Informant: My friend is Persian, and her family practices traditions like these.
Original Piece: Huge part of Persian culture: chesh-ing someone! Chesh (ch-eh-sh) literally means “eye” in Farsi and here it means the evil eye or in English it’s when someone jinxes you. It’s basically when someone sees you and envies you or is jealous of you and sends evil spirits… or vibes, for lack of a better word, your way. Usually it happens out of jealousy, like when you show up to a party and you’re the only one wearing a dress and everyone is in jeans and you look really good… but sometimes it can happen innocently too, like you see your family members after a long time and they say “wow you’re so beautiful and so grown up and so mature”. Or you’re successful in school/work and someone says “wow she has it all together she’s amazing”. But basically to save yourself from the “bad omens” being sent your way, someone will have to light up this herb… which, it’s a mixture of a lot of things, but I’m unsure exactly what… until it’s smoking and you say a phrase, which loosely translates to mean “keep the bad eyes away”, while circling it over the person’s head. When someone opens a new business or goes to a new job or is promoted you can put small amounts of this herb in the four corners of the room to make sure there’s only good spirits and good luck in the beginning of the business. Like when my dad moved offices, his office had a couple small circular dishes of this on his desk for a couple weeks.
Context of Performance: I invited her over for dinner and we were remembering stories we shared as roommates, including traditions and practiced her family introduced to me. I asked her if she would share some of these pieces of folktale.
Thoughts about the Piece: I remember first learning about the “evil eye” after my informant’s aunts complimented me, and her mother insisted on lighting herbs to keep the bad omens away. This is one of my favorite practices, as I find it interesting how the evil eye recurs in so many of their traditions.