Tag Archives: Turkey

Turkey On My Mind

Turkey On My Mind

With everything that is going on in Turkey these days, the country and our family members there have been in the forefront of our minds. I decided to re-post this post I did a while ago on the symbolism of the evil eye. The people of Turkey could use some protection from ill will about now.

The Evil Eye

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.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

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.

My key chain

The Evil Eye

The Evil Eye

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.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

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.

My key chain

Earthquake in Istanbul (1999)

Earthquake in Istanbul (1999)

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

It was around 3:00am in Istanbul when the earth shook beneath us. My 6-month old baby slept in her pack-n-play at the foot of our bed, and my husband and I woke to a thunderous roar. My first thought was of terrorists’ bombs going off. When we had told friends we were going to Turkey to introduce our baby to the Turkish side of my husband’s family, everyone mentioned the terrorists. Growing up on the East Coast of America, I knew nothing of bathtubs and doorjambs, and the deafening cacophony associated with an earthquake. Instinctively I grabbed our baby and clutched her to my chest – a pose I held as I watched the chandelier above our bed swing wildly. My body folded around hers as she slept on. Furniture tumbled, as I swear I felt undulating waves of movement beneath me in such a way that a bed or a floor of an apartment building just DO NOT move. When the roar was continuous,20 seconds, 30 seconds, I knew it could not be bombs hitting the building next door . The 40 seconds felt like an hour.  MY BABY, MY BABY! Was the plea that circled through my mind.  In the days following, and thinking back still, I can not get over the feeling of terror that washed through me, but that is not it.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

It is the knowledge that countless other mothers had sat clutching their children that night the same was as me, only to have their buildings crumble on top of them.  The official death count is listed as 18,000, but Turkish authorities estimated it closer to 35,000 people who died that night in Turkey. Most of whom lived less than an hour outside of Istanbul in and around the city of Izmit, the epicenter of the earthquake.  Corrupt builders there had not followed building codes, and had put too much sand in the cement, so when that night stuck buildings literally crumbled.   The earthquake registered 7.6 on the Richter scale.  With the hundreds of continual aftershocks that shook Istanbul a couple of  Turkish scientists announced that everyone should sleep outside.  In 1999 the city of Istanbul had a population of over 9 million people, and they formed a carpet of humanity filling parks and lining highways to sleep outside that following night.  My father-in-law and my husband are both scientists and thought the suggestion was ridiculous.  I am not a scientist, and as the mother of a six month old baby, demanded that if the rest of Istanbul was sleeping outside, so would we.  My father-in-law called a close family friend, Ali, who had a yard, and asked if we could camp out there for the night.

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

Ali, gracious as always, immediately agreed. So it was that we caravanned to Ali’s house with my husband’s aunt and uncle, his grandfather, his grandfather’s two body guards, their household staff of three, my father-in-Law, my husband, our infant and myself.  Our entourage sprawled around Ali’s yard, and once we were settled, he left for Izmit with his grown son to try to help dig people out.  It was a surreal trip, and a lesson in humility.   To feel the earth move like that under me was a reminder of how tiny we each are in the scheme of things.  How great and powerful the nature of the earth truly is over us all.

 

Have any of you experienced an earthquake? Did you know what was happening?

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay

Photo by Elizabeth Atalay