So what does the evil eye mean?
The evil eye, known as “mati” (μάτι) in Greek culture, is a curse thought to be given by a malicious glare that can cause bad luck or loss. You may have heard someone giving you the "evil eye" from across the room - and many people around the world believe this to be more then just a saying.
People can knowingly wish negative thoughts on you, but the power of the eye is that some people unknowingly and innocently cast the curse on others. That's why it's important to wear an evil eye somewhere on your body to ward off this curse and protect yourself throughout the day.
What are the origins of the evil eye?
So what's the history of the evil eye in our history? It actually goes pretty far back. From as far back as 3,000 BC the idea permeated through ancient culture. If someone was jealous of another because of their social status or what they owned, the evil eye could be cast on them out of pure envy, leaving the receiver with misfortune.
To avoid this look, the ancient peoples began wearing amulets or jewelry with the evil eye symbol incorporated into them. If you wore this, the evil look would be reflected back to the person that was casting it.
You can find the evil eye mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts, and even famous literary works like the Bible, the Koran, and even Shakespeare's plays. Across all of the world's many cultures, over 40% of them believe in some form of the evil eye, according to folklorist John Roberts (1976).
Before science was able to explain many misfortunes like bad luck, ill health, an accident, or environmental woes like a drought or disease, many people attributed these harmful situations to a curse. The evil eye was a common answer to the question "why do bad things happen to good people?"
How do you protect yourself from the evil eye?
Given all this history, it's easy to pass of the evil eye as an ancient, irrelevant belief that has no place in modern world. But, as folklorist Dundes has said:
We should keep in mind that the evil eye is not some old-fashioned superstitious belief of interest solely to antiquarians. The evil eye continues to be a powerful factor affecting the behavior of countless millions of people throughout the world. -Alan Dundes
We can protect ourselves from the evil eye in many ways - with prayer, by exclaiming “ftou!” 3 times (yes, you've seen this in My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and, of course, wearing the evil eye symbol on our body.
When a person wears or carries an evil eye with them, it guards against misfortune happening in one's life. The evil eye brings good luck and protects you from any ill-will that could otherwise have a negative effect on your well-being or your life in general.
While the most traditional evil eye symbol is a sapphire or cobalt blue hue, evil eye charms in different colours hold different meaning.
What do the evil eye charm colors mean?
In Greece and many other cultures that believe in the evil eye, the most popular colour is a deep blue, just like the Greek seas. This sapphire or cobalt blue is the classic interpretation, but over the years many other colors have come to symbolize different meanings. Below are some of the most popular colors and what they mean.
- Happiness and protection
- Motivation for commitment
- Increase creativity and playfulness
- Karma and fate protection
- Calm and relaxation
- Open flow of communication
- General protection
- Broadening your perspective
- Solitude and peace
- Garners happiness
- Balance in your life
- Freedom to pursue new ideas
- Brings you courage
- More enthusiasm and energy
- Protection from fears and anxieties
- Protection from the elements
- Connection with nature
- Orderliness and convention
- Boost your imagination
- Re-balance your life
- To remove obstacles
Yellow or Gold
- Protect your health
- Relief from exhaustion
- Sharper mind and concentration
- Protect against sorrow
- Openness to new situations
- Reduce intensity of another color
- Success with your dreams
- Enjoyment and contentment
- Good health
- Purity and focus
- Clear clutter and obstacles
- To start fresh
- Protect your friendships
- Calming feeling
- Content and relaxation
Evil eyes in celebrity and pop culture
The evil eye has been gaining in popular every year in celebrity culture. Famous people like Madonna, Britney Spears, Lauren Conrad, Nicole Richie, Marie Kate and Ashley Olsen paved the way early on. And more recently, other A-list celebrities like Brad Pitt, Lindsay Lohan, Cameron Diaz, Rhianna, Kim Kardashian (more on this below) and many more have been photographed wearing evil eye jewelry.
The myth of the evil eye is predicated on the fact that others could be envious of your life. So the idea that too much fortune, frame, or praise can bring lots of attention to yourself (and thus, many eyes) means that you're more likely to catch the gaze of someone knowingly (or unknowingly) giving you the evil eye. These celebrities that are in the spotlight know they need to carry with them the protection of the evil eye to protect themselves!
In the last 10 years, eye evil has also found it's way into the high fashion world. Kim Kardashian has been photographed many times sporting bracelets and necklaces that are adorned with an evil eye. Fashion model Gigi Hadid jumped on this trend in 2017 and announced that she'd be launching an evil eye-focused shoe line. You can see the evil eye or eye image featured in many streetwear clothing lines now as well.
Although this recent surge in popularity is a win for those wanting to protect against bad luck, it's interesting that the evil eye has stayed true to it's original meaning for thousands and thousands of years. We're sure it will continue to hold an important place in many cultures and hold the attention of the human imagination for thousands of years to come.
Handmade evil eye amulets adorn walls of a Greek street.
- LiveScience - "The Evil Eye: A Closer Look"
- BBC - "The Strange Power of the Evil Eye"
- Vice - "The Meaning Behind the Evil Eye Symbol You See Everywhere"
- And most importantly, our Greek grandmothers :)