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The Baleful Head by Sir Edward Burne-Jones (detail) [1886-7]

The Evil Eye

by Frederick Thomas Elworthy


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There is another concept of "why bad things happen" that probably predates the theory that there is one centralized source of evil. This is, to use a computer anology, a peer-to-peer theory of evil. The evil eye is a widespread belief that unlucky events can ensue if you attract the attention of particular people. These people, sometimes involuntarily, sometimes voluntarily, can cast a malignant spell on others simply by looking at them.

This lavishly illustrated work is the classic study of this superstition. Starting with a mass of anecdotes from contemporary observations in Italy and rural England, Elworthy, using all of his skills as a folklorist and etymologist, delves deeper. He gives examples of the belief on a world-wide basis and far back in time, to classical paganism and beyond. He also elaborates all of the methods that have been used to ward off the jettatura, including talismans, spells, spitting, hand gestures and many others.

Belief in the evil eye is still very active even with the advance of modernity. As I was researching this topic in preparation for developing this etext, I stumbled on a Google link to a middle-eastern chat board. The posting included detailed and very arcane descriptions of rituals that one could use to purge an attack of the evil eye. So the evil eye is still with us, and even if you don't believe in it, there are many cultures which take it very seriously. Understanding the malocchio is an important part of being a world citizen.

--John Bruno Hare, February 25th, 2004.

Title Page
List of Illustrations
Chapter I. Introduction
Chapter II. Sympathetic Magic
Chapter III. Totems, Portents, Tree-Worship
Chapter IV. Symbols and Amulets
Chapter V. The Gorgoneion
Chapter VI. Crescents, Horns, Horseshoes
Appendix I
Appendix II
Chapter VII. Touch, Hands, Gestures
Chapter VIII. The Cross
Chapter IX. The Mano Pantea
Chapter X. The Cimaruta, Sirene, Tablets
Chapter XI. Cabalistic Writing--Magical Formulæ
Chapter XII. Spitting, Incantation, and Other Protective Acts. Pixies
Appendix III