Tag Archives: evil eye

E Is For Evil Eye: Origin Of A Superstition

It’s not just a staple of low budget horror movies—the Evil Eye is very real. Sort of.

In the 1800s, Italian immigrants brought their hopes, dreams, and superstitions with them to the New World. Among these was the belief in an Evil Eye, the “mal’occhio” (MAL-OAK-EE-OH). According to Italian folklore, stragas(witches) could use this power at will. But even a normal person gripped by jealousy was believed to be capable of cursing you. 

And, where there’s a curse, the Evil Eye also had a cure. Victims of this ocular curse were diagnosed using a basin filled with holy water and a bottle of olive oil. The basin was placed before the afflicted while an incantation was recited. The olive oil was then poured into the water in the form of a cross. If the cross of oil remained, you were fine, but if the oil dispersed, you were cursed!

Of course, if you didn’t want to perform this ceremony yourself, you could always consult an evil-eye doctor. The evil-eye doctors were believed to have cured countless victims through prayer and the laying on of hands, but the exact ritual they used to cure their patients is still unknown. It was only passed down through families once a year, at Midnight on Christmas Eve. At any other time, the ritual would lose its power to cure. Today, the evil eye doctors’ cure is still a secret.

If you’re wondering, the concept of the evil eye was not confined to Italy. In other parts of the world, belief in the evil eye is still strong, and people wear talismans to protect themselves, such as necklaces and bracelets.

While an evil eye curse isn’t a common thing these days, the effects of the belief in mal’occhio can be seen in modern popular culture. It’s likely you’ve seen the hand sign that people use to protect themselves from the evil eye, but probably thought it represented something else like partying or Rock n’ Roll. The late Ronny James Dio a heavy metal musician who once played with Black Sabbath, claims to have popularized the use of this symbol during rock concerts. After Ozzy Ozbourne left Black Sabbath, the rest of the band felt very competitive with him and his solo career. They noticed that Ozzy would often use the double peace sign, more commonly associated with Richard Nixon, during his shows. During their Heaven and Hell tour in 1980, they thought, “We need a hand sign that represents us!” That’s when Dio says he suggested the hand sign taught to him by his Italian grandmother.

Dio believed it was thought to work when the two outstretched fingers served as lightning rods to suck up the negative effect of mal’occhio. However, it is more probable that like the little golden horn so often worn by Italian men, the horn-like hand placement represents the male symbol of the bull. One mal’occhio researcher believes that the fear of the evil eye has its origins all the way back in ancient Mesopotamia. He believes it stems from a change in the way people worshipped the goddess. Originally goddess idols were very rotund, grossly emphasizing the torso. Then suddenly goddess idols drastically changed. They became thin with grossly exaggerated eyes. He believes that mal’occhio represents the all-seeing eyes of this goddess. In that case, using the male symbol of the bull to protect yourself makes more sense. Perhaps the male energy is meant to deflect the female power of mal’occhio.

If you’re not a fan of Rock and Roll, or you don’t ever find yourself at odds with an Italian, you aren’t in the clear. If you have ever been to an optometrist for an eye exam, you have crossed paths with the evil eye. In fact, according to optometrists, we all have an evil eye. More specifically, it’s our left eye, which, in eyeglasses prescriptions, is noted as “OS” (the right eye is noted as “OD”). OS is an abbreviation of the Latin term Oculus Sinister, or “evil eye” (OD is short for oculus dexter, the right eye).

Sinister is literally the Latin term for “left”, but owing to Old World superstitions, left-handed people were considered evil—and thus the term sinister came to mean something bad, or evil.

Remember that the next time you go to pick out a new set of frames.

To learn more about the Evil Eye, check out our episode “CURSES: FROM EVIL EYES TO JINXED BUILDINGS”!

237 – Curses: From Evil Eyes to Jinxed Buildings

Since the Academy Awards were this weekend, we thought we’d do a uick update to our Oscar Love Curse episode that we recorded the same time last year (and to quote another Academy Award nominee from this year, another one bites the dust… Sorry, Brie Larson, you’re the latest victim of the Oscar Love Curse!)

But celebrities are just one of the many things that people are superstitious about and we all do it to some extent. Have you ever called some piece of clothing like your tie or your hat or even your socks, “lucky”?

Do you ever perform a little ritual before doing something important? Maybe shave a certain way because the last time you did it that way, you had an amazing date? Or listen to a certain song because it gets you pumped up and you feel you need that confidence? That’s just basic human nature. We do things to try and convince our mind that success is on the way, it’s just a little bit of magical thinking in our lives, but sometimes it seems to help.

But what happens when something horrible happens to you while you’re wearing a certain t-shirt or a pair of shoes or while a song is playing in the background? Do those things become “unlucky”? Well, that’s the question we tackle today as we discuss curses!

In this episode, Wendy and I are joined by Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com, Allison Jornlin from HawaiiParacon.com, and paranormal author C.E. Martin (check out his Stranger Than Fiction book!) to talk about strange cases of cursed objects, people, and even bulidings!

You can give someone the Evil Eye and not even know it…

Allison has done some research into the Italian Evil Eye called Il Malocchio and it can curse you without the person even knowing it. Often the eye is caused when someone looks at you with envy or extreme jealousy.

