“Undoing” the evil eye using spoken charms is a traditional remedy in many cultural settings and involves a folk healer drawing the imagined evil (cast by an evil gaze) out of the body of the “victim”. The capacity to erase the magic gaze is applied through the narrative power of a verbal format (a charm or a historiolae) that uses performative language and speech actions. This essay is based on a researcher’s daughter resurveying a territory investigated half a century ago by her father. The article can thus focus on the traditional culture of Abruzzo, analyzing the folk documentation collected in 1965-70 and in present time. Anthropological records mention the popular belief that the evil eye produces illness, discomfort, and bad luck, but this is a reversible condition. The best way to save victims is to eliminate the evil eye by using “professional charms”, which are still practiced and handed down to new generations of charmers. Anthropological records also mention that this technique is practiced above all by elderly women within their family group, and that they do not charge for their magic work. These women enhance their prestige in their social in-group through their skills in removing the evil eye. By performing a caring act for a person, based on protection and interdependence between older and younger generations, an evil eye set of beliefs is handed down and is still very much alive.

Undoing the “evil eye” in Italy: a comparison of folk documentation from 1965-70 with present research

Lia Giancristofaro
2022

Abstract

“Undoing” the evil eye using spoken charms is a traditional remedy in many cultural settings and involves a folk healer drawing the imagined evil (cast by an evil gaze) out of the body of the “victim”. The capacity to erase the magic gaze is applied through the narrative power of a verbal format (a charm or a historiolae) that uses performative language and speech actions. This essay is based on a researcher’s daughter resurveying a territory investigated half a century ago by her father. The article can thus focus on the traditional culture of Abruzzo, analyzing the folk documentation collected in 1965-70 and in present time. Anthropological records mention the popular belief that the evil eye produces illness, discomfort, and bad luck, but this is a reversible condition. The best way to save victims is to eliminate the evil eye by using “professional charms”, which are still practiced and handed down to new generations of charmers. Anthropological records also mention that this technique is practiced above all by elderly women within their family group, and that they do not charge for their magic work. These women enhance their prestige in their social in-group through their skills in removing the evil eye. By performing a caring act for a person, based on protection and interdependence between older and younger generations, an evil eye set of beliefs is handed down and is still very much alive.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11564/789991
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