I went to London at the weekend with my boyfriend. One of the stops we made was to Camden town, and much to his disdain I spent many hours searching through little junk shops for treasure. I came out with this bracelet, featuring evil eye beads (also known as Nazar boncugu. This is one of my favourite symbols, and it is one that is always prudent to have on hand.
The concept of the ‘evil eye’ is a widespread belief found throughout the Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and European worlds even today. A beleif in the evil eye is also found in south America and Africa.
In the Mediterranean, the evil eye is largely believed to be cast unintentionally (though some believe that certain people, or groups of people; can cast intentionally), and is often the result of an envious glance. It can cause sickness and general misfortune; and newborn babies are especially at risk. A number of sources I have read say that babies are at risk of the evil eye from childless women.
During my own trips to Greece I have noted that the evil eye symbol is pretty ubiquitous. Many Greeks do not like to be stared at, and avoid staring in return (allow me to qualify this statement: One of the most disconcerting things for me when I travel to mainland Europe, is peoples propensity to unabashedly stare. It doesn’t seem to be considered rude as it is here in Britain and no matter how many times I travel to Europe I never get used to it. In Greece and Cyprus, it did not happen.).
Here are some really interesting journal articles about the subject across several cultures. If you put these titles into Google, you may be able to find open source versions:
- Apostolides and Dreyer, 2008. The Greek evil eye, African witchcraft, and Western ethnocentrism.
- Dickie, 1991. Heliodorus and Plutarch on the Evil Eye.
- Taylor, 1993. Evil eye. Folklore. 44(3).