In the midst of exploring the magnificent architecture, history and culture of Istanbul,Turkey it was hard not to notice the tiny blue evil eye icons glinting at me throughout the city. It was on that first visit to Istanbul in 1997 that I learned the significance of the evil eye in the region. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica “Belief in the evil eye is ancient and ubiquitous: it occurred in ancient Greece and Rome; is found in Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions and in folk cultures and preliterate societies; and has persisted throughout the world into modern times.” The symbol of the blue eye is meant to ward off the “evil eye” look given intentionally or unintentionally of ill will, usually due to dislike or envy. The charm serves as protection by deflecting bad luck back at the offender or absorbing it. Word is that if your talisman cracks or breaks you know it worked to protect you. Speculation is that long ago due to the rarity of blue eyes in that area of the world, the color came under suspicion as powerful in some way.
By the time we returned home from that first visit we had acquired numerous evil eye souvenirs from our trip, items I looked at as beloved travel memorabilia and cultural artifacts. Two years later we went back to Istanbul with our infant daughter. Before we left for Turkey my husband’s sister gave us a tiny safety-pin with a plastic blue evil eye dangling from it. It was meant to be pinned to our baby’s clothes for safe travel. At night I would remove the tiny pin and place it on the dresser, but put it back on her each morning as we got dressed. The earthquake hit on our third night there, it registered as a 7.6 on the Richter Scale and when it was over our room was a jumble of toppled furniture and broken belongings. No one in our apartment had been injured, so we considered ourselves extremely fortunate. As we straightened up the mess in the room, atop the dresser sat the tiny plastic pin exactly in the spot I had set it the evening before. Nothing had fallen on it, in fact it had not moved at all, but it was cracked down the middle in a sharp jagged line. I gasped when I saw it, in my mind the superstition had been proven true. My baby had been protected by it. Sometimes a moment can alter your perception of something, consciously or not, when that internal shift takes place, the seed of that idea is planted. Rationally I remained skeptical, but spiritually I became a believer in the evil eye in that moment.
My father-in-law and husband tell the following story: For scientists, science and superstition are mutually inconsistent. A neighbor visiting Niels Bohr in his country home found the great Danish physicist (recipient of the 1922 Nobel Prize) nailing a horseshoe above the front door of his house. The friend laughed, “Professor Bohr, I cannot believe you believe the old superstition of horseshoes warding off bad luck!”
Bohr quipped, while continuing to fix the horseshoe in place, “I don’t, but this is just in case”
To this day I wear evil eye jewelry whenever I think of it, we have evil eye house wares throughout our home, and my car keys dangle from an evil eye key chain. Do I believe in the evil eye? I suppose I do, and I display it everywhere….just in case.