Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Warding off the Evil Eye

According to R.C. Maclagan's Evil Eye in the Western Highlands (Nutt, London 19 02) the Evil Eye superstition was widespread in the area well into the late 1800s. Possibly it still lingers in the Western Highlands of Scotland. The simplest way of telling who had the Evil Eye (the 'diagnostic mark') was to look out for persons with different coloured eyes but as he says 'all the parti-coloured eyes in Scotland would not account for a tenth part of the results accredited to evil eyes.' Atrtractive children were particularly prone and various dress codes are suggested to ward it off:


A woman of twenty-eight, whose information is quite 
reliable, the daughter of a respectable man in one 
of the inner islands, remembers when young people 
talked a great deal about these things, and many were 
very much afraid of them. "The idea was that it 
was always the best and prettiest of beast or body 
that was most liable to be injured by a bad eye. 
(My) youngest brother was awfully pretty when a child. 
They used to have him dressed in a red frock and 
white pinny, and with his fair skin, fair curly hair, 
and red cheeks, he was the nicest-looking child in 
all the place. Many a time, when my father would 
take him out, the neighbours would be warning him 
to take good care lest some one might do the child 
harm, and some would advise my father to go in and 
take the frock and pinny off him, so that he might not 
draw one's attention so much." 

From Ross-shire we hear the same thing. A 
native "remembers when he was young, people be- 
lieved in the Evil Eye and were afraid of it." It 
was supposed that pretty children were specially 
liable to be injured by it, and it was a common 
device with some mothers, in circumstances where 
there was any suspicion of danger, to take care that 
at-least some article of the child's dress would be at 
fault, either in respect of neatness or cleanness, or 
better still, to have one of the child's stockings turned 
outside in when being worn. These were supposed 
to form a protection to the child against injury. 

The reciter remembers quite well a woman who 
in her own person and house was the pink of neat- 
ness, but full of superstition, and he cannot remember 
ever having seen her children without something un- 
tidy about them. Always a stocking or something 
else wrong on, and this was done intentionally by 
their mother to keep away the Evil Eye. 

A native of Bernera (Harris) testified : " When a 
person appears well dressed and good-looking, it is 
supposed that she is in danger of being affected by 
the Evil Eye. A recommendation in such a case is 
to wear some article of clothing with the wrong side 
out, as a preventative of harm." 

An old man of eighty-seven, uneducated, but full 
of information, somewhat difficult to understand from 
the loss of his teeth and the weakness of his voice, 
telling his experiences in the most pathetic manner...
" The first one of my  family was a daughter. She was
a pretty child, and I was very fond of her. But what 
happened but a day that was there, she was out at 
the side of the house and a person passed who had an
Evil Eve, and the Evil Eye went into the child and she
was injured. From that time the creature went back so 
much, until at last she was only kept alive by a little 
wine put into her mouth with a teaspoon."... 

"When people had occasion to go to farmer R.'s 
house, having children with them, they contrived to 
put some attractive article of clothing on the children, 
so that the gay clothes might divert his eye from the 
wearers and save them from injury." 

A native of Knockando (Elgin) says that there is 
an impression that the young, either of man or beast, 
are verv liable to receive injury from an Evil Eye 
fastening upon them, if that should be the first eye 
that sees them after their birth. This belief makes 
people take great care often to secure that any one 
supposed to possess an Evil Eye will not be, the first 
to see an infant immediately after birth, or any other 
young animal. 

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