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The Evil Eye
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The Evil Eye
The evil eye is paranoia whose victims are diagnosed on the basis that they see plots everywhere and constantly expect the worse.
[1,440 words]
Norman A Rubin
Correspondent (Israel) for the Continental News Service writing under the headline "Dateline - Middle East". Free-lance writer for the past sixteen years writing on various subjects - Near East culture and crafts, archaeology, history and politics; religious history and rites, etc.. Norman A. Rubin has been featured in publications world wide - Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Dateline, Esra, Israel - Coin News, Minerva, Oriental Arts, etc. England - Ararat, Good Old Days (White Birches Publications), Letter Arts Review, Queen of All Hearts, etc. USA - Spotlight, Japan - International B, Hong Kong - Archaeological Diggings, Australia etc. - Norman A. Rubin can be found on the Web - asianart.com with articles on Japanese Ghosts and Chinese Snuff Bottles - bibarch.com on the subject of musical instruments in the Bible, etc.. For comments on his writing, Norman A. Rubin (Israel) can be addressed to talabar@zahav.net.il
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The Evil Eye
Norman A Rubin

(In most cultures there is the extreme fear of the 'Evil Eye'. They recite incantations, give signs, and will do everything possible to avoid its fateful curse.)

"It is related, O auspicious one, that there lived in the city of Bagdad, after the reign of many Khalifahs and before the reign of many others, a wicked and vile sorcerer with an 'Evil Eye'." This story from the 'Thousand Nights and One Night' continues by telling of the misery caused by the curse of this 'Evil Eye' of the sorcerer. The devilish man would only look at his victim with a baleful eye, mutter incantations and then cast a spell over him: "By the powers of darkness, demons, devouring beasts..."

The 'Evil Eye' is an idea conceived by many cultures throughout the world, and though it originated around the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, it has spread wherever superstitious belief is in force. (1) Amoung certain peoples, the conception of the ‘Evil Eye’ is so strong to the point of paranoia. Even an innocent look is suspected of wishing harm; the more so if it is accompanied by a compliment or two. The offender, the 'Jettitore' (endowed people) on the threat of bodily harm, is then asked to spit on the ground to annul the threat of the "Evil Eye'; while the offended will make one of those gestures against it - the 'mano' or the 'figa'. The gestures, with its two extended fingers (index and little finger) which rudely signifies sexual intercourse, and according to wellknown authorities, "that they will divert the object of the 'Evil Eye' by tempting it with sexual desire."

The 'Evil Eye' is often depicted as a 'Single Eye' (2), the one that sees for its own benefit. But is is also known as the 'Double Eye' to account for the fact it hides evil under the mask of friendship. In later folk-lore this myth was linked to witches who, according to their victims, could be recognized by their having two pupils in each eye; who glared with both evil eyes on those who pried into her secrets. This fear is with us today as many men continue to avoid the stare of a strange woman.

Envy was believed to be one of the causes of the 'evil eye', it was considered unlucky to have one's belongings praised: The use of some qualifying phrase such as, "As God wills" or "God bless it" to annul its envious threat is still in use in some European countries. The 'Mishnah' (collection of Jewish oral laws) confirms that the 'Evil Eye' is brought upon by jealousy, which turns to hate. The evil that it causes can affect both the offended and the offender; and one should avoid the 'Evil Eye' of jealousy. Thus, a religious Jew, when asked on his health or welfare will answer "Blee Ayin Rah" - Without an evil eye"; namely he is satisfied with his condition and will not look with envy on a person in a better situation. In Spanish tradition, one should accept the fate of the 'Evil Eye' with the hope that its curse will be limited and that it will pass quickly.

