"The evil eye" is a belief that can be found in many cultures in which certain individuals have the power to cause harm or bad luck to others through their gaze. There are many different folk remedies to protect against this harmful glare, one of the most common being the donning of a bracelet designed to ward off the evil eye. These bracelets also can be quite visually striking.
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The Evil Eye
Belief in the evil eye itself can be traced to ancient cultures such as the classical Greeks, who believed some individuals to be capable of harming with their gaze, and the Zoroastrians of ancient Persia. Making charms to ward off the gaze dates back just as far. These charms often bear the motif of a wide-open eye staring out to counter the gaze. Several hand gestures---including the "hooked horns" of heavy-metal fans---have their origin in a belief that hand signs could ward off the evil eye. This emphasis on the hands leads to bracelets, which can be worn about the wrist to boost the ability of the wearer to "deflect" the evil eye with her hands.
Belief in the evil eye is as widespread as it is ancient, and the bracelets used to ward off the glare are just as prevalent. The most common form is a bracelet bearing staring-eye motifs on an amulet or string of beads. Some Italian charms have a ribald edge to them, incorporating symbols of erection and potency. Greek and Turkish charms can incorporate grapes, a symbol of fertility, or horseshoes, which are linked to good luck and female fertility.
While Mediterranean cultures, with their emphasis on machismo and sexual potency, see the evil eye as a sterilising gaze, in Latin-American cultures it's more of a sickening force, bringing fevers and physical detriment. Some believe young children to be particularly vulnerable to the evil eye's illnesses; these may be protected by a bracelet or by cleansing rituals. Belief in the evil eye is also incorporated into the beliefs of the Romany people of Europe, who believe it carries bad luck, and their bracelets are designed to "reflect" the glare.
Bracelets or charms containing a staring eye---often abstracted to the simple design of a ringed circle on white---can safely be assumed to fit under the banner of evil eye charms. Variations can be simple, such as the red strings of Kabbalah or the blue string with a single bead of the Indian gypsies. They can also be ornate, as in the finely detailed mirrored bracelets and amulets of modern Turkish cultures.
Evil eye bracelets can be made from many things. A simple thread can suffice in some cultures, whereas others prefer the decorative look of sterling silver or finely detailed mirrors. In Latin America, the popular "Eye of God" charm, a diamond-shaped eye woven from wool or string, can ward against the evil eye, while Mediterranean peoples often make their charms from beautiful deep-blue stained glass.
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