Evil Eye

EVIL EYE (עַיִן רָעָה, evil eye). An eye that is supposed to be capable of harming, or even killing, living beings by looking at them. The damage may or may not be intended by the owner of the eye. This belief was widespread in ancient times and has continued up to the present, although it seems never to have spread to the western hemisphere.

Methods of defense against effects of the evil eye included the wearing of charms (the camels’ ornaments of Judg 8:21, according to some), repeating of oaths, and obscene gestures. A person might be held in suspicion of evil intentions if observed watching children or farm animals. The effects of the evil eye were believed to be rooted in envy so that when one expressed his admiration for animals or children he would often say, “God bless them” or its equivalent, so that his motivations would not be questioned.


Bibliography

F. T. Elworthy, The Evil Eye (1895); HERE, V (1912), 608-615; S. Thompson, Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, II (1956), D 2071.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(ra` `ayin, "evil of eye"; ophthalmos poneros):


Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, gives perhaps the most accessible account of this superstition as held at the present day in Egypt, and Thomson, The Land and the Book, does the same for Palestine, while an equal amount of evidence might be collected from every other oriental country. Instances of the same superstition, though possibly slightly disguised, are by no means wanting among ourselves. Compare the expression, "green-eyed jealousy" (Othello, III, iii; Merchant of Venice, III, ii ), etc.

For certain Biblical phrases referring to the "evil eye" see Envy; Eye.

LITERATURE.

F. T. Elworthy, The Evil Eye, London, 1895.