11 July 2011

Evil Eye

The below paragraph I have copied from a book that recently came into our possession.

Greeks seldom call it the "evil eye" just "the eye" (to mati). Perhaps the malevolence of the "the eye" is not confined to those from remote or provincial places. The jet set, the middle class as well as the proletariat, and not a few university educated, swear that it exists. They insist that even doctors acknowledge its reality, just as the Church accepts the existence of demonic possession. Undoubtedly, the experience of "being eyed" is real and widespread, however much one might quarrel with the diagnosis.

Concepts of "the evil eye" abound in Mediterranean societies. Whether these different concepts are about the "same" thing is hotly contested by scholars of this region. But the debate itself underlines just how much " the evil eye" is a social affliction rather than anything particularly metaphysical. Probably , the "evil eye" is about envy. It tends to appear in communities relatively undifferentiated by social class or wealth, but where resources are scarce and competition over them keen. In such places the increments of "superiority " of one family over another are tiny , yet all important. Prestige or honor, variously, requires one to "stand out" from one's neighbors. But not too much, for that invites jealousy and bad will. Out of this paradox the need to be better, the need to be the same comes "the eye". "The eye" is a consequence of envy, but it is envy expressed surreptitiously , even unconsciously.

This qualification is important. A Greek will rarely give "the eye" to someone intentionally. "The eye", by contrast, is cast by accident. The kind of person who casts " the eye" on you or yours is probably a neighbor or an acquaintance, someone with whom relation are -if not warm- at least cordial. It can happen inadvertently when something is praised, or even silently admired. This is why people take precautions by spitting delicately ("Phthew!phthew!phthew!") on an infant they cuddle or admire, to forestall any ill effects.

The sorts of living beings and inanimate objects most vulnerable to " the eye " are those of unusual beauty, rarity or value. (Like my kids, our house and the business)

Wearing blue, blue beads or a little blue pupil encased in plastic repels the danger of "the eye". Many adults place one of these blue eyes next to the cross they wear on a chain around their neck. And until recently all children had some sort of charm - a cross, an eye, an image of the Virgin and Child- pinned to their under-clothes to protect them. (Grandma Katerina did this to the kids anytime they went out in public when they were little).

There is no way to know precisely who has cast "the eye". First, the effects are noticed and only afterwards is a culprit surmised. All concerned anxiously pool their memories to reconstruct the recent past, straining to identify possible suspects with possible motivations. This response of suspicion reinforces belief in " the eye." Oddly enough, then, identifying the culprit is usually quite irrelevant to the cures effectiveness.

This is me writing:

Symptoms in the kids is that they become really wild with lots of crying and clinginess. For us adults we get sudden headaches or a tightening of the chest. Katerina performs the cure by taking rock salt and making the sign of the cross 3 times in the air and then 3 times over the person afflicted she does a special prayer and then throws the salt in the fire. If the fire glows blue then this is proof that the person was afflicted by "the eye" and generally the children will become happy during the process, I call this de-salting and it really seems to work.

So is "the eye" a true thing, I'm not sure but it is slowly making a believer out of me. My next necklace purchase will have a little blue eye on it, to protect me from the envy of others.


Prof said...

This is just garbage but it is understandable. If a country feels powerless and the people are unwilling to be responsible, they seek reasons and people to blame. See this:
Take this snapshot of modern conditions and multiply it throughout the ages: Three thousand years of occupations, invasions, national disintegration and sovereign declarations. Foreigners covet the Greek people. They covet the Greek soil. They compliment it. Then, they take it. I can’t help but wonder if at some level, blue eyes were once indicative of a foreigner. For the most part, the Greeks are not a blue-eyed people. If one accepts blue eyes as signifying ‘foreignness’, then it’s not hard to believe that suspicion of blue eyes equates to a suspicion of strangers. Then consider how an ancient belief can be accidentally reinforced in the modern world: It was only 60 years ago that the Germans came trampling over the Greek homeland. And what colour (at least mythically speaking) are their eyes?
It comes from here:

Jeanie said...

I have to agree with Tim's first sentence~

Jeanie said...

....and I know it is a cultural thing, but spitting on a baby? Yuck~