The Evil Eye (Il Malocchio)


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The Evil Eye, known as "Il Malocchio" in Italy, is said to cause ill health. Could the high cost of healthcare be reduced, if every time that you feel sick, you consider the possibility that you were given the malocchio? Should you have used an amulet, to provide protection from this malady? Because the symptoms could be the result of a real illness, one should first see a doctor. But if all secular remedies should fail, there is also said to be a cure, for being stricken, by the evil eye.


Malocchio's origin goes back some three thousand years, to ancient Sumeria, from which it spread to the Near East and the Mediterranean. It is a curse transmitted by the eyes, causing bad luck or injury, just because someone looked at you sideways. Plutarch of the ancient Greeks, explains the evil eye at length. He maintains that invisible particles are emanated by all living bodies, and the human eye, emits the most powerful of these particles, and this is what gives the curse its effectiveness.

References to this curse are abundant in the Bible, but they are obscured by translation. Proverbs 23 verse 6 is translated, "Do not eat the bread of a miser," but the original Hebrew text, admonishes one not to eat the bread of the man with the evil eye. The prophet Muhammad speaks of the evil eye and its power, in the Koran, the holy book of Islam. In Italy, it is called malocchio.

According to Google, one of the world's leading experts an Italian superstitions, is American author, Rick Zullo. In his Italian-American blog, Zullo writes the source of this curse is said to be envy, directed at you... either intentionally or unintentionally, by a friend, an enemy, or some passing stranger. Someone jealous of your possessions or your success, can curse you... even without meaning to. The symptoms of malocchio might include headache, fatigue, dizziness, or episodes of bad luck, such as a batch of freshly made cheese gone bitter, or the failure of crops in a period of drought.

How will you know if you were given the malocchio? Under normal conditions, because it is less dense, olive oil floats in water. The Italian oil test is performed by placing two drops of olive oil in a glass of water, typically holy water. If the drops remain separated, there is no curse - but if they merge - there is. Another test is to place one drop of olive oil into the water. If the drop floats, the test is negative. If the drop sinks below the surface, this confirms the evil eye was cast upon you. The strength of the curse is indicated, by the speed of a positive result.

There is a cure, the secret of which is passed from one woman to another, in a special indoctrination, conducted on Christmas Eve. In Italy, the woman is usually a grandmother, and she must also be a confirmed Catholic. The treatment begins with recital of prayer, over the victim of the jinx. Grandmother then hovers over the dish of holy water, that shows the positive result. With a pair of scissors, she cuts the air above the dish. The sign of the cross is made three times, and then over the water, is sprinkled a liberal dose of salt. Then grandma takes the scissors, and cuts into the water. Congratulations. You are cured.

But the easiest way to combat the evil eye, is to maintain your defenses at all times. One of two Italian hand gestures can be used. The first of these is the fig sign, sometimes known in the states, as "got your nose". The second is the "mano cornuta", or the horned hand, whose stateside equivalent, can often be seen at heavy metal rock concerts.

For those who crave protection from the malocchio at all times, a charm against the jinx, may be worn about the neck. This amulet in Italy, is called the cornicello. It is in the shape of a twisted horn. Cornicelli are traditionally carved out of red coral, but also they are made from gold, or silver. The amount of money made by the sellers of these amulets, has been estimated in the millions of lira.

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