Tag Archives: the evil eye

Red Ribbon Against Evil Eye

Main piece: A red ribbon to ward off the evil eye. It can be a little ribbon pinned on the outside, or on the undergarments, and especially if there are people in the room that you’re going into that may not like you or be jealous of you, and you have to have a red ribbon. Not all the time.

I don’t know all of it, but the evil eye is against negativity. There are people who don’t wish you well, not you specifically. Just like there are people who want everything wonderful to happen for you and with you. But there are people who don’t. They say they have the evil eye. And people wear a red ribbon to ward off the evil eye. You pin the red ribbon on your heart, underneath. Not showing. It makes you live. The evil eye can’t hit me where I live, my heart. The idea is that if you’re going to be around people that you know are not on your side, and will try and wish bad things for you, you ward off those spirits by wearing a red ribbon, bounces right off. 

Background: My informant is a seventy-nine year old Jewish woman living in Baltimore, Maryland. She is also my grandmother. She describes herself as a follower of “bubbe-meises” (Yiddish), translated to “grandmother’s fables”, or a more serious version of old wive’s tales that are often accompanied by superstitions. 

Context: Her husband (who does not believe in the red ribbon superstition, nor most other ones) immediately brought up the red ribbon when I asked my informant about the superstitions she follows. My informant believes the red ribbon to be an incredibly held belief, and does not remember where she heard it from, but doesn’t believe it to be an exclusively Jewish superstition. 

Analysis: The evil eye is an interesting variation of the Jungian collective unconsciousness; the idea that there are people out there who simply wish you badly, and this subconscious/unspoken malediction could potentially cause real harm. This superstition revolves around the folk object of the red ribbon, and its placement. While my informant was not sure why the ribbon had to be red, or the significance of it, red as a color representing good luck/good fortune has been true in many different cultures/religions, such as China and Hinduism. The red ribbon working as a talisman represents a barrier between any potential harm and the soul of its wearer, which is emphasized by my informant’s placement of the ribbon (she has worn it both over and under her clothes) next to her heart, which serves as an example of James Frazer’s sympathetic magic. The ribbon serves as a piece of contact/contagious magic, which relies on “an action or an element that was once touched by or connected to the designated target of a
magical act” (115).

When asked about this placement, she tapped her heart and said “that’s where I live”, which indicates that it is less physical/bodily harm to be wary of, and that the soul is what is spiritually affected by the evil eye. My informant also emphasized that she does not wear the ribbon all the time (like she never wears it at home or when she visits family), but only when she believes she is going to be entering a situation where people could potentially cause harm unto her. The talisman then acts as a way to safeguard her from the “other”, people outside her social group or identity that could potentially not wish her well, either because of her personally, or the identity group she represents (she does wear the evil eye when she is with new people for the first time, or in crowds). As this is a Jewish custom, and Jews are a minority that have often been persecuted against, it makes sense that people would want a way to feel safe and protected against “evil eyes” in a discreet, non-showy way that establishes their religious or ethnic identity to potential ne’er-do-wells. This practice has also been associated with Kabbalah, and also exists in the variant of a red wool string tied around one’s wrist.

Dundes, Alan, and James George Frazer. “The Principles of Sympathetic Magic.” Essay. In International Folkloristics: Classic Contributions by the Founders of Folklore, 109–18. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.

Egg for Protection (against El Ojo)

Context/Background: The informant is Salvadoran and Mexican-American and had grown up surrounded with the use of eggs to absorb bad energy. It had common connections to “el ojo,” something that is given to someone through magic, typically young, with the intent of inflicting harm.

[Face-to-face conversation]

“There’s something that any Hispanic person that you talk to will tell you this. Um, if something bad happens, you take an egg and you like… put the egg over your body. I don’t know if you’ve seen the video- they do it to a dog. But, you put it all over your body, and that egg is supposed to take out all the badness in you. So supposedly when people cast… um like spells on you… like, these wizards- these people that do bad things- and when… but one of the big things that happens to you is El Ojo. So El Ojo happens when like… let’s say I have a child, right? And a woman… or like anyone can come up to me and be like… ‘Hey can I hold your kid, right?’ And then if I say no, I run the risk of them giving my child El Ojo, and if my child is given El Ojo, he will die. Like, they will die. It happens. And the only way to cure that is to do like… the egg thing, or to give the person the child. And any Latinx new mother will be told like… ‘Be careful. Your kid can get El Ojo.’ That’s really common- not just Mexico; El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. Very common.”

Introduction: The informant was introduced to this through her mother.

Analysis: I’ve vaguely heard of using an egg to collect bad energy; however, I’ve recently become more familiar with “the evil eye,” something coinciding with “el ojo” in different Latino cultures. To my understanding, the evil eye refers to what can be given to someone, typically without their knowledge. Oftentimes, many people wear something (typically a necklace or perhaps a piece of clothing) which is to ward off anyone giving them this eye. El ojo, as described to me, means “the eye” in Spanish and is given to people, typically young babies. I find this interesting because in the context of what I’ve been exposed to it, it’s been more socialized with adults rather than newborns.

El Ojo is essentially similar to the Evil Eye, except it is performed by wizards and Santeria practitioners in Latin American regions.


For more information on another rendition of el ojo, “the evil eye,” refer to

Heaphy, L. (2017, May 2). The Evil Eye Powerful Protective Talisman. Retrieved from https://kashgar.com.au/blogs/ritual-objects/the-evil-eye-and-the-hamsa