Seriously Warding off the Evil Eye
You’re probably seen this symbol before: the light blue and white circles set in a dark blue glass base. This stylized eye is meant to ward off the “evil eye”. Transcending culture and religion, there is a belief throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East that because of jealousy someone could wish bad luck on a person. This ill-will is passed through a focused glance or “evil eye” hence the need for charms to ward off the bad will.
I was really skeptical that the evil eye still held any significance in Turkey. I just thought the objects were a convenient tourist souvenir: small, cheap and vaguely exotic. They were in every tourist shop in Istanbul but then I started noticing them outside the realm of souvenir hawkers. There were eyes set into the exterior plaster of buildings, incorporated into sidewalks and even pinned to the clothing of infants. They hung in every shop and were worn by Turks on the street. Here are just a few of the other interesting places the eye popped up.
The evil eye was painted on the back of a truck trundling up a mountain road.
We stayed at a restored farmhouse in Bergama. The decorative shelf in our room hadn’t been repainted so as to show off the former room colors. This lovely rustic decoration came complete with an antique urn and an evil eye amulet.
Who won’t want to protect their pet? The owners of our pension in Pamukkale keep an evil eye collar on their beautiful dog.
So I was convinced that the evil eye in Turkey was not just for tourists, but I still wasn’t sure if I was going to bring one home. My usual complaint with tourist stuff is that it is more than likely made in China these days. While exploring the Bodrum peninsula, I found a man in Gümüşlük making evil eyes by hand with a little glass furnace. After watching him quickly and efficiently make a few, it was pretty clear that everything in the little stall was his work.
So I did buy an evil eye after all. Perhaps inspired by the Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Bodrum, I bought a little amphora-shaped evil eye magnet. It is a nice little reminder of the almost ubiquitous eye from our trip to Turkey.