The Evil Eye in Cultural and Church History – Otto & Hannah Soderlund

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In the middle of “The Americana”, Glendale‘s luxurious mall, a sidewalk vendor openly sells what she calls “lucky charms”. These trinkets are marketed as bracelets, brooches, car accessories, wall hangings and Christmas ornaments. Though generally known as evil eye charms, these items have morphed into fashion accessories. The saleslady sold a wide cultural variety: the elephant charm of the Hindus, the dolphin charm of the Romans, the horseshoe
charm of the Bedouins and Celts, the hand charm of the Middle East, the crucifix of the Roman Catholic Church and the wall hanging of saints of the Armenian Orthodox church.

Belief in the evil eye was so common that many cultures had a term for it in their vocabulary. Many cultures recognized the problem of the “evil eye”, and developed ways to cope. Each culture developed its own theory as to the causes, the common symptoms, the possible prevention and cure for the evil eye. However, there are discernible patterns. The word is different but the concept is the same. For example, the evil eye charm shaped like a hand with an eye in the center of the palm is called, “The Hand of Miriam” by the Jews, “The Hand of Fatima” by Muslims, and “The Hand of Christ” by early Greek Orthodox Christians.

Two primary sources that are consistently cited in bibliography on the evil eye are: the 1895 Evil Eye: An Account of this Ancient and Widespread Superstition, edited by Frederick Elworthy (Elworthy); and the 1981 The Evil Eye: A Casebook, edited by Alan Dundes (Dundes). These books confirm the wide-ranging cultural data.