The story behind the evil eye in Greece

In Greece, while gazing at tourist shops you will certainly notice many amulets and pieces of jewelry on sale portraying a blue eye. You will also see almost all the Greek people wearing many types of jewelry with a blue eye on it including rings, necklaces, bracelets, and other accessories. But have you ever wondered what these blue eyes symbolize? The concept of the evil eye, as we used to call it or ‘kako mati’ in Greek, was born back in Classical antiquity when the Greek civilization was at its peak.

It was first recorded over 5,000 years ago on clay tablets in Mesopotamia. Until today it endures an integral part of Greek culture– not just in Greece, but in various places around the world where Greek communities still exist. The evil eye is essentially a symbol to deterrent the wicked energy that a person can transmit to another. This may happen when he says -or even thinks, as they say- something negative about him, and it is based on the thought of ‘an eye for an eye’. It is even believed that the evil eye can be caused without harmful purpose from admiration or commendation.

Evil Eye on Oia’s street – Photo by White Pearl Villas

What does this diffuse bad energy cause to the person who receives this?

It is believed that the curse, which is translated in Greece as ‘matiasma’, causes adverse psychosomatic effects to the person receiving the glare such as headaches, dizziness, rupture, sickness, nausea, unreasonable negativity, or intense desire to sleep!

Who are the ones who transmit more efficiently the curse and cause matiasma?

They say that people with blue eyes frequently cause matiasma and this is why the evil eye amulet on sale has originally blue eyes.

Who are more prone to receive the curse?

The myth says that infants, the youngest, and women are more vulnerable to receiving this bad energy, thus you will find mostly the evil eye amulet within these three categories.

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

How can I check if I have received the curse?

Well… Do you keep secrets? In a small cup put water and in a separate bowl pour a little olive oil. You begin the process by saying a secret pray. The pray is traditionally recited and passed from an older relative of the opposing gender only on a very important day for Christianity called Holy Thursday which is the day of celebrating the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the 12 Apostles. At the same time cross the cup three times and say an additional part of the secret pray. As you say this, drop a single drop of oil into the water. Repeat the same pray two more times and pour two more drops of oil into the water.

If, when the drops of oil fall on the surface of the water, become a unit and spread out in the water, then be sure that you have received the bad energy and you are cursed – ‘matiasmenos’. Contrariwise, if, when the drops of oil fall on the surface of the water, remains separately without dissolving in water, you have not received you are fine! Don’t ask us about the secret pray… come to Greece during Easter, when Santorini is incomparable beautiful, and less crowded, and find an old local on Holy Thursday…

What to do to avoid the “curse”?

In ancient Greece the remedies for the “evil eye” it was quite a complex process. The healers had to perform rites that would free the evil eyes’ harmful effects. Nowadays, it is more frequently believed that spitting, or rather the sound of the spitting ‘ftou,ftou, ftou’ which is repeated three times to signify the Holy Trinity, protects the evil eye’s curse. While in Greece, don’t be surprised if you hear someone say ‘ftou, ftou, ftou’ when hearing about someone’s pain or misfortune like an unconscious reaction to protect themselves or their loved ones from it.

Does the Greek Church recognize ‘Matiasma’?

The Greek Church does acknowledge matiasma and interprets it as a superstitious curse. There is a secret prayer in the church, for the people suffering from matiasma however, this evil eye’s exorcism is preferable to be done by someone within the Greek people and not by a priest.

Photo by Meru Bi from Pexels

Ηow can Ι protect myself from the curse?

Well… while the Church believes that the Christian cross along with faith in God is the most important weapon against the evil eye, the folklore insists to believe in the power of the blue amulet which is well- known in Greece as mati – which means eye.

Caution! According to an old legend, if you do not believe in the efficacy of the amulet, it will never work.  If your amulet is used and broken, it proves that it served its purpose. In case it just breaks, you need to replace it. If it is completely destroyed and falls down, it must remain where it fell. That is, you should not pick it up under any circumstances.

How does ‘mati’ look like?

Originally, mati is blue and white 🧿. However, you may find numerous alternative versions that symbolize beliefs such as:

  • Orange color for motivation and creativity
  • Red color for strength
  • Brown color for connection with nature
  • Yellow color for health
  • Grey color for protection against sadness
  • White color for goal setting
  • Pink color for the preservation of friendships.
  • Dark blue color for karma

Strange locations you might find a mati in Greece.

You may spot an evil eye in various bizarre places;

  • hanging in baby cots
  • in the bouquet of flowers that the Greek brides keep in the church or in their jewelry they wear on the date of their wedding
  • used with house’s keychains
  • drawn in a body tattoo
  • hanging in a car mirror
  • signing the entrance of a shop or office (even on the floor!)
An evil eye on the floor! Photo by White Pearl Villas©

It is worth mentioning that the concept of the evil eye does exist in other cultures such as Pakistan, Islam, Italy, and India while it is not particularly believed by Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Denmark. Nevertheless, whether you believe or not in the evil eye, in Santorini there are beautiful pieces of jewelry and art that make a very unique gift or souvenir that is quintessentially Greek.

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