Historical and Modern Day Beliefs on Greek Evil Eye, Mati
Do you believe in curses and superstitions? Any cases of bad luck or misfortune happening lately? Do you think that you attribute all this to bad decision-making or some unseen force at play? In this article, we will talk about one of those curses called the Evil Eye.
What is the Greek Evil Eye or Mati?
The Greek Evil Eye or known locally in Greece as Mati (Greek translation for "eye") is a superstitious curse. The curse is cast knowingly (or unknowingly) through staring or excessive praise towards the other person. The one who "eyes" another almost always has either negative thoughts in mind or envy and jealousy towards someone. This then transfers that negative energy to the victim.
It would have an effect of either misfortune or physical weakness and malaise. The most susceptible to the evil eye curse are children, pregnant women, and those who lack faith. This is why various charms are gifted to ward off the curse of the evil eye. These charms are also called Mati, which makes sense because they look like eyes.
Mati Meaning and Symbolism
The Mati is commonly seen in Greece and sold at marketplaces. This comes in various forms such as amulets, bracelets, pins. The common identifier of the charm is its blue and white hues. There are two reasons for the color choice.
The Blue Seas and Skies of Greece
Along with the familiar Aegean architecture, the colors represent the experience of Greece at its finest. You can say that it's not just a charm, it's also the identity and a reminder of how much Greece is surrounded by bodies of water. A national souvenir, if you will.
Blue and Green as the Least Prominent Eye Colors in Greece
This is true - the predominant eye color Greeks have is either dark or medium brown. Only 25 percent make up for those with blue, green, or gray eyes. As this is the minority, superstitious belief states that these are the ones who are most capable of wielding the evil eye. Hence, the color of the charm is the way it is.
History of the Greek Evil Eye (Mati)
The belief in the Greek Evil Eye or the Mati started in ancient Syria based on the texts found on the ruins. As that region was destroyed at around 1250 BC, it was likely believed to have been established earlier. Throughout Greek history, the evil eye was mentioned in literary works by philosophers and authors.
From there, it is slowly explained what exact effects the evil eye attributes to people - those who were "eyed" to be precise. It is to be believed that the eyes of those who had malicious intent were the ones causing the curse. Since then, it has become a source of fascination and fear primarily in countries that believe in this superstition.
What are the symptoms of Matiasma according to the Greeks?
Well, what happens to you when you have been given the evil eye? If you are wondering, fret not. We will get on with the following evil eye symptoms below.
- Severe headache
- A sudden feeling of discomfort
- To fall into the emptiness as consciousness
- Suddenly emerged unwanted accidents
- Unreasonable negativity in a job or home life
- Stress and tension
- Intense desire to sleep
These are but the most common of symptoms when you know you have received the other end of the evil eye.
What are the beliefs on Greek Evil Eye (Mati)
According to Plutarch, who is a Greek essayist, the eyes give off deadly rays that act like poisoned darts towards their victim. This was the way the ones with the Greek evil eye transmitted the curse. This lines up with the saying "the eyes are the windows to the soul."
This also started the belief that the ones who wield the evil eye are envious people, which also coincides with Christian belief. Jesus always preaches that spiritual riches are more important than earthly ones.
Modern Day Beliefs
As with ancient beliefs, envious people are still being avoided - neighbors and loved ones to be precise. The prevalence of the Mati charm is greater than ever, especially with children. Achievements and good fortune are still getting downplayed.
Yet, it is a great regulator for social interactions. No one wants to have the evil eye, let alone be associated with it. For suspicion to dwindle, good behavior and generosity are being exhibited. Compliments and praises are also avoided. If it can't be helped, the compliment is to be followed by a spitting action or include a phrase referencing God as the source of blessing.
Orthodox Church Beliefs
Orthodox priests take everything about this superstitious belief with a grain of salt, as expected. As they live out their Catholic faith, they will always tell people to keep praying and to believe in the blessed sacrament. But this doesn't mean that they don't believe in the evil eye. They do, but not in the way the Greek populace does. They treat it as another form of evil from demons and man's envy, which still aligns with the Orthodox faith.
They treat evil eye afflictions generally as something they need to bless and pray over with a prayer called "Xematiasma." It is not necessarily an exorcism, as they suggested exorcisms as for internal strife while the evil eye is external.
They would also disapprove of the mati charm being given to babies during baptisms as they believe children should only have one symbol with them - the Holy Cross. Though some priests use the same charms alongside the cross as long as they are blessed by the Church.
Ways to ward off evil according to the Greeks?
As it is a curse imposed on another person, there will always be a way to ward off the evil eye. Here are some of the effective ways to do so.
Kylikes or Apotropaic Eye Drinking Cups
A Kylike or Kylix is a wine-drinking cup, which looks like a wide and shallow bowl with handles on the sides. It is usually painted with humorous symbols on the inside but the identifying trait is the painted eyes on the outside. This symbolism was attributed by the Greek potter Exekias and it serves to ward off evil spirits and envious gazes. The term Apotropaic means to deflect or turn away evil or harmful influences.
At present, there are no Kylikes used by modern Greeks. As this was the relic of the past, this was only the beginning of how to ward off the evil eye throughout history.
This all dawns back to ancient Greek belief. Hecate, the goddess of sorcery, magic and the underworld, was known to accept the offering of garlic as supper. She would then bestow the offer of protection against evil spirits.
The way this works is you need to hang a bunch of garlic bulbs in the front of your home. This way, guests about to enter your home will be warded off should they have the evil eye.
