by Susan A. Sheppard
The belief that a scornful look or jealous stare from a hostile person can cause ill luck on another is a universal one. The historical practice of brides wearing veils can be traced to the ancient superstition surrounding the “Evil Eye.” It was thought in past times to ward off the evil eye, a veil could protect the bride against the coveting gazes of others who might become envious over the special attention she is being given at the wedding.
It was feared that one scathing look from a jealous person might bring misfortunes upon the young couple. Hostility over favored attention given to a rival was thought to be the main emotion that powered the evil eye. People in the Middle East and Eurasia still refrain from bragging about their accomplishments, or the good luck family members are having for fear of bringing on the evil eye.
Sometimes boy children were dressed up like girls in order to protect or fool others from giving them the evil eye since in poor countries sons eventually helped bring in income to families and were a danger to lose. In Lebanon, the horseshoe was not just a good luck charm, it served as protection against the evil eye as a facsimile of the crescent moon, representing the power of growth and of all things that flourish.
In parts of Azerbaijani, a woman and her newborn are hidden from the stares from others for forty days over fear of inspiring jealousy from childless couples, or because of the attractiveness or health of the baby. The people of Azerbaijani gained protection from the evil eye by burning an odd number (thirteen or seven) of black cumin seeds and by chanting these words “Allah, protect us from those who use the evil eye against us.” The smoke is then spread around the house as further protection against the evil eye.
Blue-eyed people, since they are rare in that part of the world, are the ones most likely to cast the evil eye it is thought. In Turkey and other countries, blue beads are worn or carried in pockets to ward off the evil eye. The Udjat Eye, or Eye of Horus, of early Egypt is believed to have been worn by ancient Egyptians perhaps to ward off the evil eye, as well. Sometimes the evil eye was used to unleash evil spirits. Most in the Middle East believe the evil eye is, in fact, an evil spirit, if only a spirit of jealousy born in the hearts of others. However the origin of a belief in the Evil Eye is even more ancient than Egypt having arisen in Mesopotamia which is considered the cradle of western civilization.
But the evil eye is not just a Mediterranean concept. During the Salem Witch Trials some of the alleged witches were forced to walk into the courtroom backwards for fear of them giving the judges and anyone who testified against them bad luck by their angry or accusing stares. But the Evil Eye is not the same thing as a curse, because the one who puts the Evil eye on another person may not even be aware it. It was thought effects of the Evil Eye would manifest as an illness just the same way in Britain it was believed fairies could cause sudden strokes upon unsuspecting people.
There are a number of ways to ward off the Evil Eye-- one is to make the sign of the "Malocchio." or "devil horns." This was made famous by rock star Ronnie Dio who learned this gesture from his Sicilian grandmother. Many fans believed Dio was making a Satanic symbol when truthfully the Malocchio meant just the opposite, the sign of the devil horns was intended to scare the devil away, much in the way crosses are believed to ward off vampires. In the Middle East one simple warding symbol is a blue bead, sometimes with a circle in the center to represent the eye. The blue bead can be worn on jewelry or just carried in the pocket. It must be a pure blue bead made of glass. "Hamsa Hands" or "Hand of Fatima" can also be worn as a amulet to ward off the Evil Eye and to bring good luck.