When I was in Greece a couple of weeks ago, (I can’t believe that much time has even gone by!) I of course spent time wandering around the shops, looking at all kinds of jewelry and other fun trinkets to bring home. And though I didn’t come home with much (who am I?), I did notice a common motif throughout many of the tourist shops: the eye. I picked up a delicate little bracelet and a glass decoration (left) to hang on my wall at home because I just really liked it, and while I was familiar with the belief that it wards off evil, it wasn’t until I returned home and did a little research that I really understood its significance.
The notion of “the evil eye” has so much history across a wide range of countries and cultures. The round glass ornament I purchased, dark blue on the outside with light blue and white concentric circles at the center, was not only in all of the souvenir shops as a tourist trinket (which I would have loved anyway, let’s be honest), but on locals’ rearview mirrors, wrists, and necks, and even outside their doors.
The motif dates back to as early as the 6th century and was often found on drinking vessels (er, cups). In Greece, it’s known as the ???? (mati), or simply, “eye.” It serves as protection from the evil eye, a harmful stare brought on by feelings of envy and general dislike, which, by the way, isn’t necessarily an intentional curse. Just as we ourselves are sometimes guilty of turning a little green without actual evil intent, the envious stare is often thought to be cast unbeknownst to the one doing the cursing. They may have just been staring at someone a little too long, not exactly thinking the purest of thoughts. We all feel even a slight twinge of jealousy sometimes—it’s human nature, right?
It isn’t just Greece that has its belief in the harmful effects of the evil eye; it’s found in many places throughout the world. A Turkish talisman, the evil eye is believed to cause injury and bad luck, even in some cases death, when directed at a person for reasons of envy or dislike (results vary depending on the culture). So, it’s no wonder so many cultures have protective measures to guard against those precarious glares.
I have another trinket brought back by one of my closest friends from Israel: the Hamsa. An open right hand inlaid with an eye at its center, the amulet suggests protection against the evil eye—and, by the way, the symbol predates both Christianity and Islam. So yeah, it’s got roots. It’s widely known as the sign of protection, to ward off illness, death, and just downright unluckiness caused by that stare of the evil eye.
All in all, I could probably spend a week looking over all of the stories and beliefs related to the evil eye, and I will, because I’m truly interested in learning. It’s beautiful, and it has made a big splash here in the jewelry industry recently. Critics may have their say against people wearing it for fashion purposes without understanding its meaning (as we’ve seen happen with the cross), but I would like to think that most have good intentions. It’s a beautiful notion with pure and spiritual connotations that each and every one of us could embrace on a daily basis, whether we’ve studied up on the history or not. What do you think, are you on board?