The Evil Eye
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Basic Information

The Evil Eye is a cultural superstition common to many parts of the world in one form or another which holds that the mere act of looking at someone or something with resentment or covetousness can inflict a curse on them. Such harm is usually not deliberate - or at least proceeds without conscious effort - but some traditions hold that magically skilled individuals and/or witches are also able to use the evil eye deliberately to harm their enemies. Occasionally even animals may be thought to have a similar power, either by virtue of their species, or because a particular beast is the host of an evil spirit or the reincarnation of an evil person.

Each culture has its own methods for avoiding the evil eye - in some cases, potential targets will attempt to avoid being envied by avoiding conspicuous displays of fortune, ritual self deprecation and outright deceit1, or by conspicuous giving to attract "positive regard". Other cultures use things like apotropaic amulets - blue stone features in many Mediterranean cultures, although the Romans were fond of phalli. Sometimes, the evil eye is said to require eye contact - and from that come false eyes painted on things (or worked into the aforesaid amulets) and taboos about making eye contact, especially with one's social superiors. Mirrors might also be assumed to reflect the curse back at the sender. Those required to act as foci of public regard (such as the triumphator in a Roman triumph) would be likely to require special protection, which could include ceremonial masks and disguises as well as various amulets and religious blessings.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A culture with strong evil eye taboos may also have odd habits like receiving gifts with distain and insults - the greater the value of the gift, the greater the abuse - an unaware outsider might take offence and such things have been known to start wars.
  • Likewise, complimenting or congratulating someone may annoy them to an incomprehensible degree. Making eye contact with the wrong person could start a fight (a tradition maintained in most fighting pubs to this day, albeit probably not for the same reasons).
  • Wealthy, heroic PCs are likely to be particularly at risk from this sort of attack.
  • Game mechanics for this sort of thing are likely to be a pig to write.
  • If eyes make for an effective amulet against this sort of thing, the back end of a peacock would probably be an excellent protection. Which may be why the Persians and Babylonians considered them protectors of royalty - if your job involves being envied, and eye like shapes protect you from harm caused by envy, what better pet than a bird with hundreds of eye-like shapes on its tail?
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