Italian Superstitions—The Evil Eye (Malocchio)

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Many of our Italian relatives believe in superstitions. One of the more popular superstitions is the Malocchio (mal=bad occhio=eye) or the evil eye.

It’s the look that one person gives to another if they are jealous or envious. An evil eye is not necessarily malicious; it is simply a look that brings misfortune.

The malocchio is an ancient belief in Italian folklore, also known as the evil eye. The concept is also present in other cultures, such as Ancient Greece, where it was believed that certain people could cast curses with their eyes.

In Italian, the evil eye is known as “il malocchio” or “l’occhio del male.” In Sicily, giving someone the malocchio is a serious accusation that can have dire consequences for the accused. it is believed that a person can give someone the malocchio intentionally or unintentionally. It is said to be a curse that causes misfortune, illness or bad luck, and can be inflicted by someone with an envious or jealous heart.

According to legend, the malocchio can be given by a simple glance or a negative comment, and can even be cast by someone who is not aware they have the ability to do so.

Many people believe that it can indeed bring bad luck to another person. Some believe that the evil eye comes from the devil. According to Italian folklore, those giving the malocchio can cause harm to someone else. Legend says it’s just another way of putting a curse on others that can cause physical pain such as head or stomach aches or even cause misfortune.

It’s believed that this could be done by looking into your eyes, but also through gestures like making a “V” sign with your index finger and thumb.

The evil eye is not just for Italians though! In addition to Sicily, the belief in the malocchio is also present in other parts of Italy and other cultures around the world. Many other cultures believe in the power of the evil eye as well. For example, in Latin America, it’s known as el Ojo Maledicto (the cursed eye), while in China it’s called the jinxed eye.

The concept is deeply rooted in ancient beliefs and continues to hold significance today, particularly in rural areas. Despite the passing of time, the malocchio remains an enduring part of Italian folklore and serves as a reminder of the power of belief in shaping our perceptions of the world around us.

Protecting Yourself from the Italian Malocchio Evil Eye Curse

What can you do to prevent the malocchio (often pronounced “maloik”)?

There are various ways to protect oneself from the malocchio, including carrying amulets, reciting prayers, or performing rituals. In Sicily, there is a malocchio prayer that is said to provide protection against the curse. A trusted individual recites the prayer, often a grandmother or elder, and involves using gestures and reciting verses from the Bible.

To protect themselves from the evil eye, Italians wear special rings called bracciali di protezione (protection bracelets). These are often made of silver and have a protective charm. They can be worn all day long and are considered very lucky charms.

Other Italians wear a Malocchio charm or horn (cornetto, corno, or cornicello) which resembles a chili pepper. The horns are usually made of coral, gold, or silver and are either worn as a necklace or hung in one’s home to ward off evil spirits.  This horn tradition evolved in Old Europe when the horned animal (the moon goddess) was considered sacred. Horns were used to ward off evil spirits and protect against witchcraft.

They are a culturally popular amulet and are primarily found in Italy and North America among descendants of Italian immigrants. In some instances, the corno has become a symbol of Italian pride.

Italian Horn Evil Eye

Besides wearing the corno, an old wive’s tale says that to diagnose someone with the evil eye, have them drop three drops of olive oil in a bowl filled with water.  If the oil forms the shape of an eye, the victim has received the malocchio.  As the oil separates from the water, make the sign of the cross and say, “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Then make the sign of the cross on both of your hands.  As you do this, place your hands on the other person and say: “Father, this prayer is being said for (insert name of victim), and I pray it works in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

The old wive’s tale states that you must repeat this prayer three times.  After that, both people must say one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one “Glory Be To the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as it was, in the beginning, is now and forever shall be.”

Sometimes this part is done by holding hands.

It is known that this prayer is the most effective on Christmas Eve, but it will still work any time of the year! What are some other well-known Italian superstitions?

Share with us your tales!

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