The evil eye is a widely distributed element of folklore or superstition: a belief that some people, often women seen as witches, can bestow a curse on victims by the malevolent gaze of their magical eye. The effects on victims vary; some have them afflicted with bad luck of various sorts. Others believe the evil eye has even more baleful powers, that it can cause disease, wasting away, and even death.
Some cultures hold that the evil eye is an involuntary jinx that is cast unintentionally by people unlucky to be cursed with the power to bestow it by their gaze. Others hold that while it is not strictly voluntary, the power is called forth by the sin of envy. It may be that the term covet (to eye enviously) in the tenth Commandment refers to casting the evil eye, rather than to simple desire or envy.
Belief in the evil eye is strongest in the Middle East, Asia and Europe, especially the Mediterranean region; it has also spread to other areas like the Americas. In some more areas where light-colored eyes are relatively rare, people with blue eyes are feared to possess the power to bestow the curse, intentionally or unintentionally.
Belief in the evil eye features in Islamic mythology; it is not a part of Islamic doctrine, however, and is more a feature of Islamic folk religion.
The evil eye is also significant in Jewish folklore; it is called the "ayin harah" in Hebrew. Ashkenazi Jews traditionally exclaim "Keyn aynhoreh!" meaning "No evil eye!" in Yiddish to ward off a jinx after something or someone has been rashly praised or good news spoken aloud.
In Latin, the evil eye was fascinum, the origin of the English word "to fascinate".
In Italian the evil is called jettatura or mal' occhio, in Greek baskania or matiasma. The evil eye belief also spread to northern Europe, especially the Celtic regions.
Attempts to ward off the curse of the evil eye resulted in a number of talismans being resorted to. Painted balls (or disks) painted with a blue circle with a concentric black circle inside representing an evil eye are common talismans in the Middle East. A blue eye can also be found on some forms of the Hand of Fatima (or Hamsa), an amulet against the evil eye in the Middle East.
The large eyes often seen painted at the prows of Mediterranean boats are there, traditionally, to ward off the evil eye; the staring eyes return the malicious gaze back to the sorcerer.
In ancient Rome, people believed that phallic charms and ornaments offered proof against the evil eye; the idea here was that the ribald suggestions made by sexual symbols would distract the witch from the mental effort needed to successfully bestow the curse.
Those who were not fortified with phallic charms had to make use of sexual gestures to avoid it. This is one of the uses of the mano cornuto (a fist with the index and little finger extended, the heavy metal or "Hook 'em Horns" gesture) and the mano fico (a fist with the thumb pressed between the index and middle fingers). In addition to the phallic talismans, statues of hands in these gestures, or covered with magical symbols, were carried by the Romans as talismans.
In Brazil, carvings of the mano fico continue to be carried as good luck charms.In India, evil eye, called "drishti" (literally view) is removed through "Aarthi". The actual removal involves different means as per the subject involved.
In case of removing human evil eye, a traditional Hindu ritual of holy flame (on a plate) is rotated around the person's face so as to absorb the evil effects. Sometimes people will also be asked to spit into a handfull of chillies kept in that plate, which is then thrown into fire.
For vehicles too, this process is followed with lime/lemons being used instead of chillies. These lemons are crushed by the vehicle and another new lemon is hung with chillies in a bead to ward off any future evil eyes. The use of kumkum on cheeks of newly weds or babies is also a method of thwarting the "evil eye".
In 1946, the American magician Henri Gamache published a text called Protection against Evil, also called Terrors of the Evil Eye Exposed! which offers directions to defend oneself against the evil eye. Gamache's work brought evil eye beliefs to the attention of hoodoo practitioners in the southern United States.
Nowadays, giving another person the "evil eye" usually means glaring at the person in anger or disgust.
A nazar or evil eye stone is an amulet from Islamic mythology that protects against the evil eye. It consists of concentric circles (from inside to outside: dark blue, white, light blue, dark blue).
The Eye of Horus is an Ancient Egyptian symbol of protection and power. The Eye was a symbol that signified royal power. The ancients believed this symbol of indestructibility would assist in rebirth, due to their beliefs about the soul. The more recent tradition of freemasonry adopted the symbol and as such it has survived to this day, and appears as the Eye of Providence on the recto of the Great Seal of the United States. The Eye of Horus (flanked by Nekhbet and Wadjet) was found under the 12th layer of bandages on Tutankhamun's mummy.
Horus was an ancient god in Egyptian mythology who dramatically evolved over the whole of Egyptian history. Early on, he became identified as a sky god, where one of his eyes was the sun, and the other the moon. His weaker eye later became less important in his mythology, and he became more strongly aligned with the sun, particularly when the cult of Thoth, a moon god, arose. As the sun, or rather, with his eye as the sun, his eye had a special meaning, and became a symbol of power. Originally, Ra held this position, but as Horus gradually became more important, he transformed into a sun god, so Horus became thought of as Ra, or rather Ra-Herakhty ("Ra, who is Horus of the two horizons").
The Eye of Horus is commonly used in modern times. One example is the Rx symbol used in medicine and pharmaceuticals. Though, the Rx really is an abbreviation of the latin word for "recipe" however other texts conclude that it is an invocation to the God Jupiter and that the symbol is a corruption of the symbol for Jupiter. In its original use, the Rx was drawn as an eye with a leg, or the Eye of Horus.
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