Tag Archives: middle eastern

Palestinian Evil Eye

Informant Details

  • Gender: Male
  • Occupation: Student
  • Nationality: Palestinian-American

Folklore Genre: Folk Beliefs/Superstitions (magic)

  1. Text

The informant explained a common curse in his culture (the evil eye) and the practices done to protect against this curse. The evil eye can be inflicted when someone is jealous of you, when something good happens to you, or when someone compliments you and doesn’t say mashallah. Most often the evil eye is caused by jealousy. To guard against the evil eye, people keep talismans that look like an eye called nazars and hamsa hands. These can be worn as jewelry, hung in the car, and placed in the house in rooms where guests visit. Wearing blue can protect you from the evil eye. Sage is also used to ward against the evil eye. The nazar is typically worn as a necklace or a bracelet with lots of circular beads that resemble eyes. The beads are blue with a black circle in the middle. One superstition about the nazar is that it should be given as a gift because it is bad luck to buy one for yourself. When the nazar breaks, it isn’t effective anymore. It breaks because it has protected you from someone’s jealousy. Once it is broken, you can’t wear it anymore because it holds on to the negative energy. 

2. Context

The informant learned this belief from his older family members from Palestine. In the first grade, his aunt gave him a nazar because he was being bullied by other kids. His aunt is from a town outside of Ramallah in the West Bank of Palestine. Generally, the rituals that ward off the evil eye were done when people expressed jealousy or negativity towards them.

3. Analysis

The nazar is an example of sympathetic magic because the jewelry is made to look like an eye, which represents the evil eye gaze. The nazar uses the principle of homeopathic magic – “like produces like” – because it resembles an eye. The evil eye belief suggests the cultural idea that jealousy is malevolent and causes misfortune. It also suggests the cultural belief that fortune can be fickle and blessings may be taken away as quickly as they are given. In this culture, being the subject of envy is not viewed favorably. The superstition that a nazar must be received as a gift represents the belief that fostering strong interpersonal bonds protects people from misfortune. This suggests a cultural value of community and loyalty.