Evil Eye Superstitions

The informant is a male in his 50s. He was born to two Greek parents in New York. He was brought up in the Greek Orthodox Church. He lived in the Bronx for most of his youth before moving to the suburbs in Connecticut. He has worked as a journalist for most of his life, a job in which he spent a good deal of time in the Middle East as a foreign correspondent. He now lives in Southern California as a software developer. He is divorced with three children.

The informant’s family, his parents, grandparents, etc. believe in the Evil Eye, called Matia in Greek. The evil eye affects mainly children. It causes sickness, accidents, misfortunes, and other such bad occurrences. It is caused by the jealousy of other people towards a child, especially an attractive or beautiful one. His family believed that people, especially those unable to conceive or without children, will see a baby or child and lust after it. This jealousy causes the Evil Eye to be put upon the child. To ward off the jealousy induced evil eye, parents will hang charms on baby carriages and cots, mostly shaped like eyes. The parents also avoid invite jealousy of their children. They do not brag about their children and if any one ever pays their child a complement, they will spit on the kid or ground and say something disparaging to negate the complement. By doing this, the informant says they are not only trying to ward off the jealousy of other people, but also of God.

Analysis: The Matia for Greeks is a peculiar cultural phenomenon, when placed in the context of American culture. Americans place a lot emphasis on physical appearance, especially the beauty of babies and children. This is evidenced by the prevalence of child pageants and other such programs. For the Greeks, however, because of the belief in the evil eye, emphasizing a child’s physical appearance is considered dangerous because it can incite jealousy. This fear is so strong that the parents will even spit on their child. The belief in the Matia is so strong that they will go against the cultural structure of the country they live in to stop their children falling to the evil eye.