How Does the Belief in the ‘Evil Eye’ Manifest in Different Cultures?

Kate Chered
5 min readJan 6, 2024


Where Did the Belief in the ‘Evil Eye’ Originate and What Does It Signify?

The belief in the ‘evil eye’, a form of vicious glare believed to cause harm or misfortune, is a widespread cultural phenomenon that transcends geographical and religious boundaries. It is a superstition in various cultures worldwide, including many communities in the United States. Historically, this belief stems from the idea that envy or intense scrutiny can metaphysically affect individuals, particularly those who are perceived as more vulnerable, such as children, brides, and pregnant women.

A fascinating study at Queen’s University in Canada highlighted a human tendency to feel a gaze as a tangible pressure. This phenomenon could partly explain the psychological underpinnings of the ‘evil eye’ belief. Additionally, followers of Baron Carl von Reichenbach, a 19th-century Austrian chemist, theorized that the human gaze could emit bio-radiation energy generated by the brain.

In mythology, some cultures hold that individuals with extrasensory abilities could inadvertently channel malevolent entities through their gaze. These entities, often described as demons or negative spirits in folklore, are believed to bring misfortune or ill health.

Children are particularly susceptible to the ‘evil eye’ in many cultures, especially before they reach certain milestones like baptism or age-specific rituals, which are thought to offer protective benefits. The belief posits that the bond between a mother and her child provides a natural shield against such negative influences during infancy.

How to Recognize If a Child Is Believed to Be Affected by the ‘Evil Eye’

Identifying whether a child is impacted by the ‘evil eye’ largely depends on cultural interpretations and traditional beliefs. Common signs include unexplained crying, irritability, poor appetite, or sudden onset of illness without any medical explanation. In many communities, these symptoms, particularly when they appear abruptly, are often attributed to the evil influence of an envious or negative gaze.

It’s important to understand that these beliefs are deeply rooted in cultural traditions and may influence how parents and caregivers interpret and respond to a child’s distress. In a psychological context, these beliefs can be understood as a way for individuals to make sense of inexplicable or random events, especially when they concern the health and well-being of a vulnerable child.

However, from a scientific and medical perspective, such symptoms in children should be evaluated for potential physical or psychological causes. Pediatricians and child psychologists may consider various factors, from common illnesses to environmental stressors, in diagnosing and treating these symptoms.

Traditional Methods to Counteract the ‘Evil Eye’ and Their Psychological Implications

Traditional methods to counteract the effects of the ‘evil eye’ vary widely across cultures. Common practices include amulets, charms, and rituals to ward off negative energy. In some cultures, holy water, prayers, and specific rituals like egg rolling are believed to offer protection or healing from the ‘evil eye’.

For example, in some Hispanic communities, the practice of “Olimpia” (cleansing) with an egg is a popular ritual believed to absorb negative energy from the child. Similarly, blue eye-shaped amulets are commonly used as protective charms in Mediterranean cultures.

These traditional practices have significant psychological implications. They can provide a sense of control and comfort to caregivers who feel helpless in the face of their child’s distress. These rituals can foster community and shared cultural identity, offering emotional support during stressful times.

However, it’s crucial to balance these cultural practices with understanding child health and development from a scientific viewpoint. While respecting cultural beliefs and practices, it is essential to seek professional medical advice when children exhibit signs of distress or illness. This ensures that any underlying health issues are properly addressed.

In conclusion, while the belief in the ‘evil eye’ and its impact on children is a culturally significant phenomenon, it’s important to approach it with a blend of cultural sensitivity and scientific understanding. Recognizing the psychological comfort these beliefs provide to many families while ensuring children’s health needs are met through modern medicine represents a respectful and holistic approach to childcare in a multicultural society like the United States.


How Does the Belief in the ‘Evil Eye’ Manifest in Different Cultures?

The belief in the ‘evil eye’ manifests differently across cultures but generally revolves around the idea that envy or a nasty stare can cause harm. In some cultures, this is countered with protective charms or rituals. For instance, in Mediterranean societies, blue-eye-shaped amulets are common, whereas, in Hispanic cultures, rituals like ‘limpia’ using an egg are believed to absorb negative energy. These cultural practices reflect the universal human tendency to protect the vulnerable, especially children, from perceived negative influences.

Where Did the Concept of the ‘Evil Eye’ Originate?

The concept of the ‘evil eye’ is ancient and widespread, with roots in various cultures and religions worldwide. It likely originated from the human inclination to explain misfortune or illness metaphysically. The ‘evil eye’ is often associated with envy or jealousy and is believed to cause harm to those who are envied, especially those in vulnerable stages of life, like childhood or pregnancy.

What Are Common Signs Believed to Indicate a Child Is Affected by the ‘Evil Eye’?

Common signs that are culturally believed to indicate a child is affected by the ‘evil eye’ include unexplained crying, irritability, a sudden loss of appetite, or a mysterious illness. These symptoms, particularly when they appear abruptly, are often attributed to the negative influence of an envious gaze or comment in many traditional beliefs. It’s important to note that these are cultural interpretations and should be considered alongside medical explanations.

When Should Parents Consider Medical Advice Over Cultural Remedies for the ‘Evil Eye’?

Parents should consider medical advice whenever a child shows unexplained symptoms like persistent crying, irritability, eating difficulties, or illness. While cultural remedies provide psychological comfort and a sense of control, it’s crucial to ensure that any potential health issues are not overlooked. A balance between cultural practices and professional healthcare is essential for the child’s well-being.

How Do Psychological Perspectives Explain the Belief in the ‘Evil Eye’?

Psychological perspectives explain the belief in the ‘evil eye’ as a way for individuals to make sense of random or inexplicable events, especially those concerning health and well-being. This belief can also provide a sense of control in uncertain situations and help maintain a connection with cultural traditions. Psychologically, engaging in rituals to counteract the ‘evil eye’ can offer comfort and a sense of community, especially in times of stress or anxiety.