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The Malevolent Eye

An Essay on the Evil Eye, Fertility and the Concept of Mana


Pierre Gravel Bettez

The Evil Eye is one of the most wide-ranging systems of beliefs in the world and in history. It is more widespread than the belief in one God. Yet it is misunderstood and remains rather puzzling and mysterious. An explanation of its origins is given here by focusing on the meaning of the eye-as-symbol rather than on defining the Evil Eye as a problem of vision and gaze. As symbol, it is presumed to have its roots in pervasive fertility rituals dating back to prehistory. The very idea of fertility is the beginning and the end of survival in all subsistence societies. This pervasive obsession with production and reproduction, not only characterized prehistory and the preindustrial world, but has persisted with important modifications, into the world of money markets, while at the same time retaining the ancient symbols. The eye is one such symbol.