Tag Archives: moroccan

Moroccan Evil Eye

Informant Details

  • Gender: Female
  • Occupation: Student
  • Nationality: Moroccan-American

Folklore Genre: Folk Beliefs/Superstitions (magic)

1. Text

The informant explained a common curse in her culture (the evil eye) and the talisman used to prevent this curse. The evil eye gaze is when someone looks at you with jealousy, and it causes bad fortune. To protect herself from the evil eye gaze, the informant wears jewelry that is decorated with charms that look like eyes. (pictured below) The informant calls this type of jewelry “evil eyes” because they are talismans used to ward off the evil eye gaze. A superstition surrounding this practice is that when the evil eye talisman breaks and falls off, it has done its job protecting you. In addition to the evil eye talisman, the informant’s mother burns sage around her and recites surahs and bismillahs from the Quran. These rituals are also meant to ask Allah for protection against the evil eye.

Image: an evil eye talisman attached to a hamsa hand given to the informant by a friend

2. Context

The informant learned of the evil eye gaze and the evil eye talisman from her mother, who is from Morocco. She has received many evil eye talismans from older family members as well. These practices are performed often, especially when you have good fortune or someone compliments you in an envious tone.

3. Analysis

The evil eye talisman is an example of sympathetic magic because the jewelry is made to look like an eye, which represents the evil eye glance. In International Folkloristics, Dundes says “With homeopathic magic, we have ‘like produces like,’ such that one can enact through mimetic imitation the desired event or outcome.” (222) Since the talisman resembles the eye, this form of magic uses the principle of homeopathic magic. The evil eye belief suggests the cultural idea that jealousy is malevolent and causes misfortune. In this culture, being the subject of envy is seen as a bad thing. It also suggests the cultural belief that fortune can be fickle and blessings may be taken away as quickly as they are given.

Moroccan Wedding Tradition

Background: Leigh comes from a Moroccan Jewish family. Her experience with these pre-wedding traditions has predominantly been with her aunt and uncles’ weddings.

Context: I interviewed Leigh in person and recorded our conversation on my phone. Her comments below are what I transcribed out of our conversation. She described henna (pronounced “hee-nah”) parties in Israel before weddings.

“I’m not sure if this is Moroccan or Moroccan Jewish. In terms of the significance and all that I am the wrong person to ask. I always thought they were talking about tahini, which to those of you unfamiliar with it, its like sesame seed paste that is consumed by many in the middle east. I always thought that when I was going to my uncles wedding ceremonies, they were talking about “doing a tahini” which to me sounded like “doing a hummus” like making food, which I didn’t understand. It took me a while to understand that they meant henna. It actually makes sense now that I think about it, they come from the same kind of henna paste. But it’s referring to henna. It was interesting when I was little because I did not realize that my family owned all of these moroccan costumes, that was my first time really experiencing true Moroccan culture, because you would dress up the way that they would in Morocco. Mom would always dress me and my sister up in matching, elaborate, flashy costumes. They were pretty cool. For men there are tunics or kaftans and there’s a vest and a hat, called a tarboosh. Theirs are pretty boring to be honest, compared to the women’s costumes. They always looked like they were out of Arabian nights, either like a belly dancer look going on, or kind of like the coins, you know? They always had these really beautiful beaded costumes, I wouldn’t call them tunics I would say they were more like… it wasn’t a kaftan…the bride would always have something more open, which I think is a more modernized, Israeli-Moroccan take on the women’s costume. We didn’t have the most traditional ones I would say. We looked like genies. We looked like Christina Aguilera, “Genie in a Bottle” music video genies. I know my grandma still keeps them, she has a whole closet full of that stuff and the costumes. They’ll pull them out for random occasions, for Passover for example which is a pretty big deal in Moroccan Jewish heritage. Oh, and the henna itself, the tattoos that won’t leave your hand and smell horrible and stain everything. It’s kind of like…have you ever seen a horse take a shit? It looks like that and you rub it into your palm. I don’t remember much else about it because I was so concerned about getting out of the costume, I did not like being in the costume. It stains in a weird way, it’s not like a normal henna that you can get on the beach in Mexico these days. It’s more watery, it leaves a paler residue. I don’t know if it’s the exact same formula or anything like that. That’s all I got.”

Moroccan Jewish Passover Custom

Background: Leigh comes from a Moroccan Jewish family. Her experience with these Passover traditions have been with her mom and grandparents. 

Context: I interviewed Leigh in person and recorded our conversation on my phone. Her comments below are what I transcribed out of our conversation. She described the mimouna (pronounced mee-moo-nah) Passover ritual, which she had previously mentioned at the same time as the henna wedding ritual (published under the title “Moroccan Wedding Tradition”). 


“Basically the mimouna is when you break the Passover fast of not eating leavened bread with very decadent festivities. Very decadent sugary desserts, lots of marzipan. There’s something called a mufleta*, which is basically a Moroccan crepe that you fill with all sorts of things like honey, or nutella, you know..butter, bunch of other stuff, sugar. My favorite memory is actually when we were a lot younger and in my grandparents’ old apartment, I think right around the time of my aunt’s wedding, my grandma would prepare these very intricate handmade marzipan desserts that resembled exotic fruits and sugar cookies and all this stuff, which to be honest I don’t love the flavor of but they’re exquisite to look at. She has a whole Moroccan cookbook and I know she sent recipes to that same aunt that got married all those years ago. They’re very beautiful. I learned this tradition from my mom and my grandparents. The set-up is kind of different everywhere you go. My mom was more focused on getting us around the actual frying pan to see her make the mufleta, and also so we could just have them fresh off the press. At my grandparents house, where it was more of an ordeal they would stack up all of these like Moroccan crepes on a plate like a mountain, then you had your assortment of jams and butter and chocolate. In Israel they would serve this kosher chocolate spread called “Shachar” brand but in the States at our house we would eat Nutella. In Israel it was mostly honey and butter, jelly would be kind of apricot, orange marmalade.”

*mufleta- pronounced moof-leh-tah