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What is the Evil Eye?

Sneering woman.
Kohl, one of the world's oldest cosmetics, has been traditionally applied around the eyes of people in the Middle East for centuries.
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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Sara Z. Potter
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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The evil eye is a superstitious belief that some people can cause harm to others by looking at them in a certain way. The person who gives someone the evil eye may do so intentionally to cause harm, or unintentionally, as a result of feeling envy toward the person he or she looks at. The victim may suffer such effects as general bad luck, disease, or even death.

The most common variant of the evil eye in folklore is that produced by the envious gaze. It is therefore a cautionary tale, against both the sin of envy and that of excessive pride. The curse may be given not only to other people, but also to children, livestock, and inanimate objects that one eyes with envy.

This belief originated in the Middle East, Mediterranean Europe, and South and Central Asia. It features in both Islamic and Jewish lore and has spread to Northern Europe and the Americas. In some areas, blue eyes are thought to be particularly prone to giving the evil eye. This may be because blue-eyed foreigners are likely to be unfamiliar with local customs and taboos regarding looking at others or admiring others' possessions or children.

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Folk remedies against the effects of evil eye abound. Kohl, one of the world's oldest cosmetics, has been traditionally applied around the eyes of men, women, and children in the Middle East for centuries as form of a protection. In India, a red pigment called kumkum is applied to the cheeks for the same reason, and in Bangladesh, black dots are painted on children's foreheads to avert it. Many remedies involve burning specific substances and/or reciting certain prayers.

Amulets are one of the most common protections against evil eye. In Ancient Rome, various phallic amulets and obscene hand gestures were believed to ward off the curse. Protective jewelry is especially common in Turkey, where the blue eye-like design is known as nazar. In the Middle East, an amulet known as the hamsa hand features an eye design and is said to protect the wearer. The hamsa hand is religiously significant to both Jews and Muslims.

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anon360266
Post 4

I have been thinking about evil eye for a while now. My brother died and the last time I saw him we had an argument and he gave me the evil eye. I have told my sisters and brothers about this and they think I am crazy.

ysmina
Post 3

I'm Middle Eastern and I and many of my friends believe in the evil eye. We do many different things to protect ourselves. Some people like to wear necklaces like the evil eye necklaces or carry amulets with protective prayers in them.

My grandmother burns incense every Friday to clear up any negative energies in the house that envious guests might have left.

Some people like to apply a dot of kohl on their cheek also. This is said to grab the attention of an envious person so that they do not effect you. Especially babies are prone to evil eye, so they always wear an evil eye bracelet, bead or a dot of kohl.

Another way to protect from evil eye is for the person who makes a compliment to say "mashAllah" immediately afterwards. Literally it means something like "what Allah wants" or "what Allah wishes." If my mom's friend complements on my beauty for example, and doesn't say anything, I will ask her to say mashAllah so that I am not harmed. It's completely normal to request this as most people don't do it intentionally but rather forget to say it.

Something else that we do, and I'm not sure why, but we also knock on wood three times after a compliment. I actually do this and say mashAllah at the same time. I think knocking on wood is done in the West too, I'm not sure how we picked that one up.

fify
Post 2

I know that many people do not believe that there is such a thing as evil eye. I used to be someone who didn't believe as well. But I realized that after I am around certain people, I feel particularly tired, even sick. I'm not sure if it's really their eyes but I do believe that some people tend to have negative energy, especially if they are in a bad mood and we can be effected by that energy.

I've heard that people's psychology rubs off on one another. If you are around happy people, you are probably happy as well and if you are around sad or depressed individuals, I doubt you will feel good for very long. So the concept of evil eye does not seem so awkward or unrealistic to me anymore as it used to.

As far as certain objects, cosmetics and jewelry protecting us, I'm not too sure. I just try to get away from people who I think effect me negatively. If I can't do that, I definitely add some prayer, meditation and exercise in my daily routine to release any bad energies.

candyquilt
Post 1

I remember when I was younger and I didn't understand what an evil eye was, my mom told me a story to help me understand.

The story was about a herd of camels that were traveling through the desert carrying all sorts of goods from one side of the desert to the other. A man who saw the camels walking along, looked to them admiringly and said "Wow! Such beautiful camels!" The man's looks were so powerful that every single camel except one fell down and died. The camel which hadn't died was the one carrying loads of black cumin.

To this day, we believe that black cumin protects us and we wear a small cloth with the seeds sewn inside our clothing as an evil eye charm.

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