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Don't Shrug It Off As Someone Just Throwing Shade, Because The Evil Eye Can Actually Curse You

Was someone at the office a little too complimentary about your promotion, or was the barista at the coffee shop a little too obsessed with your new shoes? Watch out - you may have been cursed by the evil eye. But what does it actually mean to say that someone is giving you "the evil eye"? In many cultures, the evil eye indicates jealousy, particularly toward healthy, attractive, wealthy, or otherwise fortunate individuals.

The evil eye as we know it today comes primarily from the ancient Greeks, but the symbol itself is likely around 10,000 years old and is present in numerous cultures around the world. The evil eye has been associated with popes, witches, and even particular animals, and that's not even the most bizarre historic fact about the evil eye. Cultures near and far have traditions aplenty that will help you get rid of the curse, as long as you're willing to suspend reason for a minute. And to get rid of a curse, suspending reason may not be a bad idea. 

If you're worried that you've been cursed - or that you've cursed someone - we've got you covered. Better be aware next time someone gives you the side eye.

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  • Are You Pretty Or Rich? You Might Get Cursed By The Evil Eye
    Photo: TonivS / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Are You Pretty Or Rich? You Might Get Cursed By The Evil Eye

    Smart, pretty, rich, healthy? Any of those things could make you a prime target for being cursed by the evil eye. Out of the 36 percent of the world's population that believes in the evil eye, many of them would likely argue that celebrities are proof that the curse is real.

    Many celebrities see massive success and then experience a dramatic downfall (think of someone like Charlie Sheen or Paris Hilton, or the many child stars who ended up in jail or broke). Anyone with too much money or fame is especially susceptible, so it makes sense that celebrities in particular might be vulnerable to the curse. Perhaps that's why so many celebs wear the amulet - Kelly Ripa, Kim Kardashian, and Brad Pitt have all been seen wearing it. Kelly Ripa is happily married to Mark Consuelos (excellent luck; no curse), Kim continues her reign of wealth and popularity while being married to one of the most notable rappers in the world (excellent luck; no curse), and Brad Pitt is...well, Brad Pitt.

  • The Curse Has Been Known To Have Actual Physical Symptoms
    Photo: Skley / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

    The Curse Has Been Known To Have Actual Physical Symptoms

    The thing about curses is that nearly anything negative can be attributed to them, and this holds true with the evil eye as well. People who are known to have been cursed by the evil eye can experience a decrease in appetite, vomiting, fever, hiccups, and - strangely enough - excessive yawning. They may also have insomnia, exhaustion, depression, or diarrhea. 

    Since the evil eye can curse both objects and animals, not just people, there are symptoms that extend beyond the physical that can indicate the presence of a curse. A cursed cow may stop producing milk, and a cursed plant or tree may stop bearing fruit. A cursed vehicle could stop working, and a cursed house could suddenly get termites. 

  • You Could Be Cursing Someone Without Even Knowing It
    Photo: Jason Rogers / Flickr Creative Commons

    You Could Be Cursing Someone Without Even Knowing It

    Unfortunately, someone could accidentally curse you without meaning to or without even knowing they've done it, and legends tell that people have gone to extreme lengths to prevent doing so. One Polish tale recounts how a man was so prone to cursing others that he cut out his eyes. 

    Since Hindus believe that women most often give the evil eye, women will go so far as to paint their eyelids black not only to protect themselves, but also prevent themselves from cursing another. 

    Two popes, Leo XIII and Pius IX, were believed to have been born with the evil eye. 

  • Different Cultures Have Some Interesting Ways Of Dealing With The Curse

    If you suspect you've been cursed by the evil eye while in Mexico, worry not - you just need to grab yourself an egg. A raw egg can allegedly remove the evil eye from your body by being passed over your forehead. Then, the egg is broken and you must look into the shell of the egg to see if the cure has worked. If you see an oval or eye shape inside the egg, then you've been successfully cured.

    In Bangladesh, drawing a black dot on the forehead of children or behind the ears of attractive women is said to protect them against the curse. In Greece, Armenia, and Assyria, the cure is even more simple - you just need a quick pinch on the butt

  • The Evil Eye Is Much Older Than You'd Think
    Photo: Museomed / Wikimedia Commons

    The Evil Eye Is Much Older Than You'd Think

    Though many people view to the evil eye through the lens of religion and ancient Greek mythology, the evil eye goes back much further than that. The Sumerians - one of the earliest known civilizations - recorded a prayer warding off the evil eye on a clay tablet, meaning that there are written records proving that the curse is at least 5,000 years old. Additionally, researchers have found 10,000-year-old cave drawings in Spain that are believed to depict the evil eye, suggesting that its origins are even more complex.

    Some of the oldest examples of the eye have also been found in Egyptian settlements, where the evil eye can still be seen on significant monuments. In the Egyptian myth of Ptah the Opener, it is believed that the gods came from his eye and humans from his mouth; therefore, the eyes were extremely powerful. The ancient Egyptians also used phallic symbols as a means of protection from the eye's curse.

  • The Curse Isn't As Common In The US As In Other Cultures
    Photo: chiaralily / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    The Curse Isn't As Common In The US As In Other Cultures

    Though it's relatively common to see the evil eye appear in fashion or jewelry, the cultural significance of the evil eye (and its curse) is simply not as prevalent in the US as it is in so many other cultures worldwide. And it has nothing, or at least very little, to do with religion - it's because of the American culture of excess. 

    In ancient societies, the concept that there was never enough of everything to go around - be it food, resources, and the like - was highly prevalent. So, if you were complimenting someone on what they had (e.g. good crops or healthy children), it meant that you were in some way jealous and wanted those things for yourself. Hence, praise and the evil eye became deeply intertwined.

    But that's simply not how Americans operate. As anthropologist Alan Dundes pointed out, Americans "go all over the world praising things and scaring people to death." But in America, literally known as the "Land of Plenty," complimenting someone has rarely been associated with envy or evil.