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Ach’k (Evil Eye)

Item:

Western Armenian: աչք

Phonetic (IPA): ɑt͡ʃʰkʰ

Transliteration: ach’k

Translation: eye

A blue bead representing an eye can be used to ward off evil. The bead is simply called the “ach’k,” meaning “eye.” For example, the ach’k could be hung from the rear view mirror of a car, worn as a necklace, or kept somewhere in a house. There is a particular color of blue needed for a bead to be an ach’k.

In particular, it is supposed to protect its owner from others’ covetous eyes. There is a particular saying associated with this belief:

Western Armenian: աչք կպնէ

Phonetic (IPA): ɑt͡ʃʰkʰ kpnɛ

Transliteration: ach’k gbné

Translation: the eye touches

The phrase literally translates to “the eye touches,” but the informant translates it as “the eye will touch you,” meaning that other people’s covetous eyes could touch you with some negative magic, unless you have an ach’k protecting you.

Background Information:

The informant learned this folk belief from his mother, who believes in it passionately. She keeps several in her house and gave him one to put in his car. The informant is skeptical of the belief but doesn’t deny it outright. For a while, the informant kept his ach’k hanging from his rear view mirror, until he became embarrassed by its perceived superstitious-ness and took it down. He still keeps it in his car, though—now out of sight in the glove compartment.

The informant believes that the ach’k is a very common belief among Armenians.

Contextual Information:

The ach’k belief is accompanied by the particular saying and object associated with it. These items are usually performed and displayed in public, though the informant has made his more private due to embarrassment.

Analysis:

The ach’k belief is clearly a variant on the very widespread “evil eye” folk belief. Unlike the more common variants, in this version of the belief, the eye is not particularly associated with growth, but rather with envy. It still shares the general spirit that there is a danger in prosperity and wealth—whether it is grown, purchased, or otherwise obtained.

Using a bead representing an eye to protect from others’ eyes is an example of homeopathic magic.

For other versions of the evil eye folk belief, see “The Evil Eye: A Folklore Casebook” (1981) by Alan Dundes.

Folk Beliefs
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Material
Protection

Greek Evil Eye (Object)

The informant showed me a piece of jewelry that she recently obtained from an expedition to Greece. It is strung on a very simple rope necklace. The pendant is what is called an “evil eye”. It is a vivid sapphire blue and in the shape of a circle. There is a smaller white circle within the blue stone. Finally, there’s a black dot. It looks like a bullseye target. The stone appears to be made out of some sort of glass, and the blue and white circles within it appear to be paint or a glaze. My informant told me that when she bought it, there were various sizes available – pendants, earrings, rings, and even large versions that you could hang on your door or as room decor.

My informant says that she picked up the item when she was on a cruise in the Mediterranean. She got it at the port in Mykonos at a street vendor, however she recalls seeing the exact same “evil eye” jewelry in Turkey. The store vendor in Turkey claimed it was a Turkish artifact, which may have to do with “Romantic Nationalism”.

My informant tells me that the store vendor says it’s to ward off bad luck.

Analysis: According to Dundes, the evil eye was thought to be the eye of envy – where a person giving someone else a look of envy could put a curse on that person. In Greek superstition, it is said that if someone felt like they were nauseous and had a sense of foreboding, like something bad was going to happen, it had to do with the evil eye curse. In the majority of the research, the curse was thought to be unintentional, and the result of an envious stare. A common practice is Greece and Turkey is to pin an evil eye pendant onto a newborn or a baby in order to protect them from harm. This artifact is actually found in many cities across the Mediterranean, making it hard to pinpoint a specific origin, however the general consensus among researchers is that it started in Greece.

Dundes concludes that the evil eye has to do with fish’s eyes, because they are always moisturized. The evil stare and effects of the evil eye curse come with withering, dehydration, etc, and the blue of the glass symbolizes water and moisture. Therefore it is a way to counteract the evil eye. Another theory that has received research is the theory that you “fight fire with fire”, so you wear an evil eye to neutralize the effects of the evil eye.

Annotation: Dundes, Alan. The Evil Eye: A Casebook. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, 1992. Print.

http://iscte.pt/~fgvs/Dundes%20Wet.pdf

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