Whether you refer to it as the “mati,” “malocchio,” “nazar” or “ayin hara,” what cannot be denied is that for centuries the evil eye has been a force to be reckoned with. Countless cultures believe in it and there is a term for it in over thirty languages and dialects. A malevolent glare, an overly enthusiastic compliment and simple envy can all cast a curse or jinx. It can be conscious or unintentional and can cause harm to both the subject and to the dispenser.
Warding off the curse of the evil eye involves both expressions and amulets. In some cultures, it is common practice to invoke God’s blessings when admiring someone or something. In the Greek culture in particular, someone might say, “You look so handsome today, God bless you! May you always look so good. May I not give you the evil eye.” Then they might proceed to quasi-spit on you once or three times, depending on their enthusiasm. This practice of symbolic spitting was perfectly demonstrated in the movie “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” when the family matriarch lovingly admired her grandson and subsequently spit on his head three times (to the great dismay of her non-Greek, non-evil eye believing future son-in-law). If someone is overheard complimenting another person and not using these protective measures, they might easily be reprimanded and told to “spit” on them so as not to bestow the evil eye upon them.
Amulets come in all sizes, shapes and colors. They can be found in a believer’s home, in their place of business, in their car or on their person. The hamsa hand is found in West Asia and can be enhanced with a blue or green eye in the palm area. In Greece and Turkey the amulets are commonly blue glass disks or balls with concentric circles of color representing the evil eye. In Italy, a red, horn-shaped amulet is used. Thanks to the jewelry industry, believers as well as non-believers can now get their hamsa hands and evil eye amulets encrusted in diamonds and sapphires. What once was just a protective measure is now also a fashion statement.
Belief in the evil eye transcends religion, culture and nationality. Even people who don’t believe in it use the phrase “give someone the evil eye” when referring to an angry glare. Either way, whether you believe or don’t believe, you might think twice the next time you catch someone staring at you. It may not be a bad idea to keep that evil eye pendant hanging around…just in case…God bless you…spit, spit, spit!