Before addressing the issue of the “Evil Eye and the Orthodox Church,” one needs to have an understanding of the cultural origins of the theory of the “evil eye”, its history, its purpose, and its meaning to many throughout the world.
Is the Evil Eye a reality or just superstition? The answer is quite clear to most of those we have spoken with over the years. Most are firmly entrenched in their position (whatever that might be) on the matter. Convincing them that their position is ill-founded, we have found, is uncompromising.
What is the “Evil Eye”?
The evil eye is thought to be a look resulting in a curse directed at a person or persons who are themselves unaware of the act or action. What is the desired result of the act or action is to inflict harm, misfortune, suffering, and or injury to the person or persons to whom the look is directed. Almost everyone we have spoken with over the past 15 years has either seen or believed they have experienced or witnessed the result of the act or action of an evil eye encounter. Many have even stated they know of an individual(s) who are capable and routinely cast the evil eye onto others.
Assuming for the moment the existence of the Evil Eye, why would anyone cast the evil eye on another? History is quite specific as to the answer dating back to the Greek and Roman empires. Initially, it is believed the evil eye was cast upon those who received and / or inherited through less than honorable means more than they were perceived to rightfully deserve. As such, the sin of “pride” became such a predominant factor in the lives of the affluent that either or both of two situations occurred. First off, the party(s) to whom much was rewarded became so taken with their success and riches that the pride they displayed would ultimately be their destruction by those in a position to render the Evil Eye.
Secondly, and fortunately or unfortunately, human nature being what it is in a fallen world, many believe that specific individuals who have the power of the evil eye are motivated by envy and jealousy to wreak pain and heartache upon those whom they see as either unworthy or the recipients of more than they rightfully deserve.
In time, the theory of the “Evil Eye” found new meaning and a new purpose. Whenever there was a tragedy, i.e., the sudden death of a newly born infant, and no clear cause of the death was apparent, it was generally attributed to someone gazing upon the child rendering the “evil eye!” The evil eye became the answer to many if not most of the unexplained and unanticipated tragic happenings. As such, the theory of the evil eye found refuge in every culture through the world, obviously more so in certain areas; but no culture was without the belief of the existence of the evil eye.
Protections against the “Evil Eye!”
Whether the theory of the Evil Eye is real or superstition, once again it is human nature to take whatever steps are available to combat that which one perceives as being harmful or a threat to one’s existence. Hence, what is the antidote to negate the impact of the evil eye?
Generations have wrestled with this question while at the same time capitalizing on a perceived resolution and protection from the possible effects of the Evil Eye. The most commonly accepted means of protection against the Evil Eye are numerous evil eye talismans and symbols made into jewelry and sold on the open market. Whether Evil Eye jewelry is a means of protection to combat the effects of the Evil Eye must remain a personal decision and not an issue to be addressed further herein.
The Evil Eye – for Good or Evil?
We found this question to be one of the most interesting and yet challenging to come to terms with in our research. The word “Evil” has a clear and concise meaning – Evil is bad! Evil is wrong! Evil should be avoided whenever possible! Evil deserves punishment! Yet many of those we interviewed believed those possessing the evil eye and casting it in the direction of whom they believed to be evil was a right and just use of the Evil Eye. I asked, “Do you not perceive this to be “vigilante justice” in a fallen world?” The justification often made was “They deserve the curse cast upon them!”
The “Evil Eye” & the Orthodox Church
I shall endeavor to clarify the position of the Eastern Orthodox Church as it pertains to the existence of the Evil Eye. I do not claim to be a theologian skilled in Orthodox Theology, but rather a student of same with many years searching and researching for answers and clarification of issues important to me and as I have found important to many of you as you continue on in your spiritual journey.
In order to understand the position of the Evil Eye within the Eastern Orthodox Church, one first must understand the origins of evil. The term devil evolved from the word evil! The devil (or Satan) was created as was each of us not with an evil nature, but with free will to act within ourselves. The Devil opposed God and as such utilizes every mean available to wreak havoc upon the fallen world wherein we live.
The Eastern Orthodox Church and most Christians believe the only effective power we possess against evil and all of its manifestations is the assurance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the power of the Cross. I shall elaborate further on this point later in this presentation.
The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes the existence of demonic activity within individuals that can and does render them weakened and oftentimes helpless. The Eastern Orthodox Church also recognizes the need to rid these satanic powers from these individuals to include the Evil Eye. How the Eastern Orthodox Church deals with demonic activity and the evil eye is quite clear. The Eastern Orthodox Church rejects the inclusion of outside sources as means of dealing with demonic activity, and vehemently rejects the concept of magic as a means of combating the issue.
The Eastern Orthodox Church utilizes prayers to confront and exorcise the influence of evil in our lives. In so doing, prayers to the Good Lord seek to have the demons (and demonic activity) escape once and for all from the affected person. It is a belief we all have a role in exorcising evil from those we encounter and in need. Why? Because we are all vulnerable as sinners, and thus have our weak moments wherein we must rise above the evil before us. Our faith and love of God must sustain us beyond all evil.
The Power of the Cross vs the Evil Eye
As a youngster, I remember the days when a loved one passed on, the wakes were held in the home – oftentimes for days at a time. Family, friends, and others that the family may or may not have known would stop by to visit and pay their respects. There was always a sense of uneasiness in the air, that even as a child I could see and feel. On one occasion when a great aunt died and was waked in the 1st floor of our 3 family home, I overheard a brief conversation about a visitor, who happened to be a woman. The family was uneasy with this woman’s presence and once she left, the subject of the “evil eye” was discussed. Being just 5 years of age at the time, I did not then know what the concern was. Once the woman left, the priest was called and while the family waited for the priest to arrive, there were prayers said by all dispelling the “evil eye” while the family paraded around the room (and house) with crosses. Once the Priest arrived, he too prayed holding a blessings cross asking the Lord for His intervention. I have never forgotten this occurrence and quite frankly never will.
I also learned at this very young age, the meaning of faith in God and the Power of the Cross. Shortly thereafter I became an altar boy and asked many questions of my parish priest. He willing shared much with me and he became my friend, and one that I felt I could ask any question of and not feel uneasy about it.
The Priest taught me that if we have faith and love of God and our fellow man, that when we pass from this life it will be our reward to kneel at the foot of the Cross before our Heavenly Father.
For many years now, I have shared the message of the Power of the Cross with many families at the time of the passing of a loved one. I believe evil exists! I have witnessed evil in its worst form in recent times! And yet to me, evil is insignificant in comparison to the Power of the Cross. When I became a funeral director in 1967, I pledged before the Good Lord that I would secure an Orthodox Cross into the back head panel of the casket of each deceased Orthodox Christian to not only ward off the possibility of any person attending visiting hours and casting an evil eye onto the deceased; but to also instill into everyone present the Power of the Cross for those that not only live on but for those who have now passed.
Whether or not you believe in the existence of the “Evil Eye”, do know that the Power of the Cross trumps all evil including the “evil eye!”
Join us for the next Topic – “Questions submitted by you; readers of this blog”
Blessings to all!