Tag Archives: Protection Charm

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.

Evil Eye

Text: The informant started wearing evil eye jewelry, accessories, etc. during middle school. All the evil eye items they possess were gifted to them by family and, later, friends. They like to gift people evil eye items now. The informant always wears the evil eye because they see it as a barrier between them and any bad energy or intentions that could come their way.

Context: The informant grew up with both their parents always having an evil eye charm on them. Before they were gifted their first evil eye, their dad told them a story about his jealous brother, and how every time he would tell the brother about his accomplishments the evil eye’s blue color would fade, which he took as a sign that the evil eye was protecting him from the jealousy of his brother.

Analysis: Evil eye is widely used as a form of spiritual protection from negative energies. This folkloric belief is an example of contagious magic, since possessing an evil eye charm or having it on your person is what is believed to protect you from the negative spirits. Belief in the evil eye could be a reflection of values like spirituality and protection.

Evil Eye Jewelry

Main Piece

Informant told a story about the Evil Eye within Arabic communities, involving a ritualistic wearing of an object (and phrase, within some communities).

“So the concept of the Evil Eye is that you have to wear it somewhere on your body, otherwise when people think bad thoughts about you it’ll come true, and then, like, the Evil Eye absorbs them all. And then, once it’s absorbed too much, it breaks…this is only in some Arabic cultures, but when someone goes ‘Oh my god, I really love your purse,’ they have to go ‘مَا شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ’ (informant then translated phrase as “praise be to God”) after it, otherwise you have to give it to them – like, cause then the Evil Eye will get you. It’s kinda like a “oh my God, I love your earrings!” and now they’re jealous, so if you don’t give them the earrings or they say ‘مَا شَاءَ ٱللَّٰهُ,’ their jealously will start ruining your life – like seep into you.”


Informant Interpretation: Informant heard about it from his Mom, who told him to wear it all the time for protection. “It wasn’t something I learned, it was just something I knew.” He still frequently wears Evil Eye jewelry as a method of protection for himself, and knows many others who do. He sees it as something more inherent to his family and society, and directly associated with paying attentions to others’ emotional states.

Personal Interpretation: This is an example of a folk belief or superstition involving a ritualistic object and many ritualistic tendencies, primarily practiced as a method of protection for oneself. I personally found its interaction with ‘magic’ to be the most interesting–the idea that someone else’s negative thought of you could seep into you feels like contagious magic to me, which wearing the folk object (Evil Eye) or repeating a ritualistic phrase can protect you from.


Informant is a 20 year old college student primarily raised in Birmingham, UK. He is male-presenting, Black, and of Sudanese descent, and speaks English and Arabic fluently.

Chants for Good Luck


H is a spring admin freshman at USC, studying Music Industry. H grew up in Taiwan, but moved when she was 8 to San Jose. 


H: “Whenever I encounter something bad, I basically chant like something from Buddhism. It goes like ‘大慈大悲, 救苦救难, 管旭音菩萨’ (Pinying: da ci da bei, jiu ku jiu nan, guan yin pu sa; Translation: great mercy and great compassion, save the suffering, guan xu yin bodhisattva). It’s basically what I chant so they can give me power, something like that. I think it’s just telling them I’m in trouble, it’s not asking them to come to me, but I feel like they’re going to do something about it and that’s why I do it.”


H’s chant is something along the lines of a conversion, a superstitious charm that negates or balances out an event. In H’s case, the chant is religious, referring to a god in Buddhism, but meant to offset something bad in her life using her god’s power. Her chanting is ritualistic, in the sense that H will do it on the principle or possibility that her god may be listening, while not knowing if anything will change. Just the act of chanting, the practice of a charm that’s believed to give good fortune, makes her believe that good will come, which is a faith nearly more powerful than the tangible confirmation that there really is a god up there, in my opinion. H creates a sense of order for herself in the midst of a crisis or hardship through this learned chant, and always repeating it to herself, she maintains faith that her chant comes true. Essentially, her ritual chant is believed to bring good luck for her, therefore it does bring good luck.  

“Knock On Wood” — Bad Luck Protection

Context :

JF is a 22 year old college student at USC from Rhode Island. Growing up, his family would knock on wood to prevent bad luck.

Text :

“If I want something good to happen, and I speak it into existence, I always get a little nervous it might not come true because I vocalized it so I always knock on wood to counter it.”

Analysis :

It’s interesting that JF grew up hearing “knock on wood” from his family because he is Jewish, and some say that the phrase originates from Christians linking it to Christ’s crucifixion. However, it has spread throughout much of the United States and is now a common saying, despite the origins. For JF, he continues to perform the action because usually there is no bad luck associated with what he is speaking into existence. In a way, he is experiencing the placebo effect because he associates bad luck blocks with knocking on wood, and when he doesn’t knock on wood and something bad happens, that’s why.