It doesn’t take long wandering the streets of Turkey (or even Greece, for that matter), to realize that belief in the Evil Eye is very real here. Typically addressed to someone who is unaware, it is essentially a dirty look given by someone who is jealous to another, able to cause bad luck, injury or even death for the recipient. Its legend dates as far back as the Old Testament in the Bible, and it requires protective measures to be taken against it.
The most common of these measures is the display of a blue charm or talisman, known in Turkey as nazar, featuring concentric blue and white circles typically arranged from dark blue to white to light blue and back to dark blue (outside-in). Many people believe that the presence of these charms will actually turn the malicious gaze back upon the sender, with the charm being blue because of the ancient Anatolian belief that it shields or absorbs negative energy. As a result, you will see these charms attached to anything and everything that may attract envy and greed—homes, animals, machines, newborn babies, and even web sites!
It is worth noting that the evil eye doesn’t have to only be given to another ‘deserving’ person. To the contrary, it is believed that the most common “victims” are babies and young children, as they are so often praised by others, and can even extend to animals and possessions. The phenomenon has been widely documented as well, with more than 100 authors ranging from Plato to Theocritus having described it.
While the protective charms that are so popular among tourists are most prominent here in Turkey, belief in the Evil Eye extends far beyond the Mediterranean. Addressed in Islamic doctrine and also used by Jews and Christians alike, it is most feared in the Middle East, but also can be found in Africa, Central America, South and Central Asia and Northern Europe.