Skip to main content

The Evil Eye—An Ancient Superstition


This paper describes and discusses the ancient superstition of the Evil Eye. The author describes his own personal childhood introduction to the subject of the Evil Eye which years later instigated his scholarly inquiry. The history of this very geographically widespread folk belief is elaborated upon, along with common manifestations as they appear in a number of different countries and cultures. Some of the methods used to thwart the negative effects of the Evil Eye are enumerated. Relevant psychodynamics and common expressions of the Evil Eye superstition are elucidated upon.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Ancient Hebrew Commentary. Midrash, Jalkut Hiob, 908:Lev. R, 17-3, Ca Second Century, CE.

  • Baba M., 107-b, First Century CE.

  • Berger, A. S. (1977). Notes on the symbolism of the eye. Opthalmology Digest, 10.

  • Berger, A. S. (2011). The Evil Eye—A Cautious Look. Journal of Religion and Health

  • Cicero explains that invidere, to look too closely at: Hence, invidia, envy or Evil Eye, the instigator of most deadly sins. (See Reference No. 5, p. 7.)

  • Dundes, A. (1981). The Evil Eye, A casebook (p. 270). Univ. of Wisconsin Press.

  • Gifford, E. S., Jr. (1960). The Evil Eye in Pennsylvania medical history. Keystone Folklore Quarterly, 5(3).

  • Love’s Labors Lost, Act 5, Sc. 2.

  • Reiter, R. (1981). 1913 Zur Augensymbolic. International Zeitschrift fur Artzliche Psychoanalyse. 1:159-61 as quoted in Dundes, A. The Evil Eye, a Casebook. Univ. of WI, p. 264.

  • Rodgers & Hart, Pal Joey.

  • Rolleston, J. D. (1927). Alexander Haggerty Krappe, Balor with the Evil Eye. New York: Columbia University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ibid, p. 484.

  • Rolleston, J. D., Gordon, C. F., & Lee, B. (1961). The Evil Eye. Hebrew Medical Journal, 34, 292.

    Google Scholar 

  • The Evil Eye, The classic account of an ancient superstition. Frederick Thomas Elworthy, London, 1895, Dover Edition, 2004, p. 8.

  • Ibid, p. 15.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Allan S. Berger.

Additional information

Author’s Note: My father, favorite uncle and three cousins—of blessed memory—were ophthalmologists. Healing the eye was the essence of their lives. Although my own discipline is the brain, I feel that in writing this paper about the eye, I am honoring their memory.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Berger, A.S. The Evil Eye—An Ancient Superstition. J Relig Health 51, 1098–1103 (2012).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Evil Eye
  • Ancient superstition