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Getting the Evil Eye in Turkey

The blue evil eye. It's a talisman impossible to miss in Turkey. You'll find one in your favourite cafe, the local bus and on that souvenir bracelet you just bought. Or replacing leaves on trees. They sometimes do that.

Evil eye, Turkey

It's easy to guess that anything referenced this much must have a special meaning. And it does. It might be obvious to conclude that the evil eye keeps watch and works to protect you, but exactly how it came about is fascinating.

Now to understand its origin we need to go back to the ancient mythical legend of Medusa. Actually, explaining this story is no easy task simply because so many versions exist, ranging from Medusa being a hideous creature from birth to a vain beauty who brought on her own fate to an innocent woman caught up in a man's world.

Let's just say there is no consensus, but as I have to choose one to explain, I'll go with the story our guide more or less told us.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman named Medusa. She had ravishing locks and exquisite blue eyes, looks that didn't go unnoticed by many a male suitor. She was pursued by Poseidon for whom she had mutual affection. Their relationship enraged Athena who in her jealousy turned Medusa's beautiful hair into snakes and those lovely eyes into hideous orbs that turned anyone she dare set her eyes upon into stone.

Interestingly, many stories mention that in her own self-loathing of her new form, Medusa fled to Africa where the snakes on her head are said to have starting dropping baby snakes onto the ground. This is supposedly how venomous snakes came to inhabit Africa!

Anyway, I digress.

Medusa's misery would finally come to an end with her beheading by Perseus who used her slain head, her eyes still possessing their stone-turning powers, to win many battles. Her head eventually made its way back to Athena who placed it on her shield for protection.

The End.

Certainly not one of those “lived happily ever after” tales!

So, what is the exact connection between this story and the evil eye? Well, since Medusa's eyes had the power to keep the enemy away, everyday folk started putting representations of her in their homes and temples, to always keep evil at arm's length. A superstitious tradition that continues to this day.

Medusa, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, Turkey

One of the Medusa heads in the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, deliberately placed up-side-down so you can't look at her eyes right side up. You don't want to turn into stone now, do you?!

Do you have an evil eye? Or do you possess something similar in your country or culture?

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