Against the evil eye

Nazars against the evil eye in an Azerbaijani gift shop, from the Wikipedia entry Nazar

The threat of the evil eye is well known across the Mediterranean, as well as its antidote, the eye-shaped talisman that reflects the malefic look back onto the evil eye. The talisman can take many forms. In Arab regions, the most effective variant is the hamza – “Fatima’s hand” –, with the protective eye on its palm, while in Turkic regions we find a stylized eye painted with concentric blue circles, the nazar.

The logo of the Turkish FlyAir airline, in the shape of an apotropaic nazar, and the talisman of our decaying rental bus during our recent Azerbaijani tour (with a logo below it celebrating the conquest of Constantinople in 1453)

The threat of the evil eye is also familiar in traditional Jewish culture, which defends itself against it with similar apotropaic formulas. In addition to “Miriam’s hand”, a Jewish version of the above mentioned Arab “Fatima’s hand”, we also read in the Wikipedia article “Evil Eye”:

Many observant Jews avoid talking about valuable items they own, good luck that has come to them and, in particular, their children. If any of these are mentioned, the speaker and/or listener will say “b'li ayin hara” (Hebrew), meaning “without an evil eye”, or “kein eina hara” (Yiddish; often shortened to “kennahara”), “no evil eye”.

We can see the visual variant of exactly this gesture in Quba, the Mountain Jewish settlement, where the extremely wealthy Caucasian Jews have been erecting breathtaking, multi-story, marble-covered representative palaces, similar to the “Gypsy palaces” of Transylvania and Maramureș. And they protect them with the local, Turkish version of the talisman, the nazar, against the malicious intent of obvious envy.

Nazar protecting against evil eye on the gate of a lavish recently-built Mountain Jewish palace. Mountain Jewish quarter, Quba, Azerbaijan

The nazar, so popular among the Azerbaijani Muslims, pops up on many other houses in the Mountain Jewish quarter of Azerbaijan, often next to the “Samaritan mezuzah”, made out of stone, about which we will write in the following post.

Nazar protecting against evil eye, next to a “Samaritan mezuza”, on the gate of a Mountain Jewish house. Mountain Jewish quarter, Quba, Azerbaijan

Preparation for the adult life cannot be started too early. The Azerbaijani candy industry supports in this the Azerbaijani youth with the candy named “Nazar”. Not only the name of the candy reminds you of the amulet against the evil eye, but its bag also displays the well-known talisman. Obviously against the envy of the little companions left without candy.

Azerbaijani candy called “Nazar”, with the talisman protecting against evil eye. Photo by Dani Kálmán in a roadside convenience store next to Quba

5 comentarios:

Julide dijo...

One thing about the nazar bead, the central part should be in yellow color, obtained by lead, which is used as a barrier against radiation.

Studiolum dijo...

According to the referred Wikipedia article, traditionally it is always blue.

Jardzy dijo...


here you go:

cinzia robbiano dijo...

We should have known it before we began our trip around Azerbaijan and buy a big one to put on the bus. In spite of all the bad tricks the country played to us we've come back with the consciuosness we saw very interesting and unique things, we experienced adventures and felt voyagers not tourists. And it was possible only because of the Rio Wang point of view which is always different, original and refined. Rio took on his shoulders all the fatigue of having to manage with the absolute improvisation of a country which is milions km far away to be a common destination: delays, bad organization, low standard hotels in spite of their appearence. And people you can't relay on. This travel will remain anyway unforgettable.

cinzia robbiano dijo...

My short post about Evil's Eye on my blog