Folk Beliefs
Material
Protection

Protective Eye Amulet-Armenian

Wearing an ‘eye’ as a means of protection against harm, jealousy, and ill-will

Protective Eye Amulet

Right after baptism, some Armenian babies are clothed in all white, with a blue eye pinned to their clothes. Adults will wear it as well, as it is supposed to act as a protective “mirror” that reflects curses and evil back at its source and away from its wearer. According to Mary, the powers of the eye will be greatest if it is a gift from someone else—“that’s much more effective than if you just get one for yourself” she said. Mary showed me her eye, which she always pins to her bra. I was not able to get a picture of it, but it looked very similar to the one in this photograph (Mary spoke of the eye only in terms of pins or brooches, however, and did not mention necklaces). Mary’s brilliant blue eye was set in a golden plate. She said hers was very strong because it was a gift from her mother. She told me that because there is no one who cares more for one’s welfare than one’s mother, an eye from one’s mother is the strongest kind. Mary learned of this from her mother and her grandmother, but told me that many Armenians believe this. She also added that it was not at all a matter of religion.

When I heard of this, saw the gorgeous pin, and watched my friend explain to me the power of her pin with unwavering conviction, I was intrigued—it was not only until much later when I did some research that I found out just how widespread and thoroughly studied a tradition this was, known as the evil eye. Mary, however, did not mention to me that she believed in any people who could cast the evil eye (a belief that seems to resemble the Azande’s ideas of magic)—instead, she seemed to believe that her eye was meant to ward off general negative energy and evil influences. She used the word devil a lot, but said “it doesn’t have to mean the real devil, but just, you know, evil.”

It was also an interesting detail that she believed that the effectiveness of the amulet increases depending on who gave it to her, and on the degree of sincerity with which it was given. To me, this is a very interesting, almost modern, twist on this ancient superstition. It is almost implies an “it is the thought that counts” attitude. It is an idea that suggests that the power lies not so much within the eye-resembling object itself, but within the love of a mother or sincere friend. This, to me, suggests influence by contemporary metaphysical thinking.


Annotations:

Elworthy, F. T. (2004). The Evil Eye: The Classic Account of an Ancient Superstition. Courier

Dover Publications.

Dundes, A. (1981). The Evil Eye: A Folklore Casebook. Garland Pub.

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