Turkish Evil Eye Beliefs and Practices
Do you believe in bad luck caused by ill will? You may have heard stories and old wives' tales from your grandmother telling you not to do stuff like clipping your fingernails at night. Or always knocking on wood to keep bad luck away.
There is an even older superstition involving amulets to ward off evil and misfortune. It is believed to be experienced by many around the world. It was even mentioned in the Bible. It is what many call the “evil eye.” Previously we talked about the Greek side of this belief, another interesting insight is from Turkey.
What is the Turkish Evil Eye Meaning?
The evil eye bears different names, beliefs, and cures for each culture and country. In Greece, it is called Mati - which means "eye." In Italy, it is "Malocchio" - "mal" for bad or evil and "occhio" for eye. The Turkish Evil Eye is called Nazar.
As defined on Divânu Lügati't-Türk, the evil eye is “a fatal power that comes into being from bad effects.” You can ward it off with medicine specific for the evil eye called “egit.” But the most common accessory used to protect against the evil eye is an amulet known as Nazar Boncuk.
What is the Nazar Boncuk Charm or Evil Eye Beads?
The Nazar Boncuk (or Boncugu, whichever you use is still accurate) is the Turkish evil eye charm. If you translate it, it means Nazar charm or sight charm. Turkish evil eye beads, same as in Greece, are sold everywhere. Marketplaces, you name it.
How did the Evil Eye belief Start in Turkey?
The history of the evil eye in Turkey started at around the same time the Greek belief took shape, maybe even older. Given the superstition has a different name around the world, its exact origin is harder to trace. The tradition dates back at least to 3300 BCE and has been adopted in Turkey since. It may have been for longer as ancient Mesopotamia is mentioned to have the belief as well. The evil eye in Turkey is far more underrated given that the majority of their faith derives from Islam.
What are the Turkish beliefs on the Evil Eye?
The logic behind this is that the instance of success or objects worthy of praise inspire envy and jealousy. Upon gazing (hence the means of transmission of the curse) can then the curse take effect. You may get a headache, brain fog, or the feeling of malaise or nausea - all of a sudden. You can also have bad luck and unfortunate circumstances happen to you all at once.
Here is where the amulets come to deflect the curse and protect those who wear or display them. The Turkish blue eye or Nazar Boncuk comes in all shapes, sizes, and variations. But the common theme here is the color blue, which we will discuss in detail in the next section of the article.
If and when you see a broken evil eye charm, that means the curse has already consumed the charm and should be thrown away. It's not just seen on articles of clothing or ornaments on the body, you can see houses adorned with charms, mostly hanging on walls. There is even an evil eye tree in Turkey which is a famous destination in the district of Cappadocia.
Despite all that, Turkey is a predominantly Islamic country. With that said, the fatwa decrees all sorts of things forbidden like having tattoos or lining up for the lottery. Early this year, they started turning their attention to the Evil Eye belief, specifically the wearing of the charms. Given that anything outside of the belief of Allah is wrong, the results were divisive. Some are appealing to retain this harmless tradition while others can do without it as they don't believe as much. Regardless, the spirit and wonder of the superstition are being kept alive by the glass bead makers who create the charms.
Blue Evil Eye Meaning
Why is it blue? Why not red or green? We'll get to these reasons below that strengthen the belief.
Water Symbolism - Symbol of Good Fortune for The People Living in Turkey with Arid Land.
Well, we all know the region where Turkey is situated is almost always hot and humid. The majority of their landmass is mountain ranges but also filled with desert areas. With that stated, it is a blessing for them to have rain given that they are a major producer of grain and other pertinent crops. Water is also symbolic of giving life and a precious resource of growth and prosperity. And with that concept, making sense of using the color of life - blue.
Same as water, the color of the sky was mostly azure to a light blue. The light blue color symbolizes protection against evil and truth - truths revealed by the unseen eye. Both water and sky is also an element that is important for Greeks, giving credence to the color of the charms.
The prominence of People with Blue Eyes in Turkey
Similar to Greek demographics, the dominant eye color is brown but there are cases where green and blue would appear, though minimal. Akin to Greeks and how they view blue-eyed people, they were purported to be the likeliest source of the evil eye. This is the reason why, along with the sea and sky, the dominant charm color is blue. The belief of fighting fire with fire, as people say, is the most effective way to deter the curse.
Broken Evil Eye Amulet or Glass Charm
The common sign where an evil eye charm has done its job is when it breaks. The reasoning behind it is that negative energy also gets absorbed by the Nazar Boncuk. When it has its fill of negative energy, it breaks. The wielder of the charm is then advised to throw the broken ward, say a prayer, and get a new one.
