A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - There is an ancient, superstitious, and almost universal belief that certain people possess the supernatural power to cause disaster, illness, calamity, and even death.
They have the ability to do it with a gaze or stare that gives an unpleasant emotion. The evil eye is widely feared in many parts of the world.
The oldest accounts of the evil eye go back to at least 3000 BC and mentioned in the Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cuneiform texts. The ancient people of Mexico and Central America feared the power of the evil eye and so did the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, who were particularly very afraid of it.
The evil eye is also mentioned in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In his celebrated “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus of Nazareth makes reference to the malignity of the Evil Eye:
Matthew 6:22-23 says,
"The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness…”
Proverbs 28:22 says:
"A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him."
Mosaic from the House of the Evil Eye, Antioch, Syria. Credits: Archaeological Museum, Antakya
According to Western science, evil eye beliefs cannot be based on anything other than superstition.
The Evil Eye Was Feared In Many Ancient Cultures
Strangely, the superstitions related to the evil eye are continuously prevalent in certain countries in Europe, especially in the region of the Mediterranean, but also in Central America and in Mexico. In North India, there is also a strong belief in the evil eye, the so-called "Buri Nazar" and a tattoo or an amulet are used to ward off the evil eye.
It is believed that medicine men, witch doctors, and sorcerers are among those who can cast evil eyes and bring bad luck. According to the Native American beliefs, the so-called ‘death-dealing’ evil eye power is possessed by tribal shamans. Different tribes have always feared the evil eye.
Ring from the 3rd century, found in Croatia. The ring has a drawn rabbit that tastes a flower and that was seen as a symbol of happiness, while the “eye” represents protection against disasters and spells” Image credit: Croatian Times
Also, other people can be the so-called 'iettatore' (or 'jettatore'); they have the evil eye and bring bad luck, by nature. They have a malevolent influence on another person, animal, object, or even building by looking at the target.
This can be done deliberately by individuals seeking to cast a spell, or unintentionally by individuals who are unaware of their evil power.
Ancient Symbol Hamsa: It’s Meaning And History Explained
There are recorded cases of individuals who were suspected to be cursed with evil eye from birth and did not even know about it. Two examples can be Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius IX who were said to possess the evil eye.
Amulets against evil eye.
According to ancient beliefs, one must be on constant guard against the danger of someone’s malevolent - though often - unintentional stare. This bad influence of the evil eye may come from a stranger who for example, admires one’s children or a child; the evil eye can also dangerously affect an animal, pregnant women, and very happy and prosperous people.
Amulets That Ward Off The Evil Eye
It is believed that beads, hand gestures, sayings, and amulets may help to ward off a dangerous gaze. In the northern part of India and Pakistan, the rudraksha tree, or ‘Eleacarpus ganitrus’, grows and the bead is actually its fruit, that shrivels to hard, wood-like texture. These beads represent a powerful symbol of protection against the evil eye.
The ancient Romans used phallic amulets associated with their phallic god, Priapus (‘Fascinus’). From this god’s name originates the word ‘fascination’, ‘bewitchment’. Hamsa, for example, is an ancient, powerful symbol that is often carried as an amulet to invoke the hand of God, or to counteract the Evil Eye.
Interestingly, in our modern times, it is a widespread belief that evil eye power is possessed more by men than women.
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer
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Expand for references
Dundes A. The Evil Eye: A Casebook
Elliot, John H. Beware the Evil Eye; The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World: Volume One
Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic
A. Ross, Hypothesis: The Electrophysiological Basis of Evil Eye Belief