The fear of the 'Evil Eye' is so great amongst various cultures that persons, that seem to be inflicted with its curse, will go to extremes to be protected. There is an injunction in Slovakia, "never give a child the breast after it is weaned", for fear that its desires will become implacable and look with an evil eye on other things that is forbidden to enjoy. In many countries children will baptized in secret, given sacred or holy names, or their body will be disguised in varied ways in order to protect them from the 'Evil Eye' with its curse of disease, disablity or death. Peoples from the Balkan States to the Middle East are convinced that garlic pods worn around the neck or hung on windows will protect them from the 'Evil Eye'; and in the Translyvania region of Roumania, garlic offers extra protection from werewolves and vampires. An Italian, on the other hand, when threatened with the 'Evil Eye' will give the 'Salutis' gesture with the middle finger extented horizontally (3); this is the intention to impale the eye of the ill-wisher. An Arab will be protected from the 'Evil Eye' by displaying a 'Hamsah', a small open hand symbol at the entrance of his home: The hand is a perennial symbol of the five basic precepts of Islam - profession of faith, prayer, pilgrimage, fasting and charity.

Now, if one has the curse of the "Evil Eye' cast upon him (or her) one should take the neccessary precautions or a spell will be woven and ill wind will follow the recipient. Only confrontation and war measures are taken based on countermagic to deceive or defeat the evil eye and to save the endangered person. The use of a mirror or a reflecting ornament or a specific colour, preferably red or blue, may blight the source by reflecting the evil glance. An outstretched hand may stop its rays.

According to the Talmud (fundemental code of Jewish and civil laws), whoever is afraid of the 'evil eye' should stick his right thumb in his left hand and his left thumb in his right hand proclaiming: "I, so and so, son of so and so, am the son of Joseph, who the evil eye may not affect." This is to avert the evil eye by putting it to shame.

There are other means of combating the 'evil eye' through attempts to absorb the devastating glance and neutralize it by diverting its stare from the intended with interesting objects hung between the eyes of the endangered person, e.g. precious stones, or tails of small animals.

Survival of this widespread fear of the 'evil eye' has even entered into our society with many true stories of people being bewitched (4). Who knows, maybe you will be the next person to feel the curse and its consequences of misery and destruction. "The 'Evil Eye', the eye of fire, is the eye of higher preception; it burns all that appears before it..." ...... Beware, you have been warned...



1) "The world of spirits and demons have been a companion of all civilizations up to the present day. Amoung the civilizations of the Ancient Near East the distress and fear of the sick man caused him to create amulets and incantations to supress the forces of evil or the spell of 'Evil Eye' that caused the illness. Occasionally the incantation is directed against a specific illness by name. For example on an amulet found in Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee reads, "An amulet proper to heal Ya'itha the daughter of Marian from fever and shiver and other evil wishes."

2) "The single eye is either symbolic of evil or of ill-wind or envy."


3)"The chief talisman against the 'Evil Eye' has long been the phallus symbol, which is inscribed the name of the owner, that which weaves a spell over an ill-wish and leaves it bound to the author of all satisfaction."

4) "At Jewish weddings a precious glass is broken at the end of the ceremony as a preventive measure against the 'evil eye' and evil spirits from entering into the union of the couple."



1) The Eye - The Seer and the Seen - Francis Huxley

2) Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols - J.C. Cooper

3) Exhibition - "Illness and Healing in Ancient Times" - Reuven and Edith Hecht Museum, University of Haifa, Israel - Ofra Rimon, curator.

4) Encyclopedia Judaica, Ketter Publishing Co., Jerusalem





Russian scientists have recently shown that the human gaze has immense physical energy and the eye emits high frequency rays of wavelength - 80 micrometers. Envy, jelousy, hatred, malice, contempt, hostility, astonishment and exaggerated admiration are all transmitted through the eye.

Biblical Og of Balshaam, Julius Ceasar, Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler and Sadaam Hussien were amoung the few said to have possessed the 'Evil Eye'. It is said that - their breath caused wind; their length is a thousand miles; their aura if of evil and illwind. As living beings they have human faces, a scaled snake-like body, and livid in colour. They guard treasure, lust after young women, extol the muscular prowness of the male; by blowing they turn the air in the cold of winter; and by exhaling their foul breath they cause the withering of the land and of peoples.

"When I look lower I espy; Hadst thou the wicked skill

By pictures made and marr'd, to kill. How many ways mights thou perform they will?

(Witchcraft in a Picture - poet Donne)


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© 2002 Norman A Rubin
July 2002

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