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Evil Eye Debate: cat yronwode vs. Hakim Bey

Subject: Evil Eye Debate: cat yronwode vs. Hakim Bey
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From: catherine yronwode 
Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.lucky.w,alt.magick.folk,
Subject: Re: HBey: Evil Eye (LONG)
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 12:58:14 +0000

> [copyright the author]
> Evil Eye

The author, Hakim Bey, makes a great point of stressing his
northern European heritage and refers to those of northern
European descent as "us" several times in the article. So
why does he use a Middle Eastern pseudonym?

>    The Evil Eye -- mal occhio -- truly exists, & modern western culture
>    has so deeply repressed all knowledge of it that its effects overwhelm
>    us -- & are mistaken for something else entirely. 

I beg to differ. Modern "Western" culture utilizes the evil
eye concept all the time. Knowledge of it is not repressed.
I can buy apotraic evil eye charms at any flea market in
California, sold by people well aware of their use.

>    It's especially when we're unconscious of such magic that it works
>    best -- moreover, it's known that the possessor of the Eye is nearly
>    always unconscious -- not a true black magician, but almost a victim
>    -- yes, but a victim who escapes malignity by passing it on, as if by
>    reflex.

These are two novel theories, Mr. Bey:

1) "It works best" when we're unconscious of it.

2) The person projecting the evil eye is "a victim who
escapes malignity by passing it on."

These novel theories do not accord with belief structures
regarding the evil eye that have been collected by
anthropologists from the cultures of England, Scotland,
Israel, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Roumania, Poland, Germany,
India, and so forth, where evil eye belief is endemic. They
are entirely unsopportable by research.

To the contrary, what anthopologists have recorded is the

1) The evil eye is said to operate regardless of belief
(e.g. its operation is neither better nor worse with respect
to belief).

2) The person projecting the evil eye rarely means harm, but
he or she is not a victim; in no case is the person
projecting it passing it on from another source. Stopping
the effects of the evil eye requires some form of ceremonial
cleansing (at the worst returning the "eye" to the
projector) but in no case do those ceremonies involve
passing the evil along to another person or even a surrogate
such as an animal, statue, etc.

>    I've heard it said that the Mediterranean & Mideast worlds evolved a
>    complex phenomenology of the mal occhio because they are more given 
>    to envy than we Notherners. 

I have no idea where you heard this, Mr. Bey; it is new to
me and is racist in the extreme so i would discount it as a
racial slur. I suggest that you read Alan Dundees' "Wet and
Dry, the Evil Eye" for a much more orderly and wide-reaching
view of the phenomenon. His theory is that the evil eye
belief arose in the Middle East, in semi-desert conditions,
and the "envy" expressed is essentially an envy for water or
bodily fluid. Thus the victims of the eye are those most
vulnerable to loss of fluids. The symptoms of affliction by
the evil eye vary with the class of entity affected, but in
each case, the result is a loss of bodily fluid:

* babies (who vomit or get diarrhea) 
* nursing mothers (whose milk dries up)
* lactating milk animals (whose milk dires up)
* men (who lose potency as represented by ejaculatory fluid)
* fruit trees (whose juicy crops wither and dry up)

Likewise, counter-actiions (as opposed to apotropaic charms)
against ther evil eye almost invariably utilize fluids in
some way -- e.g. in Italy a ceremony involving olive oil and
water, in Roumania a ceremony involving dropping coals into
water, in Mexico (under Spanish colonial influence) breaking
a raw egg, in Greece and Turkey spitting or drinking spit
mixed with holy water.

As you can see from this brief overview (and again, i
recommend that you see Dundees' work for the complete
story), the evil eye developed in the ancient Middle East, a
place where the most envied commodity was water; it has
spread outward from there, but it retains this essential
undertone always.

>    But the Evil Eye is a universal concept,
>    missing not in any space (such as the chill & rational North) but only
>    in time -- to be exact, in historical time, the time of cold Reason.

This is an insupportably wrong-headed argument. The evil eye
belief was not been recorded from East Asia, Australia,
Sub-Saharan Africa, or the Americas until Europeans brought
it there. Your so-called "chill and rational North" was
filled with evil eye belief as recently as the 1920s, when
folklorist Elizabeth Villiers recorded it in her book "The
Mascot Book" as occuring in Scotland, Ireland, and England
(where it was called "overlooking"). Likewise, in the 1890s,
Elworthy wrote at length about the evil eye belief in
England. Once again i fear you have lost your ability to
argue your case logically due to your racialism. There is
nothing inherently "rational" about the Northern latitudes
of this planet or the people who dwell therein.

