What is Evil Eye?

   Evil eye Belief in the power of certain individuals to harm others merely by looking at them has probably existed in one form or another since before mankind began to keep records. References to it have been found in the annals of the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians and Babylonians; in Greek and Roman mythology; even in the Bible, which counsels in the Book of Proverbs, in the King James Version, "Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye. . . . The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up." Though not as prevalent today as in the past, the belief can still be found in many areas of the world, including parts of Asia, northern Africa, southern Europe and some Mesoamerican Indian cultures.
   The use of the evil eye—sometimes called overlooking—is most commonly thought to be motivated by envy. (In societies where the belief is strong, in fact, a compliment or display of admiration, especially from a stranger, may well be taken as a concealed threat.) The supposed effects of the evil eye can assume myriad forms, ranging from financial troubles and romantic disappointments to headaches, sudden fa­tigue, accidents, illness and even death. To ward them off, a wide variety of invocations, gestures, amulets and other defenses may be employed by potential victims. Two of the best-known ges­tures, long familiar in Mediterranean countries, are the mano cornuia (Italian for "horned hand"), in which a fist is made with the forefinger and pinkie extended, and the mano in fica, in which a fist is made with the thumb protruding between the forefinger and middle finger.
   Interestingly, overlooking is not always thought to be voluntary or maliciously intended. Indeed, there have been numerous cases over the years of prominent and highly regarded figures—including at least one pope— who were nevertheless reputed to possess and use the power, however involuntarily.