USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘bad eye’
Folk Beliefs
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Protection

Protection Ritual— India

The practice as described by Anish:  “So when I was younger and I used to have nightmares and stuff, there’s a concept in India that you have a ‘bad eye,’ or like a negative energy looking down on you.  So what you do is you put a black dot underneath your left ear, and that’s supposed to keep away bad thoughts and bad energy from you.”

Anish told me that he learned this practice from his parents, who would draw a black dot behind his left ear from the time when he was a baby until he was around ten years old.  He said that he did not think this practice had religious origins, as his father is Hindi and his mother is Christian.  Instead, he always considered it a secular practice, more like an Indian/geographical superstition rather than a religious one.

Anish said that he had to walk around in public with a large black dot under his left ear very often when he was growing up, but that he never thought it was unusual even though he didn’t understand the exact reasoning behind the practice.  He said that he sometimes felt strange if other children pointed the black dot out, but for the most part it was a common practice in the part of India in which he grew up.  Others would also have the black dot occasionally, and it didn’t seem unusual.  The fear of the “bad eye” or “negative energy” was common, and there were several other practices to get rid of it.

Although Anish did not specifically use the term “evil eye,” opting instead for “bad eye,” the concept sounds very similar.  This practice is likely just another way for people to ward off evil spirits and feel more comfortable after performing a superstitious act.  The black dot probably acts like another eye staring back, keeping the “bad spirits” from entering into your brain.

This is likely a way for children to feel better about their nightmares and more protected by their parents.  Anish said that only children have the black dot drawn behind their ear, which is likely due to the fact that children have a hard time understanding and dealing with things like nightmares.  Children feel comforted knowing that their children are protected from the “bad eye,” and parents feel comforted knowing that their children feel protected.

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