-evil-eye/

There is an expression, “If looks could kill,” as well as “To give someone the evil eye,” and it typically means to give someone a mean or displeased look. These are common expression in English in modern times, but have you ever thought about where these expressions might have come from? What if looks really could kill? For many cultures throughout the world and across geographical and religious boundaries there has long been the belief in just that, and for these people “The Evil Eye” is not just a mere figure of speech, but a very real threat to be wary of.

The belief in a curse that can be conferred through a mere malevolent glare can be found across a very wide range of cultures throughout history, particularly in West Asia, Latin America, East and West Africa, Central America, South Asia, Central Asia, and Europe, especially the Mediterranean region. In Arabic it is called al-ayn (the eye), in Spanish it is Mal de Ojo, in India they say Drishti, in Ethiopia it is called the Buda, in Pakistan it is the Nazar, and on it goes, stretching back for millennia and mentioned in the religious texts of Islam, Judaisim, Christianity, and others. Whatever it is known as or called, and whatever iterations it takes, the basic concept of the Evil Eye is mostly the same, and is quite simple on the surface. A person who wishes ill will upon another casts an evil glance at the target, cursing them with a variety of effects that can range anywhere from minor annoyances, to recurring bad luck, to withering sickness and even death, depending on the power and vehemence with which it is cast. This curse is usually unleashed upon a person when they are completely unaware, and they might not even know they have been cursed at all until the bad effects start to accumulate.

In some cultures the Evil Eye can even be cast through words alone, including even disguised as compliments or praise, and it is also fully possible to give oneself the Evil Eye, usually a fate reserved for the vain who stare at themselves in the mirror to admire themselves. Other cultures see the power to cast the Evil Eye as a curse in and of itself, inflicted upon others involuntarily, with no ill-will at all, to the point that in times past those who believed they had it would blindfold themselves or even cut their own eyes out. It has also long been said in many traditions that the power of the Evil Eye is fueled by the envy and admiration of those around the very successful, which through their covetous glances can work to unravel and undo that success to send them crashing down. This was an idea especially embraced by the ancient Greeks, with Heliodorus of Emesa once writing of this:

When any one looks at what is excellent with an envious eye he fills the surrounding atmosphere with a pernicious quality, and transmits his own envenomed exhalations into whatever is nearest to him.

No matter what form it takes, belief in the Evil Eye in one form or the other goes back thousands of years, to at least the age of the Sumerians and perhaps even further back into the mists of time. In the Roman era it was believed that not only people, but whole tribes could hold the power of the Evil Eye, and ancient Greek philosophers spent much time pondering the power of this curse. For instance it was thought by the Greek philosopher Plutarch that people with blue eyes held the most power for the Evil Eye, and he indeed had a whole explanation for how he thought it worked. According to Plutarch it was the result of invisible “rays” that could be emanated from the eyes, and if powerful enough could even kill. Interestingly, the idea that people with blue or green eyes were more proficient with the curse was a common notion in the Mediterranean and Aegean regions, perhaps because those were rarer eye colors that held an air of mystery. Other Greek philosophers such as Pliny the Elder also spoke much of the Evil Eye, and said that Africans were particularly adept at it, holding “power of fascination with the eyes and can even kill those on whom they fix their gaze.”

With such widespread belief in the Evil Eye, one might find oneself wondering if there is any way to ward it off and protect oneself from these nefarious forces, and yes, there are many. The ways used to keep the effects of the Evil Eye at bay are as myriad and varied as the different beliefs in the forms it takes and the cultures of the people who believe them. In some traditions it is as simple as using prayer or invoking God’s name. For instance, in Islam it is common to say Masha’Allah, or “God has willed it,” or Tabarak Allah, that is, “Blessings of God,” when complimented on something, in order to deflect the envy that is such a common fixture of the curse of the Evil Eye. One can also recite the Sura IkhlasSura Al-Falaq and Sura Al-Nas from the Qur’an three times to negate the insidious effects of the Evil Eye. In Judaism, one can proclaim b’li ayin hara, Hebrew for “without the evil eye,” or just simply spit three times, and it is thought of as best not to take too much pride in one’s valuable personal belongings. Spitting is actually a common form of protection against the Evil Eye, and was called by the Romans despuere malum, to spit at evil.

There are countless other prayers used in different religions to stave off the Evil Eye, but even more common still are the numerous amulets, charms, and talismans used by various far-flung cultures to offer protection from this species of curse, often called nazar. A popular one is called a khamsa in Arabic, and looks like an elaborate carved hand. In Turkey they have royal blue beads fashioned of glass and with circles added to make it resemble a pupil, which are hung over doorways, worn on the body, and even given to newborn babies to keep the Evil Eye away. Many cultures employ amulets fashioned to look like eyes, which are themselves called “Evil Eyes,” but which are actually meant to ward the curse off. Turkey, where belief in the Evil Eye is quite strong, also uses rows of crosses called Haç and scattered S-shaped hooks called Çengel to ward off the curse. In Italy they use what is called a conicello, or “little horn,” which is a horn shaped amulet made of gold, silver, or coral. In Spain and Latin America infants are typically given amulets with eye-like markings on them to keep the curse away.

