The Evil Eye


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 7, 2001
Italian court outlaws touching of genitals
By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Last Updated: 3:17am GMT 29/02/2008

The Italian supreme court has outlawed men from touching their genitals in public.

Crotch-grabbing is an ancient superstitious habit in Italy that is believed to ward off the evil eye - it is traditional for men to do it if passed by a hearse or when discussing serious illness or disasters. The phrase "Io mi tocco" ("I touch my") is as common as crossing fingers for good luck. ...

Many Italians are superstitious and common fears include the number 17, purple and black, which are colours of mourning, and leaving hats on beds - because a priest always leaves his hat on the bed while performing the last rites.

Some Italians carry a "corno", an amulet in the shape of a horn, to ward off evil and an alternative to the crotch grab is to make a sign of the horns with the first and fourth fingers. ... tch129.xml
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For the last year I've worked at a women's college in Unaizah, SA. The region is very conservative, even for Saudi and I'd thought that folk-beliefs would be frowned upon by their strict brand of Islam as superstitions are frowned on by strict Christians.
Nevertheless, about a week ago one of the Saudi admin assistants came into my classroom during a lesson with a big jug of water. The jug was passed around the women who, to my complete bemusement, each blew into the water and then passed the jug back to the admin lady. She told me that one of the students had complained of being cursed with the evil eye by a fellow student and would only return to the college once the curse had been lifted. She could apparently lift the curse by drinking or bathing in the water, which now contained spit from every girl in the college.
I was shocked, and believe me, after a few months in Saudi, nothing shocks you anymore. The students were not in the least bit surprised by this public acting out of superstition.
I wonder what others make of this and if anyone else who has lived in the Middle East has their own experiences of such traditions.
... The notion of the Evil Eye and the amulets that turn it away may be one of the very oldest supernatural beliefs. I personally consider it an allegory on the dangers inspired by jealousy, which is a very toxic emotion regardless of whether you are feeling it or its recipient.
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NOTE: This post was copied from the 'Request For Help Identifying A Talisman' thread in Notes & Queries to seed a new thread on the subject of the evil eye.
Since writing the above, I have dug out the book on the Evil Eye.
And very interesting it is too, written by one Frederick Thomas Elworthy,
antiquarian and Freemason in 1895. Mine's a cheap modern reprint alas. ...

The book James cites is a classic treatise on this subject.

A full text transcription of Elworthy's The Evil Eye is accessible online at:

Searchable scanned versions of the book are also available at Google Books:"evil+eye"#v=snippet&q="evil eye"&f=false eye&f=false
The evil eye was the subject of a featured article in Fortean Times back in 2002 - an article once accessible on the magazine's now-defunct website. The MIA webpage can still be accessed via the Wayback Machine ...

The Evil Eye
Matiasma, malocchio, mal de ojo - all over the Mediterannean, from Spain to Turkey, belief in the power of the evil eyes still thrives. Jeff Koyen travelled to Greece to find out how and why an ancient superstition can persist into the 21st century.
By Jeff Koyen
July 2002

Some excerpts ...

Matiasma, malocchio, mal de ojo. Greek, Italian and Spanish manifestations of the same thing: the evil eye. There are Portuguese, Turkish, Egyptian, Scandinavian and even British and Irish variations, but all appear to originate from a common source in the Middle East. Its modern presence can be felt most strongly in Mediterranean nations, as well as in India and the Spanish-influenced South American countries. The practice of casting the evil eye is also sometimes referred to as ‘overlooking’.

As with so much folklore, the evil eye varies not just across cultures, but within the cultures themselves. Ask one Greek man about the matiasma, for example, and you may be told that only bad people can cause it. Another may believe that a compliment from anyone can make the recipient ill. ...

Belief in the evil eye centres on the Mediterranean but is widespread in the modern world. The lady who introduced me to the concept came from a Russian family, but Jews all over the world keep alive this fear of the spirit of envy, as do Muslims as far away as Pakistan. ...

... The two hand signs (right) that are used to oppose it are both depictions of the female reproductive organs. In one, the thumb, second and third fingers are folded onto the palm while the first and fourth fingers protrude like horns. The horns resemble, of course, the horns of that female symbol, the moon, but primarily they represent the bull’s-head shape of the womb with its fallopian tubes. The other protective gesture is that known as the fig or fico, in which the fingers curl into a fist with the tip of the thumb showing between the first and second fingers in imitation of the female vulva.

Gestures are all very well, but they can be used only fleetingly. More permanent protection requires some object that can replace the human hand. Amulets are often made in the form of a fist making one of these gestures, but the evil eye can be fended off in other, subtler ways. ...

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This 2010 Arab News article describes how the evil eye is an active concern in Middle Eastern culture ...
The evil eye an obsession for most Middle Eastern families

Some Saudi and Arab families are overly obsessed with the fear that someone will envy them or give them the evil eye. As a result, some people resort to extreme measures, such as living poorly or always pretending to be sick.

Like many other cultures, the evil eye concept exists in Arab societies, with envy and hatred often considered a cause. As a result, many people believe the evil eye can cause impairment, sterility, childbirth problems, deficient breast milk, domestic problems, accidents, illnesses and unemployment.

The evil eye is also thought to affect children, adults, livestock and people’s possessions. ...