In the scientific spectrum of things, it is believed to be bioenergy. This explains the way the curse is being transmitted, as literal energy rays of envy and hatred. This also explains the glass bead breakage.
The Practice of Hanging Evil Eye Glass Beads on Trees
There is a place in Turkey in the region of Cappadocia called Uchisar Castle. And behind that castle situates the famous evil eye tree. So why the heck would somebody hang glass eye beads on trees?
Same way in Turkish homes, public places, and modes of transportation, the Nazar Boncuk will always be a fixture to deter misfortune and evil. Putting it on a tree will give not just better protection to the vicinity, but to the land that it's situated in. Imagine the evil eye tree being filled with positive energy. The tree's roots are below the earth ground that is part of Turkey. Therefore, this tree not only protects the immediate area but the whole country if you think about it.
What is the Turkish evil eye protection?
Turkish glassmakers and artisans have not maintained thousands of years of tradition just to garner attention. They firmly believe in the power of the Turkish evil eye protection and prosperity. And they do it in style!
Turkish evil eye jewelry comes in various forms:
1. Turkish evil eye necklace
2. Turkish evil eye bracelet - It can be as simple as a braided bracelet with one bead on it or it can be a series of beads tied together with string.
3. Turkish evil eye earrings - This accessory isn't just limited to beads. There are those made from encrusted colored stones or crocheted thread and other various materials designed with the eye in mind.
4. Turkish evil eye pendant - Like how Greeks design theirs, they put a hole on the glass eye bead and tie it on a string or chain.
5. Turkish evil eye ring - The jewel or centerpiece, in this case, is the glass eye bead.
6. Turkish evil eye amulets - These are ones you can either hang at home or in your car. These are small as keychains or can be larger than the palm of your hand. There is also the Hamsa, a hand-shaped talisman mostly with the eye design on the palm area.
What are the Materials used for making Turkish Evil Eye Beads or Evil Eye Amulets?
Turkey is known for its agriculture, friendly people, tourist destinations, and carpets. Little did we know that the ancient art of glass evil eye bead making also originated here!
The glass evil eye beads or Nazar Boncuk is made of broken glass shards, which will melt on an oven. The glassmakers will then get that molten blue glass using an iron rod and shape it with an anvil. The remaining colors will come from other ovens and are then transferred (dripped, to be precise) using a thinner iron rod. This will make up the basic premise of the Nazar Boncuk. The piece will then be rolled and pressed flat to create the final form and put on a kiln for cooling.
Some Turkish evil eye amulets do not rely on the old way of doing things as other materials can be used like metal, thread, jewels, and stones. This is unfortunate since most of the glassmakers are the last of their generation to learn the skill and not much new blood would want to continue the craft. Also, criticism from the Islamic community is not helping the craft take hold. Even so, the glassmakers are still forging on and other interested parties from outside the country are consuming the design by storm. A lot of celebrities are wearing the evil eye bead in some modern variations. Some designers have used the motif and can sell them. It might be because it is stylish or they would be actual believers.
Where to buy Turkey Evil Eye Jewelry?
Alongside Greece, Turkish evil eye jewelry can easily be seen at bazaars from merchants. If you are a traveler with no idea of the culture, you might even mistake them for mere souvenirs.
Outside the country, you can buy Turkish evil eye beads and similar accessories on the web. Given the current climate in terms of the pandemic, it is readily available. All it takes is one search of Google and you can find them staring at your face on the screen. Etsy has it, Amazon sells it, heck there are even sellers in the United States that specialize in Evil Eye jewelry like our store.
The concept of envy has been long discussed and still is a topic in popular culture. Television shows, movies, and books have often made it a source of conflict with their stories. Real-life events like wars and tragedies all start with a jealous party. It can be their thirst for power, the material or immaterial like making themselves feel good at the expense of the other party's misfortune. This has been the reason behind seeking protection against it. If history states the case, there's no harm in believing in something that cannot be seen. That is why there is the Nazar Boncuk for you.
What started as protection against evil from millennia ago is now a source of fascination for the present generation and beyond. Wide-eyed folks who are in awe of the stories of old tend to gravitate here. The people involved in the stories - the glassmakers, the merchants, the elder storytellers, and the young believers - continue the tradition. They are all important in bridging the gap of the past, present, and future, not only in Turkey but everywhere in the world.
We all find comfort in safety and protection. Don't we all just want peace and prosperity? My two cents on this - it is not just a silly belief in curse and misfortune. It is also a way to unite us all and inspire us to do good and spread love and humanity. It may sound idealistic at the moment but the Nazar Boncuk will keep on protecting as long as we believe in the good of humankind.