Another way you can ward it off when you are out and about is to bring one garlic clove and put it in your pocket. The indicator when it works is it should give off a smell. There are extreme cases where cloves burn on sight but this has yet to be proven. Either way, you should throw the clove away and say a prayer for protection.
Spitting on One's Face
You might think that this is culturally unacceptable behavior but you are dead wrong. In Greece, it is a common occurrence pre-pandemic to spit on people's faces. And by faces, we mean those we want to safeguard from the evil eye. Loved ones, friends, and of course, babies.
It is even mentioned within stories from ancient Greece as a way to divert evil's attention away. And this belief has survived generations knowing that it is effective.
You would think that the word Skorda, being used as a protection chant, may be esoteric. Funny how it is not the way you would expect it.
Skorda is the literal Greek word for Garlic. Would you look at that? It's not just the actual vegetable that's effective, but also the word itself!
This spell is being used after every praise or compliment given to you, given that such gesture would also give you the evil eye.
Wearing a Mati Charm
As explained earlier in this article, the bluish glass ornament is the most common among all that can ward off the evil eye. It is readily available in and around Greece (and everywhere in the world at the moment). And cheap, nonetheless.
As a Greek, this is by default especially with grandparents who believe in superstition. They end up sharing their stories with their families and pass the belief from generation to generation. And if it ends up broken, it is believed that it has served its purpose and should be thrown away. We will tackle more of this famous charm in the next section of this article.
Avoiding Those with Blue Eyes
Given that blue-eyed Greeks are a minority, alongside green-eyed ones, they are suspected to have the evil eye. This is one of the main reasons why the mati charms are colored as such.
There is little to go on in terms of proving this as accurate. As it is superstition, there is no harm in doing as advised. Though it would be unfair to blue-eyed citizens of Greece.
Exclaiming Ftou! 3x
This relates to the "spitting in the face" way of warding off the evil eye, except there is no saliva involved in the process. You just have to say the word, which sounds like you are doing the actual spitting. Think of it as feign spitting for good luck.
This is an alternative to actual spitting in the face and is more Covid compliant, as you can do this in front of a mirror before getting out of the house.
Saying a Prayer
The prayer in question is called Xematiasma. Originally, it is a secret prayer that ought to be passed on to the opposite gender. Not much is known as to why that is the case but according to their customs, it is to keep the ability to cast the evil eye away.
In modern times, this prayer now has common versions that even Orthodox priests are now using to cleanse someone afflicted with the evil eye. The way to know if the prayer works and the evil eye is extinguished is when both parties are yawning non-stop.
There are, however, chants that are still being kept secret by elderlies in Greece in the hopes of maintaining the effectiveness of the prayers.
Types of matis for protection from different sources of the evil eye
The Mati Charm is the most common and effective symbol to ward off the evil eye. This evil protection symbol comes in various forms of adornments.
Greek evil eye necklace
The old designs, especially from Greece, look like a blue glass bead in round fashion attached to a string or a silver or gold chain. Now, the designs are more intricate adding diamonds and other stones in the mix. There are even variations where Greek evil eye necklaces are combined with crosses.
Greek evil eye charm
In general, Greek stores offer their evil eye charms in common forms. The predominant design is in keychain form or the ones tied to a string. Trendy options nowadays include a smartphone holder with the Mati.
Greek evil eye bracelets
There are various bracelet designs for evil eye protection. The common one is the smaller blue-eyed beads held together by a thread. There are others where it is just one bead and a crucifix along a gold chain.
Greek evil eye beads
You can buy beads that have no holes on them which can be used to make your ornaments or spread them throughout your home for protection.
Greek evil eye amulet
The same thing with necklaces, modern amulets are also encrusted with various stones giving them a trendy vibe.
A few ways you can protect yourself from the evil eye without wearing a mati
If you think that the Mati charm is an overrated evil protection symbol, there are other ways to do so. You may not need a symbol to ward off the evil eye if you want to.
Greek prayer to remove the evil eye
As explained earlier, some secret Greek prayers and incantations can remove the evil eye from a person. These are being kept secret as they believe the effectiveness matters when fewer people know the exact chants. There is also the Xematiasma coming from a relative or a priest or you can also pray the Lord's Prayer three times over. There are also various prayers available on the internet for use, which may or may not work. You should practice discretion for the last suggestion.
The way to determine if someone is affected by the evil eye is by putting a few drops of olive oil on water (a glass or on a saucer). After a secret chant is spoken and if the oil sinks, it is known that the evil eye was cast. Another indicator would be that, if placed on a saucer filled with water and the oil spreads and dissolves, the evil eye is definitely there.
Various cures have been mentioned throughout Greek legend. Spitting on the afflicted three times after a prayer is one. If the healer yawns profusely, the evil eye is cast out. Another would be blessed holy salt. Take a pinch of salt on your first three fingers then give it to the victim. The victim will then taste a bit of it, throw some on the fire and throw the rest in water. The belief is once dissolved on fire and water, the evil eye will then go away. There is another with flowers and holy water. A prayer is spoken three times, then dipping the flower on holy water and sprinkled to the afflicted.
Closing / CTA
Man's belief in things with the unexplainable tends to go long-winded and divisive to those who believe and don't. The belief in the Greek evil eye is the same, though it's a superstition that spans millennia and that crosses both pagan faith and Christianity.
The lesson here is that we shouldn't wish ill to other people who are more fortunate than us. We should learn to be content with what we have and support people the best we can. If we tend to be on the better side of the fence, we should be generous to those less fortunate. It's not about religion at this point, it's about restoring faith in humanity and humility. And if you don't believe in the evil eye, it's fine. As long as you do good for your fellow person.