Evil eye amulets of all sizes are everywhere in Turkey
-- photo by Algis Kemezys
Highly talented, blog-ollaborator Algis Kemezys’ sharp eye has caught an iconographic visual theme that peeks out from just about everywhere in the Turkish environment, from store-fronts and car rear-view-mirrors to the charms on children’s bracelets. It is a circular glass amulet with a blue background and concentric circles of other colours in its middle made to resemble an exaggerated eye called nazar, which translates as “a glance” or “evil eye”, and is used to ward off the latter.
It has been escaping my attention because I’ve lived with these “eyes” all my life. Available in all sizes, from minute to platter-size, the amulets serve and protect the public. All sixty million Turks own several of them, one for every person and possession that needs protecting.
Store owners posing for Algis Kemezys
Here’s a paraphrased description of the phenomenon from my memoir Crete on the Half Shell (HarperCollins Canada, 2004)
All societies fear hexes and curses, and there are documented, rather painful cures for them, known in their extreme Christian forms as exorcisms. The Turks (and as a consequence, the Greeks) are unique in their relationship to hexes, in that they don’t necessarily have to originate from complex or even malicious sources. A hex in Turkey can come from a fleeting glance, an involuntary pang of envy, even from a heart-throb of well-wishing that can have been motivated by sincere friendship and love.
It’s all in the eye (the göz). That “mirror of the soul”, the lens that lets us focus on what it wants us to see while blanking out the rest, can with a single peek bring the worst of bad luck (nazar), and extreme prejudice even to the most innocent and benevolent of entities. The eye is all powerful because it controls us, we have no defense against it. It sees, it disapproves, it covets, it loves, it hates —the forces it unleashes are formidable and irrevocable, as urgent as the needs of mortals to become divine. For reasons all its own, the eye can imprint anything it touches with an evil that can infect a lifetime and reverse even the seemingly most secure of fortunes.
The nazar that is born out of the fateful look can come from any direction whatsoever. A childless aunt admiring her new-born niece, a close but impecunious friend visiting one’s new house, a cynic sneering, and most decidedly a rival fearing unfair competition from a newly opened business next door. A nazar can, in the extreme, even be caused by someone whose own interests can suffer from the ensuing adversity.
More nazars --- photos by Algis Kemezys
There are cures for the nazar, such as invocations to the higher powers to ward it off, and even more practical things —that really perplexes foreigners— such as spitting (three times to make sure) either into space, or even more amusingly directly at the person/object to be protected, pointedly eye-popping when what is involved is a baby or a new car, the most vulnerable of all entities when it comes to curse consequences. Obviously, the warding off begins with the most reassuring guarantee of all: having a prominently displayed nazar amulet, pinned to the baby’s clothes or hanging from the aforementioned rear-view mirror and just about everywhere else in one’s personal sphere.
Hey, it’s never a bad idea to have extra insurance when it comes to staying safe, healthy or solvent. Speak to insurance companies that have reaped trillions off our economy to cater to our insecurities and paranoias of accidental but foreseeable adversity. What would it hurt to have that little bit of additional reassurance that is so very affordable?
I go shopping for an amulet, cursing myself for neglecting to do it earlier. I find just the right one, and overpay for it —never prudent to haggle for the price of such a thing— and now I feel much safer. The process makes me hungry (what doesn’t?) and I repair to Gülce, the börek (pie) house of record in Marmaris. I gorge on too much of their meat pie and also spinach pie tasty and toothsome, made of the thick filo they call yufka. I feel good knowing that I can digest just about anything, now that I have my very own nazar.
Böreks to stave nazar-shopping hunger --- photo by Algis Kemezys
I smell a new business for me when I get back home. And that’s all I can write right now, because I’m expected at the nazar factory to order a few gazillions of the little darlings and have them shipped to points all over North America.