Ritual— Iran

The practice as described by Tara:  “If you feel like the evil eye is near you, you burn this weed called esfand (laughs).  It’s different in other parts of Iran but my mom’s Turkish so she has to say this prayer thing in Turkish.  And you let the smell of the weed take over the house, and it kills the evil eye.”

Tara said she learned this tradition from her mother, who burns esfand often.  She said that most people she knows do this in Iran on important occasions like on the date that their children are being circumcised or if their children are sick.  However, her mother does it for more common occasions.  For instance, if someone gives Tara or her mother a lot of compliments, they burn the weed because it seems like someone is really interested in them and they might be getting jinxed.  Tara’s family moved from Iran to the United States almost ten years ago, but they still perform this ritual in their house in Los Angeles.

Tara said that she doesn’t understand the practice exactly but she likes to burn the weed because it smells really good.  She also said that people probably do this because it’s a tradition and gives you a true sense of comfort.  She said that she does believe in the evil eye even though she knows it’s illogical.  She says it might sound stupid to other people (this is why she laughed in embarrassment while explaining the tradition, which she did in a room filled with Americans uninformed about the evil eye), but she still likes burning esfand because it makes her feel good.

Tara’s analysis seems accurate.  Even though many people believe that the evil eye couldn’t logically exist, they still fear its power because they grew up learning about it.  The evil eye is a common fear among many nations and groups of people, so this seems like yet another way to prevent it from causing harm.  Superstitions like this one have been a part of Tara’s life since she was growing up, so the practice of burning esfand provides a consistent sense of comfort.