Updated: Nov 30, 2022
You have probably passed by the well-known "evil eye" emblem a hundred times without paying attention to it .
You've undoubtedly seen someone wearing an evil eye amulet, and you may have even worn one yourself. In fact, you might even own a piece of jewelry with the “evil eye” symbol and not have known its true significance. You just noticed it because it was attractive.
You might have even seen someone giving the "evil eye" (and you may have even given it yourself). But are you aware of the significant history of the evil eye symbol, as well as how widely it was used and accepted across a wide range of cultural contexts?
Below you can find an overview of the myth, history, and meaning of the evil eye in Greece.
The origin and significance of the evil eye
Evil eye legend is known worldwide and despite the variations in the different cultures that embrace it, it generally has the same meaning across all these cultures. One of the most powerful symbolic images in the entire globe is the evil eye symbol and superstition.
The evil eye is a long-held concept, which originated in Ancient Egypt around 3000 years ago and is still practiced by many different cultures today. The Mediterranean region, the Middle East, India, and Mexico are the main locations for this folk belief today. In ancient Greece and Rome, in Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu cultures, as well as in folk civilizations, there was a widespread belief in the evil eye. This belief has continued until current times all around the world. Strangers, those with physical flaws, childless ladies and elderly women are those who are most frequently accused of having the evil eye.
According to Greek mythology, those who have blue or green eyes are more prone to curse someone else. Because of this, the majority of Greek Evil Eye talismans and amulets were colored blue or green. This originates from ancient times when Greeks believed that the best way to fight a fire is with fire. The threat of the evil eye, "vaskania” (Greek word for the curse from evil eye) is a strong superstition in Greece and it is recognized by the Orthodox church as well. According to legend, Mati (the Greek word of "evil eye”) is provided by a gaze of envy, hatred or jealousy, usually when the recipient is unaware of what is happening. Many people think it can also be unintentionally offered in the form of exaggerated compliments and over admiration.
In Greece, it is thought that receiving "mati" can cause a variety of symptoms, including tension, headaches, difficulty thinking clearly, weakness, lethargy and malaise, as well as an unexplainable shift in luck or unfavorable circumstances.
Some demographic groups—particularly women and children—are more susceptible to being the target of the evil eye. An unborn child, a young attractive girl, or a pregnant woman are more vulnerable to the negative energy's rays. The symptoms frequently appear suddenly and soon after receiving the "mati”. The victim of the evil eye will feel sick. A young girl can feel queasy, sick, disturbed, or puzzled, while a baby may continue to cry for no obvious reason.
Furthermore, in Greece it is believed that if someone doesn’t accept the power of evil eye and its consequences, they are protected from this and can’t be cursed.
Protection against evil eye
The most common and easiest way to protect yourself against evil eye is to wear "mataki" or “matoxandro” (Greek words for the evil eye symbol), “mati” (eye in Greek) amulets, charms and other talismans.
It is thought to be endowed with supernatural power that shields the bearer from the harmful effects of the evil eye gaze. In the past, people revered the evil eye bracelet as a treasured item. Greeks thought that wearing a “mataki” would protect them from receiving the "mati" or "evil eye", which is most frequently represented by a blue eye-shaped bead.
Greeks have a long-standing tradition of pinning blue “mataki” beads on mothers and small children as a powerful deterrent to the evil eye during a time when they are both most susceptible.
“Mataki” beads are seen to be a welcome gift at the time of new business openings, house warmings, buying new cars, or any other occasion where a lot of people assemble to wish one 'good luck.' Older children are also sometimes given evil eye bracelets to wear around their wrists.
It is easy to understand why evil eye amulets are so popular and widely used today considering the other protective measures in Greece like using garlic or spitting three times.
Removing the curse – “Xematiasma”
The term “xematiasma” represents the treatment of the negative effects of the evil eye. There are various ways which might seem funny or outdated, that Greek people apply the “xematiasma” ritual.
The most common is that a person knows a special and secret prayer which is only for taking away the curse of the evil eye. The person says the prayer silently and when they start yawning or crying with tears it means that there was a curse of evil eye and it has been removed from the person that was affected.
Nowadays In traditional Greek families the ancient "vaskania" prayers are still taught to sons and grandsons by mothers and grandmothers, and daughters and granddaughters by dads and grandfathers.
It is said that the "vaskania" will lose its power if this cross-generational and cross-gender arrangement is not followed or if the secret prayer is not revealed under very particular circumstances. Furthermore, when someone reveals the secret prayer to someone else it is believed that they lose their power of “xematiasma”.
Another method is based in ancient “vaskania” rituals and includes dropping olive oil, salt or even carbon into water. Another ritual demands an egg or a towel with salt. Every village, town or state in Greece have their own pray and ritual for “undoing of the eye”.
The church which accepts the evil eye only accepts the treatment with ecclesiastical prayers against vaskanism such as Saint Basil’s, provided they are read exclusively by a priest.
The influence of evil eye in Greek culture
Considering all the information that has been mentioned above about the evil eye, someone can easily see that this superstition has a huge impact in the Greek culture. Almost every house in Greece has an evil eye symbol for good luck and protection from negative energy. Additionally, if someone goes for a walk in the center of Athens, especially in the most touristic neighborhoods (Plaka, Monastiraki, Acropolis area) will notice that all shops sell souvenirs with the evil eye symbol in many different versions, e.g., jewelry, bags, hats, T-shirts, adornments etc. Furthermore, some new Greek fashion designers have started using “mati” emblem in their latest jewelry or clothes collections.
Considering its increased popularity throughout the years, evil eye superstition has maintained its initial belief in Greece, the protection of negative energy and it is sure that Greek people will continue to believe in its power for many years to come.