>    Reason's protection against magic is to disbelieve it, to believe it
>    out of Reason's universe of discourse. "Asia's defense against magic
>    is more magic -- in this case, the blue stone (common from Lebanon to
>    India, maybe even farther East) or else, in the Mediterranean (our own
>    "Asia"), the downpointed bull-sign of the fingers, or the phallic
>    amulet.

Go read some anthropological surveys, please! The blue bead
or blue stone does exist as an apotrpaic charm "from Lebanon
to India" as you report, but also in Greece, Turkey, etc. --
and it does NOT exist "even farther East" because the evil
eye belief does not exist farther east. India is the
easternmost range of evil eye belief. This fact has been
known among anthropologists since the 19th century. 

Calling the Mediterranean region "our own Asia" is
ridiculous. Who is the "us" in that statement? Surely not me
-- i am half Sicilian and half German Jewish. Are you
speaking to a select group of Aryan Nation skinheads or what?

>    But Reason & Magic are both superstitions ("left-over beliefs"). I
>    suggest that the mal occhio "works"; but my analysis is neither
>    rational nor irrational. Who can explain the complex web of signs,
>    symbols, forces & influences that flow & weave between such enigmatic
>    monads as ourselves? We can't explain how we communicate, much less
>    what. If the "symbolic order" was replaced by "history", & if History
>    itself is somehow now in the process of "disappearing", perhaps we may
>    at last breathe free of the fogs of magic & the smogs of reason.
>    Perhaps we can simply admit that "mysteries" such as the Eye -- or
>    even "telepathy" -- somehow appear in our world, or seem to appear,
>    which means simply that they appear to appear, & thus that they
>    appear.

>    Now Envy is universal. But some societies attempt to keep it under
>    control, while in others it is unleashed by being turned into a social
>    principle. We have no defense against the Evil Eye because our entire
>    social ethic is rooted in Envy. At least the benighted Asians have
>    their amulets & prophylactic gestures. 

What is with this "benighted Asians" shit? First, that's
racialist name-calling. Second, Asians do not have the evil
eye belief. To claim they do and to claim Italy is "Asian"
is just irresponsible racialist nuttiness and not worth a
serious reply.

>    It was not Reason which banned these frail defenses,
>    however. It was Christianity. "Verb. sap.," as
>    English schoolboys used to say.

Christianity has neither abolished nor attempted to abolish
the evil euye belief. In fact, the evil eye is mentioned in
the Bible (Torah, Old Testament) very clearly and the evil
eye belief was -- and remains -- an accepted part of Jewish
culture as well as the European Christian culture that
derives from Judaism. If you don't believe this, read
Dundees or any good survey on evil eye belief -- or go to
Israel and ask to buy a hamsa hand amulet.

>    A crude anthropology (note the "anthro") claims that "primitive mind"
>    experiences Envy as a female principle -- (hence the phallic defense
>    against the Evil Eye). 

Total looniness here. The phallic amulet against the evil
eye is only used by *men* -- duh -- to protect their bodily
fluids (potency) -- and only in Italy, as a matter of fact.

Girl babies, nursing women, men of countries other than
Italy, and domestic animals are protected by other,
non-phallic apotropaic amulets, notably the blue eye, the
forked coral, the horseshoe, and the (female) hamsa hand
(called the Hand of Fatima among the Moslems and the Hand of
Miriam among the Jews). 

Reading an anthropology text would have obviated this leap
to spurious conclusions. The evil eye of envy is neither
male nor female, nor does protection against it involve male
or female "principles."

>    "Envy" may be yin when compared with the yang of "greed", 
>    but the Evil Eye, as a prolongation of Invidia, is pointy 
>    & penetrative, like a dagger -- a death-dealing phallus 
>    -- to which one opposes the phallus of life, the penis itself.

Bullshit based on erroneous observation. Again, the phallus
is only used as an apotropaic charm by men in Italy; men of
other cultures and women, children, animals, and fruit trees
throughout the entire evil eye belief region are protected
by other forms of amulet.

The notion that the evil eye is "penetrative" only finds
resonance in one very small cultural area, namely Sicily,
where it is seen as projective. The Sicilian dialect term
for the evil eye (called mal occhio in the rest of Italy) is
jettatura, from the same Indo-European root that gives us
"projectile" and "eject" and "ejaculation" the like. This
anomaly is strictly regional.

>    An Italian savant once told me of the most horrendous example of the
>    mal occhio he'd ever encountered, in a withered & hairy-faced old
>    woman. A healer, a charismatic Catholic mystic, undertook the cure of
>    this miserable witch -- & discovered that, unknown to her, she was in
>    fact a man (the genitals had never descended).

I don't know about this "Italian savant" but the story reeks
of falsity.

In the first place, the belief that certain people project
the evil eye on a regular basis is local only to Sicily.
There the jettatores, or evil eye projectors, are not seen
as malicious; they are seen as unfortunate sufferers from a
mishap that caused them to become projectors. The most
prominent jettatore was a late 19th century pope named Leo
(Leo IX, i think; i could look it up but i'm at work).

