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Painted figures on the prows of boats and amulets for warding off the "evil eye", sometimes themselves called "evil eyes", are used around the Mediterranean and connected seas (North Africa, the Levant, Turkey, Greece, Albania, southern Italy and Spain) and further afield (parts of the Black Sea coast, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Portugal and Latin America).

This symbol, the Arabic hamsa, common throughout North Africa and the Middle East, derives from Tanit, the principal goddess of ancient Phoenicia:

hamsa

Amulets against the evil eye that show concentric discs are also widely used in the same region, including in Turkey where they are called nazars:

nazar

The idea of the malevolent stare features in many cultures, including for example in connection with Balor in Irish mythology, who has become known as Balor of the Evil Eye.

But what about symbols for warding off the evil eye? Have any featured in the cultures of northern, northwestern or eastern Europe that are related to the ones used in the Mediterranean region?

  • Would witchcraft and curses In general be an acceptable interpretation for you as what is an evil eye? – Ken Graham Jun 3 '16 at 12:28
  • There exists the Medal of St Benedict in Catholic culture , but I do not think it would fit into your parameters of the question! – Ken Graham Jun 3 '16 at 13:11
  • @KenGraham the evil eye isn't synonymous with "witchcraft and curses", see, for example, mythology.stackexchange.com/a/1030/62 – user62 Jun 3 '16 at 14:52
  • @KenGraham - Not in general, no. By "evil eye" I mean a malevolent look considered to be capable of causing harm. Symbols on amulets or elsewhere, or other items, that are used in the stated regions to ward off the possibility of harm that would otherwise be so caused, and that are related to the symbols used in the Mediterranean region for that purpose, are relevant whether or not connected with witchcraft. Curses express a wish for harm, usually verbally, but if some involve a malevolent look then the same applies. – ruffle Jun 3 '16 at 23:49
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    This might be interesting: The evil eye. An account of this ancient and wide spread superstition, by Fredrick Thomas Elworthy – femtoRgon Jun 4 '16 at 12:56
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Everybody knows that horseshoes are symbols of good luck and good fortune, as well as a symbol of protection against the evil eye!

The use of a horseshoe to represent the lunar crescent is also ancient. Throughout Europe horseshoes are nailed to doors to prevent the evil eye from entering houses and barns. (The horseshoe charm has also acquired a second function, to "draw" luck to the bearer just as a horseshoe-magnet might attract iron filings or magnetic sand). - The Evil Eye

We can also read in Superstitions Online the following:

Another belief exists that the horseshoe, because of its' crescent shape, has the ability to ward off the evil eye. In ancient Europe and prior to the Chaldeans, this crescent shape represented various moon goddesses, which were signs of protection, good luck, fertility and could protect against a curse from the evil eye.

Horseshoes are the Doors of Life has this to say about the origins of horseshoe symbolism and the evil eye.

In North America the horseshoe is by far the most well-known good luck charm, we see it constantly represented in jewelry, wall hangings and even furniture. But why do we consider this symbol one of such good luck? Even though many of us are fond of this symbol, most are not completely familiar with the origins and symbolism connected to the horseshoe.

Traditionally, horseshoes have been crafted by blacksmiths, this action alone gives the horseshoe good luck powers due to the fact that blacksmithing was considered to be an extremely lucky trade because the work required the use of one of the main elements – fire.

The origin of the lucky horseshoe is traced back to Saint Dunstan, a blacksmith who later became archbishop of Canterbury, and the legend of his run in with the devil. There are several versions of the tale but all have the same outcome. The stories can’t seem to agree on how he did it but he is believed to have nailed a red hot horseshoe to the devil’s hoof causing the devil great pain. The saint bargained with the devil and agreed to remove the shoe if the devil agreed to never enter a house or building with a horseshoe hung above the door. Other versions say that the devil simply avoided homes with horseshoes due to the turmoil it had once caused him.

In Turkey and adjacent areas of Greece, the horseshoe is used as a magical protecting agent against the evil eye which is a look given by a person who is envious or dislikes you that is said to cause you harm or bad luck. Horseshoes from this culture are usually metal or blue glass and are often integrated with an all-seeing eye emblem making them into a charm that averts evil.

Another legend originating in Europe is that worn out horseshoes were thought to posses special powers and are used as magical protective amulets. Many believe it is the shape alone that gives horseshoes their magical powers since it replicates the very shape of the pagan crescent or horned moon from which it is believed that horseshoes draw their power. When being used a for protection the horseshoe was hung over barn and stable doorways with its open end pointing downwards. It is said that no witch will pass under an upside down horseshoe.

  • +1. A very interesting answer. I'd never even thought of this. The goddess Tanit is often represented with a crescent moon. – ruffle Jun 5 '16 at 0:07
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I'm sorry I don't have much time to devote to this answer, but I have a Turkish cobalt blue glass disc with a hole for hanging in the window. It doesn't have the iris or pupil; just a sort of cabochon shape. Also, I have a Witch's Ball, about which there are many beliefs, but one says it repels the evil eye. I have also read that there is a connection between Wayland the Smith and lucky horseshoes, and that farriers were entitled to hang a horseshoe the opposite way from other folks, but I couldn't look this up, just now. Good old Wikipedia has entries on Wayland the Smith, evil eye, and witch's ball. This is my first answer here; I hope to do better in the future!

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    +1. Thanks for this! Witches' balls sound interesting - always green or blue, according to the Wikipedia article. Mediterranean "evil eye" amulets are usually blue, often both light blue and dark blue, and occasionally green. This is getting fascinating, and makes me wonder about the history of Christmas tree baubles. – ruffle Jun 5 '16 at 0:14

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