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OLD ITALIAN FOLK TRADITION: THE RITUAL AGAINST THE EVIL EYE (MALOCCHIO-THE EVIL EYE)

The Evil Eye is one of the folk traditions that has its roots in the earliest past and, as the word implies, deals with the superstition of the power of the gaze to produce effects on the person being observed.

In most languages the name literally translates from English (evil eye) as “bad eye,” “evil eye,” “evil look,” or just “the eye.”


Thus, the mode of transmission passes through the gaze: in fact, the eyes are said to have the ability to transmit hidden forces in the body to the outside world.

 

 

The effect can be negative, such as bringing bad luck on envied or detested people, or more rarely positive, such as protecting the beloved.

In areas where this belief is still widespread, there are people (mostly elderly women) who claim to be able to diagnose the possible presence of the evil eye, in an individual, through a curious procedure that presents some interest from a physical point of view.

Let us see, in brief, what it is about: for the ritual, water, oil and a blessed candle are used: water is put in a dish, the candle is lit and some gestures are made on the person who has the suspicion of having been affected by the evil eye. At this point the operator drops a drop of oil into the water.

If the drop of oil does not remain compactly afloat on the water, but disappears by mixing with the water itself, it is already a sign that the person is affected by the evil eye (on the interpretation of the result, however, there is no unanimity).

Two more drops of oil are then dropped: in case they confirm the result from before, that is, the drops seem to disappear into the water, the evil eye is confirmed.

The rite against the evil eye has been and still is a widespread practice in all parts of southern Italy. It is resorted to when people attribute to the evil eye, generated by looks or comments dictated by envy, any state of malaise, particularly migraine.

There are various versions that have been handed down from generation to generation.

The resolving rite, using a term from De Martino (“South and Magic,” Ed: Feltrinelli,1959) varies according to region and locality.

This rite can be handed down by revealing its formula exclusively on Christmas night written on a paper or whispered in the ear away from prying eyes (the rite presented is only one of many known).

The healer (tradition has it that only the woman is the repository of the secret of the formula and it is up to her to exercise the rite) makes the sign of the cross three times, reciting in a low voice :
“In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”
and repeating three times the following formula:
“I release you from head to toe,
he who has done you evil must do you good.
Eye (in the sense of the evil eye)
contr’ eye, put it to his eye
Crack the devil and crack the eye.”

Following this, again three times, the sign of the cross is repeated on the forehead of the “patient” with the thumb of the right hand while reciting the formula at the same time, and it is continued by repeating the same procedure on the head and finally on the nape of the neck.

To ascertain whether the malaise was generated by evil eye, at the end of the ritual the healer pours water into a dish and a little olive oil into a spoon.

In the latter, the healer, dips the index finger of her right hand to drop three drops of oil into the water contained in the dish. If the drops of oil remain intact the malaise cannot be attributed to the evil eye, on the other hand, if the oil spills into the water the malaise complained of is to be attributed to the envy of others.

But not only that, in fact, if the slick takes a circular shape, the evil eye is to be attributed to a male person.

On the other hand, if the blob takes on an elongated and twisted, snake-like shape, the evil eye is attributable to a female person.

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