submitted by Peter Bouras on 18.06.2005
In 2003, holistic biologist, and transpersonal psychologist Rupert Sheldrake published a book on The Sense of Being Stared At, which he subtitled - And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind.
Sheldrake's biography, career and publications can be accessed at
In The Sense of Being Stared At Sheldrake tries to explain that uncanny feeling - that most of us have experienced - of knowing that someone is staring at us.
In the 100 years to 1990 only 4 scientific experiments had been conducted into this universal phenomenon. Sheldrake has instigated a flood of research into this phenomenon over the past decade.
In the course of his investigations Sheldrake - in Chapter 12 of the book - explores The Evil Eye and the Rise of Rationalism.
Belief in the Evil Eye has played and continues to play a very important role in the psychosocial development of most Kytherians. My mother, for example never praised us or anyone else, without adding the compulsory "ftoosou, ftousou, paethi mou (spit, spit, child of mine.)
Can you recall stories from your family about the evil eye? Could one of your family members conduct spells to counteract the influence of the evil eye?
Do you, or any of your family still continue to wear protective amulets against the Evil Eye?
Sheldrakes Chapter 12 is divided into four sections.
In the second of these four sections, he investigates the use of
There are a variety of other ways in which people take practical precautions against the evil eye, through prayers and protective amulets, talismans and charms. An amulet ‘is an object which is endowed with magical powers, and which of its own accord uses those powers ceaselessly on behalf of the person who carries it, or causes it to be laid up in his house, or attaches it to some one of his possessions, to protect him and his belongings from the attacks of evil spirits or from the Evil Eye’. The word talisman is often used interchangeably with amulet, but, strictly speaking, talismans have a more specific and more limited role: for example, a talisman may be buried with hidden treasure to protect it, and have no other function.
Many different kinds of amulets have been, and still are, employed against the evil eye. In Greece, one of the commonest is a blue eye, probably descended from the eye amulets of ancient Egypt, with both the eye of Osiris and the eye of Horns. The Phoenicians, Etrnscans and other ancient peoples also used eye amulets. They are common in modern Turkey. And the radiant eye of Horns looks out from every dollar bill, on the Great Seal of the United States. This use of false eyes to protect against the predatory looks of real eyes recalls the protective role of eye spots in butterflies, fish and other animals (Figure 1O.1, in Chapter 10 of the book).
In some parts of the world, models of phalluses or of clenched fists with a phallus-like protruding thumb are used, as are crescents and horns, Gorgon’s heads, grotesque figures, crosses, rings, gems, coral beads, cowry shells, dried sheeps’ eyes, pieces of deer skin, onions, garlic, and written prayers or spells. At the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford, there is a large collection of such objects, both in the open display cases and in an intriguing series of drawers beneath them. The diversity is bewildering. But they all are supposed to serve a similar purpose. What do they have in common?
The Greek author Plutarch (c. AD 46—120) advanced the theory that objects used to ward off witchcraft and fascination worked by attracting mischief-working eyes to themselves through the strangeness or ridiculousness of their forms. A modern scholar has similarly concluded that amulets act as a kind of ‘lightning conductor’, drawing attention to themselves, and hence away from that which they are designed to protect. The same would apply to larger objects used to protect crops, like the inverted pots covered with eye spots in farmers’ fields in south India.
Teacher, journalist, poet and author, Sydney NSW Australia
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