Author Archives: Francesca Ressa

Evil Eye Oicotype

The Evil Eye and Evil Eye protection as described by informant:

“My mother is not a very religious person or anything she did grow up in an Islamic home. She thinks I’m just being superstitious. I 100% with my soul, even though I believe in God and I believe in Allah, I believe in the evil eye also it’s one of the strongest beliefs I have. It’s it’s not just a Persian thing it can be any Mediterranean you know even the Turks have it everyone has some variation of it basically you wear it and people who wish bad things upon you people who are jealous envious and I feel like I deal with that a lot because I’m in such a competitive major you know so for protection any of their evil energies go to this this absorbs it I will not feel anything and if you don’t I know the Kurds from Iraq I don’t know if the Kurds from Iran do the same thing, my friend who’s Kurdish from Iraq she says that one time she didn’t wear, okay, she didn’t wear this (holding evil eye pendant) she didn’t have any evil eyes on her and she was going to a weeding and she looked really pretty at the wedding and so she felt like a lot of people were being jealous and sending her the evil eye and when she got home on her legs she literally had pimple like things with black they were blackheads all over legs and that’s in the culture. They say that’s it, they put the eye on you they ruined your skin, and like people swear by this 100%. Like I don’t go anywhere without wearing one that’s why I have them in my car I have them on my keys and I wear my necklace. Mine’s literally from Iran, and they had to go everywhere to fucking find it for me. Cuz Like theyy bracelets and stuff like they both them off the internet and stuff and they break but that’s part of the legend is that they break because someone wished something bad on you and the energy broke the bracelet. Instead of the energy effecting you it broke your bracelet or it broke your necklace. That’s how you know it works.”

As my informant says, the Evil Eye exists in different cultures all over the world and the oicotype that she believes in cites the evil eye as deliberate and malicious wishes of bad things to happen to someone, often out of jealousy. Where some might say they have bad luck or bad karma, the evil eye is another popular concept to explain when bad things happen, though there are ways to protect yourself from it or, in a sense, other people. Her evil eye charms and jewelry protect her from the evil eye by absorbing this negative energy, often breaking as they take on the impact of the cynical and envious. Though she explains that her own mother, who is from Iran is not a believer, she is and has gotten her various charms from her aunts and other family members. My informant insisted that she believes in it, and the staunch confidence despite her own mother’s suspicions was funny to observe because as she said herself, “I know, I’m this Persian girl from Oregon with a Valley Girl accent, but I swear it’s true.”

Persian Tale of The Chick and the Kitten

The tale of the chick and the kitten told verbatim by informant:

“My mother and my grandfather told me this as a child and still remind me of it sometimes in Farsi, but I don’t know how exactly how to tell it. It’s a story about this baby chick and its mother hen and the baby chick always asks, ‘Why can’t I go play with that baby kitten over there?’ and the mom always tells it, ‘Don’t go playing with that kitten, don’t go play with the cats,’ doesn’t really explain why but she’s lecturing her chick and the chick goes against her wishes and plays with the cat and gets eaten. So the moral of the story is don’t go and associate with people or mix with people who are your opposites… because they can change you they can get you in a vulnerable environment, like you’re not familiar with, like they can destroy you and they can be bad influences on you and take advantage of you and basically corrupt you as a person.”

I think this märchen is another instance where the authoritative nature of parents towards their children come into play within the Persian culture. There is question from the chick without explanation from mother hen, which is no uncommon to parenting, but since the chick still doesn’t listen and gets eaten (fairly scary for a child) there’s the implication that you shouldn’t every question your parents but simply obey—for your own good. That at 22 years old my informant is still reminded of the lesson from this tale is fascinating because she is first generation American. Since she is in the melting pot of America, surrounding by people who are different in her in so many ways, she needs to be that much more careful with who she surrounds herself with. Though I don’t believe the chick and the kitten are opposed in any formal way, the cat can be understood as a natural predator in most respects. The chick is not just killed, but eaten, which is a whole other level of destruction, or corruption as my informant suggests. Either way the notion of the Other is clearly established and made out to be something to be cautious with, but seemingly avoided all together (if taken more literally).

Mint or Chamomile Tea: Folk Remedy

Mint or Chamomile Tea is a folk remedy for stomach ache:

“We use mint or chamomile for stomach ache. Those are the two popular things. Some people add a little bit sugar to make it taste better. But some people like the tea without sugar because they say it’s a medicine it shouldn’t have sugar.”

Sugarless mint tea and sugarless chamomile tea is a folk remedy my informant learned at a young age in León, Guanajuato, México. It makes sense that folk remedy would be used considering the difficulty buying medicine in the impoverished conditions my informant grew up in.

Folk Remedy for Menstrual Cramp Pain

“When I was a teenager when my period start I always have a pain in my stomach and sometimes my mother warm a tortilla and she put a little bit of lard in the tortilla and make it warm and put it in the stomach to make it go away. You cover uh You put it on the stomach and you lie down for a while and its warm in your stomach. The lard keep your stomach warm.”

This menstrual cramp remedy is a folk remedy my informant learned at a young age in León, Guanajuato, México. It makes sense that folk remedy would be used considering the difficulty buying pain medicine in the impoverished conditions my informant grew up in. Lard and tortillas are basic to Mexican cooking, and heated together this way make for a home-made heating pad if you will, easing pain by relaxing overworked muscles in the lower abdomen.

Esfand and Sage Burning: Persian Cleansing

Esfand and sage burning practices in Persian culture cleanse houses, bodies, and objects that may be occupied by evil spirits, spirits of the dead, or may be afflicted by the evil eye.

Described verbatim by informant:

“Esfand is basically these dried herbs that, every Persian household has them. And say um a lot of bad things have been happening like your car broke down, you got a bad grade, your boyfriend broke up with you, someone died, you know, so people feel like it’s obviously like it’s evil spirits literally are around your house and around your car and they’re around you so when you burn the esfand you walk around and its smells horrible and you walk around and you just you do it over everyone’s head you do it over even like around your pets head you do it around your car um everything you um walk through the room cuz you’re killing things by burning the esfand cuz it smells so bad and that like gives it’s like a cleansing to get rid of the bad spirits that are causing the bad things. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be evil spirits it can just be like people evil eyeing you and wanting bad things to happen to you. Negative Vibes.

Sage is kind of a similar process it’s just to clean whatever was in the house previously to be gone, it’s a fresh start, cuz you don’t know what happened someone could’ve died in that house, you know? Crazy things. So if you want a fresh start in a new home you can do that.”

Esfand to my knowledge is unique to Persian culture and this cleansing ritual. Ritual burning of herbs is common to many cultures, especially burning with sage. The idea of smoking out spaces and people for purification is something I know to be relevant to a lot of Native American tribes, Mesoamerican cultures, Aboriginal tribes, and countless others around the world. Though smoke is considered polluting and dangerous to many people, burning and beginning anew is a process found in nature, ie wildfires. This has since been observed by humans and emulated in swidden or slash-and-burn agriculture across the globe. Perhaps there is some root to the notion of burning and cleansing there, though that connection seems unlikely in the context of the Middle East, unless the practice of burning herbs was learned or brought in by some other influence (perhaps by trade ie along the Silk Road). This theory is purely speculative, though, as ritual burning could have begun in the Middle East or spontaneously come about for all I know.

I later got an email from my informant saying she wasn’t sure if she explained esfand and it’s relation to the evil eye well enough so she sent me a link to a website that she felt explained it well:

Esfand & The Evil Eye