Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Evil Eye

Evil Eye, a term used to denote the widespread superstition that certain persons can exercise a pernicious or blighting influence on other persons or on the lower animals by looking upon them. This superstition existed in classic times. There are two distinct forms of this fascination or bewitching: in the first, and more usual kind, the ill effects are willed by the possessor of the evil eye; in the second, these effects are produced involuntarily, or even directly against the will of the person endowed with this terrible power. The exercise of the first form is popularly known as "overlooking," and a person suffering from its blighting influence is said to be "overlooked." These words have lost this meaning in modern English, but examples will be found in Pistol's reproach to Falstaff (Midsummer Nights Dream, v. 5) and in Portia's exclamation to Bassanio (Merchant of Venice, iii. 2); whilst many other instances of about the same date might be cited. The English notion of the evil eye is capitally expressed in Kingsley's translation of Lucy Passmore's hints: - "If you trouble me, I will overlook (i.e. fascinate) you, and then your pigs will die, your horses stray, your cream turn sour, your barns be fired, your son have St. Vitus's dance, your daughter fits, and so on, woe on woe, till you are very probably starved to death in a ditch, by virtue of this terrible little eye of mine" (Westward Ho! ch. iv.). And the race of "Lucy Passmores" has not yet died out. The second form is chiefly found in Southern Italy, where it is known as la gettatura. The possessor of this fatal power is usually a man, frequently a cleric, and it was attributed to Pope Pius IX., though in former times the power of the evil eye was supposed to belong almost exclusively to women. Against both forms amulets and charms were and still are employed. Spitting on the ground was supposed to be an infallible safeguard. With regard to the origin of this superstition, Dr. Tylor says "that it seems not unreasonable to suppose that the belief in the mysterious influences of the evil eye flows from what the eye can do as an instrument of the will. The horror which savages so often have of being looked full in the face is quite consistent with this feeling. You may look at him or his, but you must not stare, and above all you must not look him full in the face - that is to say, you must not do just what the stronger mind does when it uses the eye as an instrument to force its will upon the weaker."