In the second place, i have never heard of anyone attempting
to cure a jettatore. The very idea makes no sense. A
jettatore may apologize for his or her affliction (Pope Leo
the (mumble) was known to avert his gaze because he knew
that Sicilians thought him to be a jettatore, and he may
have believed himself to have been one as well), but there
is in the literature no record of anyone trying to cure a

And again, the notion that the evil eye can be projective is
a very limited, localized take on the belief system, which
actually spans a large region, including all of Europe, the
Middle East, North Africa, and India.

>    A gender-analysis of the Eye will get us nowhere. The association of
>    the Eye with women may arise from the tendency of women to be more
>    sensitive to body language than men, & thus to hold on to certain
>    "magics" even as they begin to vanish form those worlds which discover
>    history (which, as everyone knows, is not, by-&-large, her story).

A false premise (the association of the evil eye with women)
requires no rebuttal -- except to re-emphasize the fact that
actual field studies reveal no such gender link as
hypothesized here.
>    Blue is the color of the sky & its happiness, air & light against the
>    earth & shadow of Envy. But blue is also the color of death - as with
>    the old Bedu woman who told Lawrence that his blue eyes reminded her
>    of the sky seen thru the sockets of a bleached skull. The Yezidis, the
>    "devil-worshippers" of Iraqi Kurdestan, refuse to wear blue beads or
>    even clothes because it is the color of their Lord, Satan, the Peacock
>    Angel, & to wear blue to ward him off would deeply offend him. So the
>    blue bead is homeopathic -- a bit of evil used to defend against evil
>    -- perhaps a fragment fallen from the Horned One himself, powerful in
>    its goaty virility against the chthonic negative-Yin- like power of
>    Envy. And yet the stone is also the serenity of azure, turquoise,
>    infinity, the Feminine -- a bit of mosaic from the matrix of the sky,
>    or of water.

What a bunch of fingerpainting! 

The blue bead apotropaic charm of the Middle East and India
is usually thought to be a form of the blue eye, a charm
used frequently to repel the evil eye -- in areas where
strangers and outlanders have blue eyes. (They are most
likely to break the local sutom by praising a baby, hence
they are most to be guarded against.)

In northern areas, where blue eyes are common, use of a blue
bead or blue eye charm to repel the evil eye falls off
entirely and is replaced with the use of any-coloured eyes,
slices of brown and white "eye" agate (entire Mediterannean
region), and the operculi of "cat's eye" shells
(Mediterannean region and sea-faring Britons).

Hand charms and eye-in-hand charms appear throughout the
evil eye belief region, overlapping the blue bead and
any-coloured eye charms. So do horseshoes (definitely
non-phallic and increrasingly common as one moves north into
Scandinavia and Britain).

There are also numerous strictly local apotropaic charms
that bear no relation to the colour blue nor to eyes of any
kind, such as silver double-tailed mermaid amulets (Naples),
pieces of wolf fur (Western Italy), red cord charms, red
coral charms (both male-phallic and female-forked, depending 
on the gender of the wearer), and feline claws (northern Africa).

>    Similarly the bull-sign, when seen upright & face on, is undoubtedly a
>    yang-ish sort of symbol -- but pointed down & seen in reverse -- as
>    it is presented to the view of the Evil-Eye-suspect (altho the gesture
>    is made surreptitiously), the sign becomes a Stone age woman-image,
>    two legs & a vulva -- so that potency against the Evil Eye comes from
>    the "horns" which are stabbed down, the virile element --but within
>    that symbol is embedded the power of the goddess as well.

This phallic/vulvic fingerpainting is not worth a rebuttal. 

>    Even the phallic amulet, which might at first appear all male, is not
>    the penis of the animal-god, but of Priapus, a god of vegetation. It
>    is the penis of fruit & flower -- in some sense, a female penis.

Fingerpainting not worth a rebuttal.

>    The apotropaic complex is thus to be seen as neither male nor female
>    nor even, properly speaking, androgynous. The symbols revolve not
>    around gender but engendering, around life or energy itself as a value
>    opposed to the negativity, the vacuum, the deathly cold of envy.

Nope. Wrong. Not against cold -- againt DRYNESS. See Dundees. 

For some pictures and text on apotropaic charms against the evil eye, see the 
Lucky W Amulet Archive (URL below), check the topics index for "evil eye" and go 
to the entries on evil eye, eye-in-hand, hand-and-crescent, your-name-on-rice,
mano fico, corno, mano cornuta, and much more. 

catherine yronwode --------------------
news:alt.lucky.w -- discussion of folkloric amulets and talismans
LUCKY W Amulet Archive:

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