Moon and Evil Eye, their relationship in Hispanic world


Putting an evil eye is a widespread belief since ancient times. It was originated from the power always associated to the gaze, not only human gaze but animal as well -specially the bird's. Gazes faithfully transmit what we think, because of that, in a case of envy we believe that a bad gaze can transmit a bad desire from the envious person to whoever he or she is looking at.

The first evidence appeared in a Sumerian stone found in Ugarit but we usually find more concise examples in Egyptian and Greco-Roman world. In The Argonautica, Apollonium of Rhodes told about Medea the sorceress making an Evil eye spell, 'with her hostile glance she bewitched the eyes of Talos', a bronze man that was preventing the heroes' journey to continue. 'and her teeth gnashed bitter wrath against him, and she sent forth baneful phantoms in the frenzy of her rage.' (IV, 1669-1672). After this, the man of bronze was injured, his vital fluid got leaked, then he died. Heliodorus (S.IV d.C.) exposed the theory in which people believed that "evil eye" was transmitted by air, it was filled with the environment feelings. This way, an envious person could devilishly alter the air, then other person could breath it and so he or she would get infected. Anyway the telling does not focus on the effectiveness of the spell, so it shows us that it was a very widespread belief in ancient times. Other authors tried to deny any kind of magical effectiveness.

Modern authors, ethnologists and anthropologists as Murdock (1985) or Dundes (1992) tried to establish social and moral relationships between belief and the development of the evil eye, they established family patterns or automatic enmities patterns. However, this ability was inmediately associated to those people with a particular characteristic in the eyes, as strabismus, one eye of a different color or double pupil. In fact, in Spanish we can see the expression '¡te ha mirado un tuerto!' which means that a one-eyed person has looked at you, so if you have bad times or bad luck it can be caused by a glance of a person like that. It should be pointed out that it is also considered that those people with a light color in the eyes, specially the blue-eyed, can be people predisposed to do it even without any bad intention. In the other hand, in Eastern countries the suspicious color is green. Later this ability was associated to all the people with a prominent or peculiar flaw, including in this group the red-haired people. Of course any witch or wizard has this malevolent ability in a inherent way. But any ritual can be added to strenghten it or imitate the curse. Nevertheless, the most common idea in Spain and other American regions is to consider that certain people, with good or bad intentions and without any knowledge of witchcraft, can have a special strenght in their eyes. It is possible to put an evil eye just for jealousy or wishing good to someone. For example, you like someone so much that you only want him/her for you and this way you bewitch him/her. Most of the people capable of this are, by chance, women.

But there is another element related to evil eye with not so much repercussion: the Moon. For ancient people was evident since they called it "the evening eye". The Moon was not only a divinity but also the witchcraft's celestial body, a body which can enlight or dim us... It has an inevitable relation with life-death cycle and so with afterdeath world. It even reached Roman funerary iconography. It was also considered a female oriented symbol. This way, not only exist the concept of "putting an evil eye" but the 'moon cursing'. It is not about lycanthropy cursing or any kind of spell. The moon as a concious being has its own power, positive or negative. The same happens to the glance. In addition, astrology considers the moon among the other celestial bodies. However, the moon is not believed to bring bad luck but physical harms. In a parallel way, until we got to the modern advances in medicin, the astronomic situation was always considered. The phases of the moon were related with improvement or worsening of certain illnesses or mood. The maleficent magic of the moon did not only affect men. It also could affect fields and cattles. Villar Esparza (2003) shows a great example of how the marbling could rot if the moon light touched the sacrifised pig.

Nevertheless, the moon cursing causes seem to be more common in America that in Spain. Some search a strange mixture of the European traditions with the native culture, very focused on the celestial issues. But this won't deny that in popular Spain culture it is identified in the same way, along with all the inheritance of Greek and Middle-East cultures. Both the eye and the Moon are relevant magic symbols in every culture, along History they have changed its powers since is a concept shared all over the world.

The effect of the Evil eye and the moon is also different between the Hispanic-american and Spain cultures. In Spain, it is usually associated the Evil eye with bad luck, in second place apathy and exhaustion. In Latin America however there was a long list of symptoms from the Evil eye, as it was an illness.

