One of the most persistent threads through all societies and cultures throughout the history of the world is the belief in the power of the ‘evil eye’ and the effectiveness of cursing someone or something. In some societies such as the Bronze and Iron Age Celts the two were combined by someone casting a curse by standing on one leg, raising one arm in the direction of the person or item being cursed, pointing one finger, and closing one eye. Then the curse was pronounced, enhanced by the focused stance. Sometimes the person stood on a hallowed spot or held a sacred item to tap a greater source of power than the purely personal.
In the countries surrounding the Mediterranean the symbol of the eye was, and is, extremely prevalent. In ancient Egypt the eye was attributed to the Goddess Maat, the God Horus, and several other deities of that pantheon depending on the era and/or attributes of the deity. In this form the eye was usually perceived as a protective – a perception so engrained in the culture that protective eyes are painted on boats and used as amulets all over the “Med” even today. However, in the folk traditions of the same area, the fear of the ‘evil eye’ meant that protective measures such as fringes and tassels were used to deflect it.
Russian research in the 20th century leant weight to the power of the human gaze with experimental evidence supporting the idea of energy in the microwave frequency band being projected from the eyes and being received by a band of sensitivity around the head at eye level. This energy could be blocked by wire grid or anything that disturbed the focus of the gaze – such as a swinging tassel. Some telepathy training techniques take advantage of this and ‘aim’ the message by looking at - and concentrating on - this sensitive area of the head. One Witch I know who used psychic influence extensively used to imagine a cup attached to this area, wrap the message in a psychic energy ball then mentally ‘throw’ it into the cup.
With this method the target was usually unaware of the message consciously, and it was designed to control their behaviour at a subliminal level making them think their actions or impulses were their own idea. In the Cold War – particularly the 1970s through to the late 1980s – this method was tried by both sides to influence key figures with little success. The Witch who used this method claimed this was because each side was aware of what was going on, it was done without line of sight on the person, and the targets were protected by their own psychics. Her method was to work from no further than 20 foot if at all possible and it had the best chance of working if the person did not believe in magick or psychic abilities so there was little chance that they would be protecting themselves. Her success rate seemed quite high so she may well have been right.
This system might explain the way the evil eye works on people, but the wider implications such as causing general misfortune tend to fall under the umbrella of attributing accidents, chance and unwanted outcomes to a person when it was not their fault. I found it interesting that a person who was supposed to have a particularly strong evil eye near my school in Mexico was functionally blind, although he appeared to have a strong stare because he didn’t blink very often.
Curses on the other hand can be cast without using the gaze purely by combining bioelectrical energy, emotion, and focussing the intent. As mentioned in another article a curse is one of the easiest spells to cast due to high levels of emotion overriding doubts, and also strengthening the purpose. The stronger these are, the stronger the curse. This why curses delivered when the curser is on the point of death are so effective and feared. Usually only a portion of the life energy is used in a curse –even the most heartfelt ones- but in the case of someone about to die the whole lot can be used. The result can be a potent and long-lasting curse that can start to take effect immediately.
This is the basis of the outdated and mostly discarded idea of killing things to capture and use their life energies to power a spell. Experimentation and research by magick users of all styles have shown other, more effective and humane, methods that provide access to more power without harming anything. Even Satanists respect animals and children as embodiments of unfettered desire and instinct and would never harm them except in self defence or for food a la’ “responsible eating” movement.
But why use curses? These days curses are thought of as purely maleficent, but in less lawful times of ‘might makes right’ curses were frequently the only way of restitution and influencing the outcome of events. Today this is still the case, particularly in these times when economic problems and stress can cause interpersonal rivalry and conflict. But today curses are a lot more complex than causing simple misfortune. In Mexico curses were, in certain instances, used to guide a person along a certain path only causing misfortune if the person deviated from the path they were being guided along. In some ways this is similar to the Bronze and Iron Age Celtic ‘Geis’ but the path that the curse was designed to keep the person on was not positive and usually resulted in the complete corruption of the person.
Items can also be cursed by nature, chance, or design. For example; rocks taken from the Hawaiian Islands are reputed to bring ill fortune to the people who take them, and items from an alcoholics’ house frequently contaminate any home they go to with a negative aura. As for deliberately cursing items; when I worked in a factory making cash counting machines I used to enchant each one so that if it was in a legitimate business it would bring good fortune and wealth, but if it was used for crime –organised or disorganised - it would attract the police and more ruthless criminals.
In the next article we will be looking at protective enchantments and skills. In the meanwhile remember that curses are extremely rare, and anything negative happening to you is more likely to be pure coincidence than any maleficent action.