Other cultures use carved alabaster idols with incised eyes, and still others make use of plants, such as in Brazil, where certain types of plants are thought to have protective effects against the Evil Eye. Brazilians also believe that mirrors can help to deflect the curse, and will hang them up liberally. Such amulets and talismans are so pervasive that one can go to many of these places and see them sold at street vendors or at bazaars, where they are seen as popular souvenirs. In some more ancient cultures these charms took on a rather phallic connotation, such as the fascinum, popular throughout Europe and into the Middle East and especially popular in ancient Rome. Another charm against the Evil Eye in some Spanish speaking cultures is to use a bright red ribbon, which is said to distract the caster of the curse and weaken their ability to use it. In Pakistan, a small black cloth called a taawiz is used to similar effect.

Evil eye talismans on sale

In addition to prayers and these various charms and amulets there are also other methods employed by different cultures to keep the Evil Eye away. In Italy one can deflect the Evil Eye by using certain hand symbols, especially those of a profane or sexual nature, which distract the caster of the curse and rob them of their powers. Latin America also uses hand signals, and a popular hand gesture used to ward off these curses is to make a fist with the thumb pressed between the index and middle fingers. In European Christian countries one can make the sign of the cross with your hand and point two fingers, the index finger and the middle finger, towards the supposed source of the Evil Eye. In other cultures one can perform certain rituals to reverse the effects of the Evil Eye, such as one from rural Mexico that involves a healer or medicine man rubbing the victim with a raw egg, which is said to absorb the negative energy, after which the egg is emptied into a glass and placed near the victim’s head. In some parts of India they will take salt, red chilies, or an oiled cloth and wave it above the affected person, after which the item will be burned, thus removing the curse.

It is rather unfortunate that in more modern times the amulets and trinkets that have traditionally been used for thousands of years to combat this evil have essentially become fashion statements and tourist souvenirs. The symbols of the Evil Eye can be seen on a vast number of designer clothing brands as well in recent years, and it is sad that not too many people really understand or appreciate the background and culture behind these images. For many people this is all very real and not a joke or cool design at all. No matter what you may think about the lore of the Evil Eye, it is a pervasive fixture of cultures and religions throughout the world, a permanent feature upon the landscape of the human psyche, and a truly great historical mystery.


Source: https://www.luckymojo.com/rueandcimaruta.html

“RUE, also known as RUTA or RUDA, is widely held to be a Magical herb. Many people carry a pinch of RUE in a cloth bag or place it above the front door to ward off the Evil Eye. In Italy it is so highly valued for this purpose that a silver charm called Cimaruta or Sprig of Rue is worn as a protective amulet. Some folks make a tea of RUE and sprinkle it around the home for Protection or bathe in it to break spells. We are told that RUE mixed with Comfrey Root will Improve Health Matters and that RUE burned with Verbena, Mistletoe, and Benzoin can take off jinxes. Rue is also said to aid in Love Matters. Burned with Lavender Flowers and Sandalwood, it is thought to be a Lover’s Incense and if placed in a man’s left shoe, it is believed to hold him. We make no claims for RUE, and sell as a Curio only.”— The Lucky Mojo Curio Co catalogue


Rue — Ruta graveolens — is a European perennial herb with multi-lobed, matte-finish grey-green leaves, inconspicuous yellow flowers (seen at the bottom center in the picture), and a distinctively sharp and aromatic fragrance that verges on being “stinky.” After the flowers are fertilized, the Rue plant makes clusters of bumpy green four-lobed fruits, containing numerous brown seeds. The Spanish name for Rue is Ruda and the Italian name is Ruta, and although it was not native to the New World, it has been widely accepted as a magical herb by the indigenous people of Central and South America and among African-Americans as well. It is used in love spells, as described above, but more often in protection spells.

For centuries Rue has been considered one of the foremost protective herbs, especially against the evil eye, a belief that originated in the Middle East and which holds that magical harm can come to people through the glance of an envious onlooker. In Italy, faith in the protective qualities of Rue is so great that a special charm, the Cimaruta or “Sprig of Rue” is worn as a pendant to ward off the evil eye. It is always made of sterling silver (the most common metal for apotropaic charms, due to the metal’s symbolic association with the moon, which is thought to protect women and children, the most frequent victims of the evil eye) and it is most often found in the vicinity of Naples, where generations of artisans have developed a variety of Cimaruta designs.


The Cimaruta charm shown here was made sometime in the second half of the 20th century. It is stamped “800” on the back, but has no other maker’s mark. I bought it in an antique store in Sebastopol, California, and the dealers there had no idea what it was, merely considering it a piece of jewelry. Like most Cimaruta charms, it is fairly large — almost 4 inches across — and it depicts a variety of lucky and protective items attached to the sprig of Rue. Some of these are difficult to see, being turned in various ways and rather crudely cast, but going clockwise from right to left and inside to outside, they seem to be:

    • a Rue leafa birda rosea Rue fruita keya hand holding a wand or sworda

flaming heart

    a crescent moon with a face in ita snake (its body replaces one of the branches)an owl (?)a plumed Medieval helmeta cluster of Rue fruitsa Gobo (Italian lucky hunchback)

Other motifs found on Cimaruta amulets include mermaids, hands making the mano fico and mano cornuta gestures, and all-seeing eyes.


It is my considered belief that the reason Rue is said to ward off the Evil Eye is that its lobed compound leaves superficially resemble a Middle Eastern and Central Asian plant called Aspand . The fact that Europeans call Aspand “Syrian Rue” signifies that they see a relationship between the two plants — but there is no genetic basis for the linkage, as they are in different taxonomic families. Aspand is a psychoactive sacred plant from the desert areas of the Middle East and Central Asia, where Evil Eye belief originated; it is my theory that Rue is a European plant without psychoactive properties that looks enough like Aspand that Italians and other Mediterranean people adopted it as a magical substitute, despite the fact that the plants are not related.

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