One of the most famous things about Turkey is the evil eye pendant. It is used almost everywhere in the country. Even though it is frequently used by the locals, the meaning or the original function of it is lost. Today, evil eye beads are only used as decorative objects around the houses, in the cars, shops and even on babies and kids. However, it is only seen as a tradition and not as an actual means of protection from evil. In order to understand this tradition, the history and the roots of it should be examined first. Let us first understand what evil eye means.
WHAT IS EVIL EYE?
The evil eye as a concept or belief is not specific to Turkey. It is found in almost every culture from East to West, only in different forms. The evil eye is basically a malignant glare towards someone or something. The glare is usually jealous in its nature and the receiver is often unaware of it being malicious. It is believed that whoever receives such a glare, will run into bad luck, get injured or in general, something bad will happen to them. In its essence, the evil eye is negative energy produced by someone and directed toward someone else. It is generally believed that anyone is able to cast an evil eye on someone, however, in Aegean countries, people with pale blue eyes are believed to be specifically powerful at casting the evil eye.
The belief of the evil eye dates back to ancient times. The famous Italian poet Plutarch stated that the evil eye could be deadly, almost like a poisoned dart to the receiver. Even in the works of Virgil, the evil eye is mentioned to have an effect on Menalcas’ lambs.
The belief of the evil eye is mostly seen in West Asian cultures, Latin America, Africa, as well as the Mediterranean. It is also seen in Europe especially where the Celts once lived.
As cultures believed the existence of the evil eye and its effects on human beings as well as the objects, people started to search for ways to protect themselves from such harmful glares of jealous individuals. Some cultures found refuge in certain symbols with certain colors, some cultures used certain objects and some cultures preferred specific prayers for protection. In any case, the effect of the evil eye is considered to be dangerous and even deadly in almost all cultures and the person who is suffering from the evil eye’s effect needs to be cured immediately.
DIFFERENT WAYS OF PROTECTION FROM THE EVIL EYE IN DIFFERENT CULTURES
The ways of being protected from the evil eye vary from culture to culture. These methods are largely connected with the beliefs as well as the religion of the culture itself as well as their traditions dating back to the ancient times.
In Greece, there is an ancient prayer told to cast off the effects of the evil eye which is handed down from one generation to the other. It is believed that if a person is a victim of the evil eye, both the person who prays and the victim starts yawning. Then, the person who is saying the prayer makes a cross sign. There are lots of different ways of checking if one is the victim of the evil eye, including testing with oil and cloves.
THE RAW CHICKEN EGG
In Mexican culture, there are amulets with eye-like designs on them to protect the person who wears it from the evil eye. They also use raw eggs to both understand if someone is affected by the evil eye and also cure them. After rubbing a raw chicken egg on the affected person, the egg is broken into a glass full of water and the glass is placed under the person’s bed. If the egg appears to be cooked, then it is understood the person was affected by the evil eye. After the egg appears to be cooked, the person starts to get better as the egg absorbed all the evil energy.
HAND GESTURES AND CORNICELLO
In Italy, different from all the other amulets, a little horn amulet named cornicello is used. They are either made of gold or carved from coral. Ancient Romans and their descendants believed that the evil eye had a drying effect on human genitals. Fearing from impotence, they would make certain figures with their hands to distract the person who is cursing someone.
In Puerto Rico, there are certain symptoms of the evil eye such as lack of energy, nausea, fever and body weakness. If someone has any of these symptoms, it is possible that they have been affected by the evil eye. There are also environmental symptoms such as family and financial problems. They use Azabache bracelets to be protected from the evil eye which has red or black coral amulets in the shape of a hand made into a fist with the thumb in between the index and middle finger.
MIRRORS AND ELEPHANTS
In Brazil, mirrors outside the front door, as well as mirrors inside the house facing the front door, are used to return the negative energy coming from the evil eye to the person who is casting it off. They also use elephant figures facing away from the front door as well as salt in certain places of the house.
THE COLOR BLACK
In India, similar to the other cultures, a bracelet can be used as a means of protection as well as tattoos and slogans to cast off the evil eye. “Buri nazar wale tera muh kala” is a well-known slogan which is uttered to the evil-eyed person for their face to turn black. In India, as opposed to the blue color, black is used to protect one from the evil eye which is why they use eyeliners on newborns and children’s eyes.
HOW DO TURKS CAST OFF THE EVIL EYE?
There are a few different traditional methods the Turks use to cast off the evil eye. Pouring lead and using evil eye pendants are the always the top choices.
Pouring lead is an old tradition in Turkey. This practice can be seen in Turkic countries as well in countries like Finland, Germany and Switzerland. Especially in Germany and Finland, this is a traditional ritual practiced on New Year’s Eve to see what the future holds. Over the years, this tradition has been mixed with religious verses in Turkey, even though it has no religious background.
The person who is believed to be affected by the evil eye is sat down and a cloth is stretched on top of their head while someone pours molten lead into cold water over their head. While pouring the lead, verses from the Qur’an are recited however, it should be noted that lead pouring is not an Islamic ritual but the verses are only recited for protection. As the person is pouring the lead, it takes different shapes and those shapes are interpreted by the person who performs the pouring. If the lead becomes spiky, the person is believed to be affected by the evil eye. It is also believed that the lead absorbs all the negative energy from the person, therefore, casting the evil eye off.
THE TURKISH EVIL EYE AMULET
Also known as Nazar Boncuğu in Turkish, evil eye pendant is made of glass, copper and iron, mixed with water and salt. The pendant is blue in color and an eye figure is placed on top. The ingredients used in the making of the amulet is believed to act as a shield against the evil while the eye figure stares back to the malignant glares, casting them off. The blue color is also believed to have a protective effect as it takes in the negative energy.
Even though there are mass-produced evil eye pendants, making an evil eye amulet is an art dating back 3000 years. Master artisans hand-make every pendant with the utmost care and this craft is handed down from father to son.
In Turkey, you can see these evil eye beads everywhere. When we say everywhere, we do mean everywhere! Inside the houses, on the doors, in taxis, on necklaces and bracelets, on windows, in buses, on keychains… Newborn babies usually have an evil eye bead somewhere on their clothes as well. If you go into a souvenir shop, it is most likely to be full of evil eye beads in all shapes and sizes.
Using the evil eye pendant has become a tradition in Turkey. Nowadays, even though they are used frequently, most Turks do not believe that the pendants have an actual protective effect against evil.
WHERE CAN YOU BUY AN EVIL EYE BEAD IN TURKEY?
You can find the evil eye beads literally anywhere. In any souvenir shop, you can find the evil eye pendant in many different forms. If you are in Istanbul, you can go to the Grand Bazaar to find different designs.