×

The Evil Eye

Historical Facts | May 27, 2019

The evil eye-a curse someone could give you by just a malicious glare. Source: (rebelcircus.com)

Nearly every ancient culture has had some sort of superstitions about evil eyes and curses. The curse of the evil eye hasn’t changed a wink over the years. It is basically the belief that someone could send bad luck your way by giving you the stink eye. Fortunately, there are charms and amulets that can be worn to ward off the bad optic vibes. And even more, fortunately, these charms are a hot fashion accessory trend. Let’s peer into the history of the evil eye.

Many cultures, including the Egyptians, believed in evil eye curses. Source: (labdagatic.com)

The Curse of the Evil Eye

The evil eye is a stare, glare, or gaze with malice behind it. The typical target of an evil eye curse is someone who is more fortunate than others or who seems to be overflowing in luck. Successful people are often the subject of jealousy and envy, today as much as in ancient times. Many cultures, including the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, and Celtic people, truly believed that an individual had the power to bring misfortune and suffering to another person simply by looking at them in a malevolent way. 

The ancient philosopher, Plutarch. Source: (greece.greekreporter.com)

The Greeks and the Power of the Eye

The power of the evil eye was so prevalent that much was written about it. For example, around 100 AD, Plutarch, the Greek philosopher, explained in his Symposiacs, that the human eye was a powerful organ that could emit invisible energy rays. These rays, he added, were strong enough to kill young children and small animals. In about 250 AD, the ancient Greek poet, Heliodorus of Emesa, wrote in his work, Aethiopica, “When anyone 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.” 

Source: (ancientpages.com)

Blue Eyes

Plutarch’s writings tell us that the philosopher believed certain groups of people were better at cursing people with evil eyes than others. He mentioned that the tribes of people living south of the Black Sea were especially good as casting curses, as were people with blue eyes. For people living around the Mediterranean Sea at that time, blue eyes were rare. In fact, blue eyes seemed so unnatural that they had to be bewitched. 

The left eye of the god Horus, symbolizing light and provides protection against the evil eye. Source: (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The Color Blue

The color blue is often linked to evil eyes and the amulets that protect against their curses. The marketplaces and bazaars of ancient Istanbul and Cairo offered plenty of depictions of eyes painted in cobalt-blue. Across the Mediterranean coast, beads made from blue glass were fashioned into eyes. These blue glass beads found their way into many of the cultures of the region, from the Assyrians and Phoenicians to the Ottomans, Greeks, and Romans. 

Source: (corydonbaptist.org)

The Curse was a Curse

One may think that having the ability to drain your frenemies of their luck and success would be a deliciously fun gift to have, yet the stories and legends from ancient cultures tell us that have the power to curse others was a curse itself. An example of this is an old Polish folk story about a man with the ability to curse others just by gazing at them. He was so distraught about the misfortune he was causing that he cut out his own eyes to prevent himself for even inflicting bad luck on anyone ever again. 

Hamsa, the hand with an eye in the center. Source: (minagirl78.blogspot.com)

Thwarting Evil

With so much evil shooting from people eyes, it is no wonder that most ancient cultures developed charms or amulets to protect themselves from the curse of the evil eye. Historians believe that the Greeks were the first to come up with amulets specifically to ward off evil eye curses. But it was Middle Easterners, particularly those around Turkey, who still include special eye symbols in jewelry and emblems today. One is the Nazar. This is an eye-shaped symbol with concentric rings that is meant to deflect or prevent an evil eye curse. The Hamsa is another common image associated with evil eyes. It is a hand with an eye in the center. The Egyptians used the Eye of Horus, a line drawing of an eye with curlicue underneath it, as a form of protection to ensure continued health and prosperity. 

Source: (stickerbeans.com)

Still a Common Motif

The Hamsa and other evil eye protection symbols are found across the globe and have made their way into high fashion. People are attracted to the symbols for this exotic vibe and their simple design. It could also be that, deep down, some people still feel the need to protect themselves from the evil glances of their foes and others who are envious of their successes. 

Tags: history of the evil eye

Like it? Share with your friends!

Share On Facebook

Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.