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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mal'occhio: The Evil Eye

In MAL'OCCHIO, filmmaker Agata De Santis sets out to uncover the world of the evil eye - where one can become physically ill by another's envious glances, where the only remedy is a phone call to the old woman down the street, and prevention involves wearing strange-looking amulets. Agata travels to Italy, New York, and to her mother's kitchen in Montreal to decide once and for all if the evil eye is real.

Commentary: I was lucky enough to catch this documentary early Saturday morning on Canadian TV. I found it to be very interesting in that this was the first instance that I can recall of a group of people being filmed explaining their beliefs from inside their own culture rather than having a reporter or writer outside their culture obtaining this information and relaying it back to the masses or dismissing it as the superstition of primitive or uneducated people. 

According to this documentary, the evil eye occurs when someone envies you for some reason be it a financial windfall, your good looks, getting married, etc... However it can also arise when someone compliments you or heaps upon you too much praise. For the most part, the aunts and mothers in this film seem to believe this is often done unintentionally in that the person doesn't necessarily wish harm upon their victim but that it is a natural consequence of their jealousy.

One segment featured  Rossi and Company a famous souvenir shop in New York City's Little Italy. Here the owner, Ernest Rossi, described many of the amulets that you can purchase which will {allegedly} protect you from the evil eye. Some of these amulets include a red horn, which resemble a red pepper; and the "hand" or mano cornuta--- a hand with the thumb and two middle fingers folded in. Perhaps the most powerful amulet of all, according to Mr. Rossi, is the “Gobbetto” amulet. The Gobbetto is a well-dressed hunchback in a suit and top hat, holding an umbrella, horse shoe, and horn. 

Other segments included amulets which are pinned to a baby's undergarments until communion and a visit to a laboratory where the Olive Oil and Water Test (see below) were scrutinized under laboratory conditions. 

I was delighted when the producer's own Italian Aunt and Mother shared their prayers and cures for the evil eye. I will not share the prayers that were prescribed by the producer's aunt as they are not mine to give away and I have not had the opportunity to use them myself for their efficacy. In addition, I have as yet been unable to find these prayers in any source.  However, the Olive Oil and Water Test which was demonstrated twice in the film has several variations which can be found all over the internet and in various books. 

The version given in this documentary follows thusly. Begin by filling a shallow bowl with water. The bowl is given to the victim who holds it on his or her head. Sprinkle salt in the water making the sign of the cross. Next, three drops of olive oil are placed in the bowl which is then removed and observed. It is believed that if the person has the evil eye the drops of oil will spread out. However, if they remain whole the person does not have the evil eye.If the individual has the evil eye, the ritual is repeated until the drops of olive oil remain whole. 

I have seen at least once instance whereupon a similar cure was performed in this way. To effect the cure, the point of one sewing needle was inserted into the eye of another and dropped into the water. Then a pair of scissors were taken and jabbed into the water over and over again while saying "crush the evil eye" or something similar.

Growing up on the South, the following procedure was given to my by one of the old timer to cure the evil eye. Take a potato that has "eyes" on it. Wash off the dirt and write the name of the person who gave you the eye on the potato. If you don't know the name of the person, just write evil eye. Next, stick a pin in every "eye" of the potato in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then take a pair of scissors, or a sharp knife, and pass over the potato to cut it off. Finally, bury the potato off of your property. 

Your mileage may vary, 

Happy Hoodoo-ing 



AmethJera said...

I love learning about folk magic practices. You have some of the best information! I trust you because I know how serious you are with researching your subjects.

Carolina Dean said...

Honestly, I credit my enemies for my thoroughness because I know the slightest mistake on my part with result in my virtual crucifixion.