Residence: New York
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/31/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Italian
Il Malocchio: “In Sicilian culture… there’s something called the Malocchio, which translates to bad eyes. So, it’s the idea that I can look at you and curse you just by looking at you. I can curse you by giving you some kind of eyes. Like you stick two fingers out, your index and your pinkie, and point it in their direction. That is to give you the malocchio. Like ‘I saw this guy the other day and I hated him so much I gave him the malocchio,’ and this is the symbol to represent it.”
Defense: “Italians put it in their car, it’s the horn of the rabbit, the corno. It looks like a pepper, everyone has one in their car, my grandma has one in her car, it’s like a little pepper. The horn tradition evolved from like, I think, when the horn animal, the moon goddess was sacred. You can wear it around your neck, people hold it in their car as a protective measure.”
Diagnosis: “To diagnose someone with having been struck by the evil eye, you have them drop three drops of olive oil in a bowl of water, and if the oil forms, like, the shape of an eye, the victim has received the malocchio, and they’ve been cursed. When the oil separates from the water, you had to make the sign of the cross, la croce, and you say ‘il nome del padre, del figlio, e dello spirito santo,’ which is name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit, to like protect yourself.”
The idea of “Il Malocchio” was introduced to the interlocutor throughout childhood, his grandmother and parents informing him of this belief while gifting him multiple “cornos.” He mentioned that he still has a corno with him at all times, even allowing me to view the one he kept in his bag. This belief remains in his life to present day which is why he is able to explain it with such clarity. Though he has kept some of the cornos, he stated that he does not entirely believe in the Malocchio as he keeps the corno by habit rather than by genuine faith in its abilities.
Although I have heard of the term “malocchio,” I have only experienced the evil eye through a Hispanic lens by way of the term “mal de ojo,” which is essentially the same concept. When a person falls ill or is subject to bad circumstances, it is generally fitting to blame an outside source. In this way, it is somewhat a visually contagious superstition because it can be passed through infection, usually with malicious intent. The supposed cure for the “mal de ojo” that I have witnessed involves a cross made of straw, and though I have not witnessed it, I have heard of the utilization of an egg to ward off the negative effects of the evil eye.