USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘spitting’
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Spitting on Babies and Crossing your Heart; Protection from the Evil Eye

A is an 18-year-old woman. She is currently studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. She considers her nationality to be American, but more specifically she is one quarter Greek Cypriote, one quarter German and half Argentinian. that being said, she strongly identifies with her Greek roots. She is fluent in both English and Greek, and is currently learning Mandarin.

A: Oh, you have to do the cross every time you pass a church or God will be angry. It’s a good one. Like my Grandmother will be driving and she’ll do the [sign of] the cross.

Me: God will be angry?Are there reprecussions if you don’t do it?

A: I’m unaware. Oh my God, the Evil Eye! Katherine Dupas still wears hers.

Me; Oh yeah we talked about that in class!

A: There’s an idea that if someone sends negative energy towards you and thinks ill will of you then something bad will happen to you. That’s kind of what it is. If you don’t cross yourself it’s not that you necessarily have something negative towards you it’s that you won’t be as protected by God against the negative energy and stuff from the Evil Eye.

Me: So the Evil Eye is…?

A: Other people being malicious towards you.

Me: So the Evil Eye is the symbol of that? And the cross in front of the church protects you from that?

A: Yeah.

Me: So why do people wear the Evil Eye?

A: Cause then it also protects you from the Evil Eye.

Me: By wearing it?

A: Yeah, cause the Eye looks at the other eye instead of at you.

Me: Ok, I get it now.

A: This is also why old ladies, old Greek ladies spit on babies and small children. When they’re like “ptou-ptou” it’s because there an idea that people who are attractive will incur the Evil Eye because of their beauty people will envy them, so you’re supposed to spit on them for good luck and also make them less enviable.

Me: So you do that to babies because you don’t know or because they’re young?

A: Cause they’re young and adorable, and you don’t want someone to be envious of their adorableness and send them bad vibes.

Me: Aw, who would wish terrible things upon a baby?

A: The Evil Eye works in weird ways.

A talks about

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Black Cats in Moldova

“So, when I was in Greece, one of the people that I stayed with that worked at the hostel was from Moldova, which is apparently the coolest place in the world because it has the highest partying—alcohol consumption rate, per person, or something. So anyway, that’s beside the point. So anyways, we were walking around Athens, at, like six in the morning and he saw, like, a black cat cross his path, and he literally hissed at the black cat, spit over his left shoulder, and yelled out a sort of curse thing. And I asked ‘Why… why did you do that? It’s just a black cat.’ And he’s like, ‘It’s incredibly bad luck that it crossed our path,’ you know, ‘we’re going to have so much bad luck, but it’s okay. I took care of it. I did the curse.’ And I didn’t know what he said because it was in Moldovan.”

 

The informant learned of this version of the black cat superstition in 2012. The informant does not know why the specific elements of the hiss, spitting (over the left shoulder specifically), and the curse come into play, but she said that she learned it was all part of breaking the demonic curse put on you by the black cat running in front of you. The informant emphasized that she learned the order of the ritual is very important or “bad luck descend upon you.” She also found it interesting that people were still so into the ritual even in 2012, because she is skeptical of this type of belief.

The counter-curse to the demonic curse is surprisingly similar to a reaction that the cat supposedly doing the cursing may have. The hiss and curse mimic a cat’s hissing and meowing—they both come off as aggressive, animalistic behaviors. I’ve encountered spitting superstitions, but I have never encountered a reason for it (it might refer again to the cat’s hissing/spitting). It seems like in this case of contagious magic, you can reverse the process by repeating the curse (made by the cat) yourself.

[geolocation]