The Mystical Power of The Evil Eye
At the beginning of each new school year, my grandmother would attach an evil eye, nazar boncugu, inside the waist of my skirt with a small safety pin to wish me good luck and offer me protection from any malevolent gaze, or as we call it in Turkish, kem goz**. People often attach a small evil eye on a newborn baby, bring an evil eye wall décor as a gift to someone who may have just moved to a new home, started a new business, or achieved something big. Sometimes, it is just a simple way of wishing someone good luck, protection, and love. The evil eye can be mostly seen in jewelry and accessories, but it can also be seen in clothing as a print design. The talisman has been created to prevent someone from nazar, the evil eye, and it is often confusing because the talisman itself is named the evil eye.
What does Nazar mean?
Beginning in Ancient Mesopotamia, it has been thought that a person has the power to knowingly or unknowingly inflict nazar on another person through their gaze. Just like the eyes are the window to one’s soul, they are also a gateway for bad energy to pass on to another person and bring bad luck to them.
“Good” people are believed to attract this kind of malevolent gaze, hence a series of unfortunate events, because others feel jealousy toward their success, beauty, or welfare. To avoid the power of the malevolent gaze, some people think it is important to wear an evil eye because it will catch the malevolent gaze and divert it to itself; by doing so, the evil eye will absorb the negative energy and protect its owner from nazar. In many cases, the receiver of the malevolent gaze is unaware of it and falls prey to the curse of the evil eye. This phenomenon inadvertently explains why bad things happen to good people at times. You’ll often hear women tell each other “Hmmm, sana nazar degdi,” (“Hmmm, you have been given the nazar”) when they hear their friend suddenly becomes ill (even if it’s just a bad cold), or their very studious child gets their first F, or their husband loses their job, and so on. Sometimes, breaking an object by accident, such as a plate, can be seen as a sign that you recently were inflicted with the evil eye; by breaking the object, you ward off its effects. If it’s a mirror, of course, that’s another story since it’s considered unlucky in Turkey.
After nazar has been inflicted, the solution to breaking away from its effect is by burning mixed incense, which you can read more about on my blog and see in my store.
The Evil Eye Trivia:
- The first recorded Evil Eye is believed to have been discovered on Mesopotamian clay tablets in cuneiform over 5000 years ago and may actually have originated as early as the Upper Paleolithic age.
- According to Wikipedia, “the idea expressed by the term causes many different cultures to pursue protective measures against it. The concept and its significance vary widely among different cultures, primarily in West Asia. The idea appears multiple times in Jewish rabbinic literature.It was a widely extended belief among many Mediterranean and Asian tribes and cultures. Charms and decorations with eye-like symbols known as nazars, which are used to repel the evil eye, are a common sight across Portugal, Brazil, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, parts of North India, Palestine, Morocco, southern Spain, Italy, Malta, Romania, the Balkans, the Levant, Afghanistan, Syria, and Mexico, and have become a popular choice of souvenir with tourists.”
- In Turkey, the belief that the blue glass evil eye talisman can be used to protect a household can be dated back to the Middle Asia Shamanism practices.
- The production of the glass evil eye beads began in Turkey when Egyptian craftsmen came to Izmir and brought their art of glass making with them. In fact, it is claimed that the Egyptian craftsmen allegedly introduced the art of glass making to Europe. Turkish craftsmen eventually developed their own art form in which they made the evil eye on colored glass and created the blue evil eye as it is today.
- According to ancient Egyptian mythology, the eye-shaped evil eye represents the eye of the god Horus, whose one eye was the moon and the other the sun. After fighting and winning against his enemy, Seth, Horus became the King of Life and, as a result, his evil eyes have been acknowledged to have the ultimate power because of the curse they can inflict on someone.
- The evil eye is well known throughout history. It is mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts, as well as in many famous literary works, including the Bible (Proverbs 23:6: "Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats"), the Quran, and some of Shakespeare’s works ***
- Charms and decorations with eye-like symbols known as nazars, which are used to repel the evil eye, are a common sight across Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Southern Italy (Naples), the Levant, and Afghanistan and have become a popular choice of souvenir with tourists.
- The 1st century Greek philosopher, Plutarch had his own “scientific” explanation as to why the evil eye curse existed: Human eyes radiated such a powerful ray of light through their eyes that they could kill little children and animals, and such evil could harm anyone.
- Blue-eyed people are believed to have a stronger evil eye power. This is why some believe that people from the Black Sea region, who are known for having blue eyes, have the ability to give the evil eye more than others. On the other hand, blue eyes are a genetically rare feature of the Mediterranean, Anatolian, and Middle Eastern people, which may explain why blue eyes were such a stigma.
- There are some who believe that the one who inflicts the nazar onto someone else must have been cursed themselves. For example, a Polish tale mentions a man who takes his own eyes out so that he wouldn’t give the evil eye to anyone.
** Kem translates as “haunted, evil, sinister” or just simply bad. It’s not a common word that people who speak Turkish would use; for instance, you wouldn’t describe a movie or food as “kem.” The word itself is believed to date back to the 10th century and may belong to the Uigur or Farsi languages.
*** (ra` `ayin, "evil of eye"; ophthalmos poneros):
The superstition of the influence of the "evil eye," so widely spread over the earth, has had a mighty influence on life and language in Palestine, though direct references to it are not frequent in the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 15:9; 28:54,56; Proverbs 23:6; 28:22; Matthew 20:15(compare Matthew 6:23; Luke 11:34); Mark 7:22). In the Bible, the expression is synonymous with envy, jealousy, and some forms of covetousness. In comparing Romans 1:29 with Mark 7:22, we find that ophthalmos poneros corresponds to phthonos. See Trench, New Testament Synonyms, under the word The eye of the envious (as also the tongue of the invidious by an apparently appreciative word, which, however, only disguises the strong desire of possessing the object of comment or of destroying it for its rightful owner) was supposed to have a baneful influence upon the wellbeing of others, especially of children. Therefore mothers bestowed constant care against the frustration of such fancied designs by means of innumerable sorts of charms. They often allowed their darlings to appear as unlovely as possible, through uncleanliness or rags, so as to spare them the harmful rising of envy in the hearts of others.
Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, gives perhaps the most accessible account of this superstition as held at the present day in Egypt, and Thomson, The Land and the Book, does the same for Palestine, while an equal amount of evidence might be collected from every other oriental country. Instances of the same superstition, though possibly slightly disguised, are by no means wanting among ourselves. Compare the expression, "green-eyed jealousy" (Othello, III, iii; Merchant of Venice, III, ii ), etc.
For certain Biblical phrases referring to the "evil eye" see ENVY; EYE.
- T. Elworthy, The Evil Eye, London, 1895.
- L. E. Luering