Moon and the Evil eye go together in many praises or charms in order to regain good luck. Many of this procedures include water, oil and salt. Water not only has an evident purifying function but it is the element distinctly related with the moon.

<< Sacred Moon, you came to my home and took my health with you. Blessed Moon, you will go to my house and health will you return>> is an example of prayer against moon cursing. It can be carried out by blessing a water cup which has been under the moon light. Other times water was mixed with other products as oil or tin in a specific magical number of drops (three or nine, regularly, twenty seven, following the moon cicle) to analize the forms and find out how to avoid bad luck. If the liquids are completely separated, the person is still under a curse or a evil eye and it is necessary to find other methods.

For example, throwing salt or water with salt in a place where no one can step on it during days. These days have to be in an exact magical numeration, placed like a cross especially in Christian areas. This way the evil eye curse stays there and abandons the person, but if someone steps on it, that someone would suffer a worse luck. As well, it is possible to take certain mixtures with various elements, from medicinal herbs, coral, ivory to other minerals. Anyway, this is about superstition and traditional beliefs so many prayers must be mentioned. Generally these prayers are Christian, prayers, charms and blessings as well as spraying or ablutions which must be repeated each three days or during the moon cycle. Many people have this knowledge, even many healers in small towns which nowadays are asked for help. Even when the Church banned these rituals for being pagan or because of superstition, it is a very extended belief until nowadays. Some doctors even called it "social pathology" because it is only seen in interrelation.

We could find amulets to counter or prevent evil eye effects, some with clear forms as the good eyes (Turkish eye) or other amulets from ancient times that had real animal eyes placed in rings or pendants. Other amulets put away the negative energies and bad luck as jamsa, very used among Sephardim jewish people but with a muslim origin. The Christian cross, candles or scissors that 'cut' the maleficent action, even clothes with certain colors (red dresses or belts) but also for fusion or confusion, half-moons... These moon amulets can be used on children, they must avoid moon light in order to prevent illness during their first months. If moon light cannot be avoided, people use to put this moon amulets on the headboard of the cribs, in Mediterranean small towns, where moon light is related to madness. These protections were efficient if they were drawn or engraved outside the houses. This was a common practice in Castilla, were they put celestial symbols with crosses on the roofs or chimneys, a Christian reference. It is usual to obtain benevolent herbs as rosemary or pennyroyal and leave them on the roof under the Sun, in order to make the evil curse dissapear.

The moon's form in the other hand, has two defined origins: First was the Moon itself, it could be found on Roman amulets called lunulae to pretend to be a lunar presence in order to avoid the real moon to cause bad luck. This half-moon form had already examples in Bronze Age in the middle and the north of Europe although we do not know if its ritual use had power as an amulet.

Second, other example in Roman amulets against evil eye, they had phallic and profilactic forms, for example, closed hands as the ones found in Merida. They were bended to form a curve associated to lunar arc. Horseshoes are considered good luck charms, they have also semicircular aspect and they can replace moon amulets but we still do not know if the material or the form is the one which brings luck. 

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada -

Rachel Black - Translator -

- Barrera, de la, J. L; Nogales Basarrate, T. El ojo de la noche: el culto a la luna y el mal de ojo de la antigüedad a nuestros días. En Magia y Religión de la Antigüedad a nuestros días. P. Caldera (ed.) Cuadernos Emeritenses, Mérida 2001
-Elworthy, F.T., The Evil Eye, an account of this ancient and widespread superstition, London 895.Erkoreka, A. Mal de ojo: una creencia supersticiosa remota, compleja y aún viva. San Sebastián, 2005
-Espinosa, A.M., The Folklore of Spain in the American Southwest. Traditional Spanish folk literature in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado . University of Oklahoma Press: Norman 1958
-Idoyaga Molina, A. Las manifestaciones del mal de ojo en Iberoamérica. Reflexión crítica sobre la posibilidad de orígenes indoamericanos. Scripta Ethnológica, CSIC Argentina, 2013
-Villar Esparza, C., Creencias y costumbres populares (Campo de Montiel), Revista de Folklore 274 Valladolid 2003

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