Some families have special rituals to combat Il Malocchio but they are kept very secret and can only be passed on one night of the year. In Ronnie James Dio’s family, he was taught that throwing up your rock fist was actually a defense against the Evil Eye and that’s one of the reasons he chose it as his onstage symbol and it’s now been assimilated into the rest of heavy metal culture.

C.E. Martin (here’s his author page on Amazon) has had his own experiences with three curses in his life and he describes them here in his own words:

1. I was cursed at birth. My paternal grandmother, a member of the cultish “Eastern Star” organization, actually showed up at the hospital after I was born and proclaimed to everyone that she wished I’d been still-born. She hated my parents eloping, and took it out on my my entire life–until I was an adult and I realized I didn’t have to take her $%^T anymore. 

2. I’m fairly certain my ghost stories book is cursed (Mike’s note: he’s talking about Stranger Than Fiction, but don’t be scared, it’s a great book!) Writing it took more than two years, filled with bad luck: my daughter’s scoliosis diagnosis, the ensuing therapy and surgery, my wife being in a car wreck, my fall down the stairs at home, my dog unexpectedly dying, my title being stolen, and my recent banning online for mentioning it on paranormal forums (to name a few of the calamities in that period). Best of all, the other day, as I was leaving work, I was thinking about the book as I walked toward the exit from the law office. I was wondering how I could promote the book’s 2 free days online. My thoughts were interrupted when not one, but two large pigeons flew into/rammed the glass of a large picture window I was walking toward, one right after the other. (they bounced off, recovered and landed safely on some nearby power lines). Definitely an omen of the banning that was coming the next morning. 

3. A friend in the USAF removed a Nazi SS ceremonial dagger from a bunker in Italy that US forces opened up after the Italians had sealed it following WWII. The bunker had sat, sealed up for decades. US Forces were examining using it, and my pal was doing security on the site. He decided to stroll around inside and found it abandoned–as in, everything was there as if the Nazi’s had just teleported away or something. So he took a souveneir. Over the next few years, he had a whole string of terrible luck, including  his child getting some kind of strange fever that resulted in brain damage (the little boy was borderline mentally retarded after that and had lots of developmental problems). Eventually, my friend buried the dagger in the backyard of his base-housing quarters right before he and his family moved to their next base. The bad luck did not follow them. 

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In Scott’s book, Voices From The Chicago Grave, he talks about the curse of ‘Cap’ Streeter. George Wellington Streeter was a boat captain who was ferrying passengers from Milwaukee to Chicago on Lake Michigan when a storm capsized his boat near where Superior Drive is in modern Chicago. At the time, however, it was just a sandbar on the edge of the lake. Cap decided to stay there, claim it as his own (even independent from the United States) and made a living by creating a shantytown and garbage heap there. Following scuffles with local law enforcement and some time in jail, Cap cursed the area and some very weird and sad things have happened in the locality since.

Elma Lockwood, George Cap Streeter, and Spot

We also discuss my trip to the Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, where you can see a variety of “cursed” objects from Ed Gein’s Cauldron to Jerry Lewis’ clown costume from a movie he thought was so bad that he never released it (and indeed said that he would not let it be shown until years after his death) The Day The Clown Cried.

Here’s the waiver that you sign at Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum

While we were waiting in line, my wife saw a girl with waist length brown hair and a blue/grey dress running across the parking lot, and then <poof> there was no little girl there. She said the girl looked 5 or 6 years old. I missed the entire thing because I was working on the waiver that you see above, but it was interesting because it was outside and not anywhere near the cursed objects.

Bagans does claim that the mansion is haunted, so maybe it was some kind of residual energy from the family that lived there for decades before it was turned into the museum. We looked for pictures (they talk about the family and the original house’s owner, Cyril S. Wengert, on the tour) and did find several photographs but none seemed to match up to the girl.

Either way, I was jealous! The weirdest thing I saw was a marionette that semed to move on its own and I had guides tell me conflicting stories about whether it was animatronic, or it had moved when the guide bumped the stage, or it was a ghost(!) So, that experience could be chalked up to whatever I choose to believe.

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And it seems that’s how curses live and die, by what we choose to believe. That seemed like a good message for a song, that we’re always struggling against our own heads. They say there are only seven different kinds of conflict in storytelling and while one of them might be “Man vs. Supernatural”, it seems like the battle that is most applicable when you’re fighting a curse is “Man Vs. Self”. Conquering your own fears and superstitions is what this week’s song is all about.

this is our jihad
our fight is a spiritual war
battling our basest instinct
it’s so hard to ignore
and we’ll take that to the morgue
The fortune tellers will predict
but your conviction is the trick
superstitious fiction
don’t let yourself be deceived
a curse as good as you believe

Devour the cowards
drunk on the will to power
Man vs. Self we go down mean
The toughest fight you’ll ever face
is taking on the whims of fate
be more than the dice roll of your genes

Don’t believe everything you read
you don’t need everything you see
you’re more than your credit score
don’t buy in when you should drop out
don’t forget what it’s all about
These are the moments that define
these are the times that will go down
history to the victor
don’t you mess around
you better make your seconds count

Devour the cowards
drunk on the will to power
Man vs. Self we go down mean
The toughest fight you’ll ever face
is taking on the whims of fate
you’re more than the dice roll of your genes