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What Is The Evil Eye? The Meaning, History & Myths Of This Common Symbol

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evil eye

While many people have seen celebrities like Kim Kardashian wearing evil eye jewelry, they may wonder about the real evil eye meaning. Because despite how interesting evil eye bracelets, earrings or necklaces are, there is thousands of years of history behind this symbol.

Even though each culture and society has its interpretation of the evil eye, it's important to understand its true meaning.

What is the evil eye?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the evil eye, known as mal de ojo in some cultures, is defined as a “glance believed to have the ability to cause injury or death to those on who it falls.” Pregnant women, children, and animals are believed to be particularly susceptible to the evil eye.

Essentially, the evil eye is a superstition or belief in a curse that is brought about by a glare with ill intention, malice, or bad luck behind it. The look is given with the belief that the person being looked at will suffer great harm.

Effects of the evil eye can include the loss of fortune, health, or appearance in some way or another. People wear evil eye talismans to protect against these evil spirits and energies.

There are three types of evil eyes: unconscious evil eyes, conscious evil eyes, and unseen evil eyes. 

Unconscious evil eyes cause harm or suffering to people without meaning to. It could be that you stare at someone at roll your eyes in envy at something they have. The thoughts you have form the intention and send negative energy to them, without even realizing it.

Conscious evil eyes relate to how you speak regarding another person. A common example is someone making you angry while driving your car; you may curse at them or wish them harm. What gives this intention is voicing your rage aloud, giving life to that ill intent.

Unseen evil eyes are the most sinister at all, and are the reason for evil eye amulets and evil eye charms. Unseen evil eyes are hidden evil within that is deliberate and intentional, usually caused by intense jealousy. For instance, if someone covets something you have that they don't, they may wish harm on your good fortune, resulting in bad luck.

RELATED: 60 Common Superstitions People Around The World Believe In

History of the Evil Eye Symbol

The evil eye symbol reportedly dates back about 5,000 years and is particularly prominent in the Mediterranean and Western Asian.

But the belief in the evil eye is said to have originated during the Classical Antiquity, a period that encompasses ancient Greco-Roman times, between 8th century B.C. and 6th century A.D. The evil eye appeared on Chalcidian drinking vessels called "eye cups." In the Mediterranean region, evil eyes were depicted on ceramic, clay, and using glass beads, which became popular around 1500 B.C.

Various Greek philosophers and writers, including Hesiod, Plutarch and Pluto, referenced the phenomenon. In 100 A.D., Plutarch explained the evil eye in his book "Symposiacs," saying that the human eye was powerful enough to poison and kill individuals, particularly children and small animals.

Another part of Plutarch’s philosophy was that people from the south of the Black Sea had the exceptional power of giving off the evil eye. It’s claimed that those who are extremely proficient with the power tend to have blue eyes, because it’s a genetic rarity in the Mediterranean.

Though it originated in the Mediterranean, cultures on every continent have their interpretation of the evil eye, with heavy influence in various parts of Asia, Latin and Central America, East and West Africa, and Europe. Religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism, all have a strong fear of the evil eye.

The Evil Eye in Modern Times

In today’s society and modern days, the evil eye is still taken seriously in various cultures. But the evil eye symbol has also made its way into popular culture through jewelry and fashion.

The belief in the evil eye is strong in various cultures and religions, including Muslim doctrine. Ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammad, reported Allah’s messenger, saying, “The influence of an evil eye is a fact; if anything would precede the destiny it would be the influence of an evil eye, and when you are asked to take bath (as a cure) from the influence of an evil eye, you should take bath."

As mentioned before, people with blue eyes — also including light blue eyes and light-colored eyes, in general — are thought to bestow the evil eye, whether on purpose or not.

In fashion, wearing the evil eye on a necklace or amulet is commonly blue for this reason. The evil eye is portrayed as a singular cobalt blue eye, sometimes with eyelashes. It’s a common symbol found especially on jewelry.

Coach 1941 famously featured the evil eye on one of its sweaters in its 2019 Cruise Collection. The evil eye was also featured in Nicole Miller’s 2019 Ready-to-Wear collection on various pieces, including jackets and dresses. Even ASOS had a houseware brand, SUPPLY, that featured the evil eye on a bedspread, a bath mat, and even a cushion cover.

Susanna Cordner, a senior research fellow and archivist for the London College of Fashion, attributes the rising popularity of the evil eye to “contemporary anxieties” which brings people back to the talismans and amulets that had brought comfort in the past.

Cordner also explained how the founders of many famous luxury brands, including Coco Chanel and Saint Yves Laurent, were especially superstitious. Their successors have appropriated that private belief into what Cordner describes as a “public muse.”

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How to Protect Yourself From the Evil Eye

Protection against the evil eye varies depending on the region and culture. In the Middle East and Europe, phallic charms were worn as a symbol of protection, and the evil eye was also depicted on mosaics, buildings and carvings.

In order to ward off the evil eye and protect yourself, the most common remedy is to wear the symbol on your person. Whether it's a piece of jewelry or a symbol you carry with you, doing so brings good luck and protects against ill intent.

In Greek culture, individuals would carry a cross and incense, and had certain objects thought to aid in protection, including garlic, salt, gunpowder, a nail, and different colored strings. It's also said that bear fur would be burned as a cure for the curse. Another method was through prayer, by shouting "ftou!" three times.

Other countries believed that pinching someone on the butt would cure the curse, while European Christians would make the sign of the cross. In Bangladesh, young women would have a secret dot drawn behind their ears, while parts of India would practice cross-dressing to avert the gaze. In some Asian and African cultures, because the mouth was open when eating or drinking, this would only take place among close family and behind locked doors.

Additional measures of protection included hand gestures, ritual drawings, sacred texts, amulets or talismans, as well as use of the hamsa in Africa and the Middle East; the hamsa, or Hand of Fatima, depicts the evil eye in the center of a palm that wards off the evil eye.

Evil Eye Color Meanings

While the traditional color of the evil eye is depicted as dark or cobalt blue, with blue and white circles, also known as the nazar, different evil eye colors symbolize a variety of meanings.

Red Evil Eye: courage, energy and enthusiasm; gives protection from anxiety and fear

Orange Evil Eye: happiness; inspiration for commitment; motivation; creativity; playfulness

Yellow or Gold Evil Eye: protects health; relief from exhaustion; improves concentration

Light Green Evil Eye: promotes good health; contentment; guides you toward the path to success

Dark Green Evil Eye: life balance; happiness; provides clarity on seeking out ambitions.

Light Blue Evil Eye: general protection; grants peace and solitude; discovery of new things/perspective

Dark Blue Evil Eye: fate and karma protection; promotes calm; improves communication

Purple Evil Eye: removes difficulties and obstacles; boosts imagination; helps to re-balance your life

Pink Evil Eye: protection of friendships; promotes relaxation

Brown Evil Eye: protection from the elements of nature; connection to nature; provides order

Grey Evil Eye: promotes open-mindedness to new situations; protection against sadness

White Evil Eye: gives a fresh start; clears obstacles in your path; promotes purity and focus

RELATED: How To Demystify Evil For Peace Of Mind

Chinyere Ibeh is a writer, multimedia journalist, and host of The Chinny Chronicles radio show. She has bylines in The Depaulia, Her Campus, 14East Magazine, and others. Visit her website for more.

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