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The Turkish "Evil Eye"

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

Turkish Evil Eye amulets in the Grand Bazaar

In addition to the amazing food in Turkey (more on that later), one of the first things I noticed in Istanbul were the Turkish Evil Eye amulets: they were everywhere! (And not just in Turkey, either. I also found them all over Greece, too.) Today, before I discuss my third and final day in Istanbul, I want to explore this interesting cultural phenomenon.

When it comes to warding off the mystic malevolent forces of the world, there is perhaps no charm more recognized or renowned than the "evil eye." Ubiquitous in its use, the striking image of the cobalt-blue eye has appeared not only in the bazaars of Istanbul, but everywhere from the sides of planes to the pages of comic books. Quinn Hargitai

What is it? To understand the evil eye, one must first understand the distinction between the amulet and the evil eye itself. Though often dubbed as "the evil eye," the amulet is actually the charm meant to ward off the evil eye: a curse transmitted through an envious glare.

The History. The belief in this curse goes back at least as far as the Mesopotamians of 3,300 B.C. One of the earliest mentions of the evil eye is Sumerian advice for remedies against the evil eye. Another mention is from the Greek philosopher Plutarch, who was a priest of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi.

Across Cultures. Belief in the evil eye also spans many cultures, including in Hinduism and in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Interestingly, in my research, I discovered that young girls in Roman times wore these amulets for protection and were buried with them for safety on their passage to the world beyond.

The Hamsa. The hamsa is an amulet in the shape of a palm with an eye in the middle embraced by Jews, Christians and Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East. It has a similar meaning to the evil eye amulet and supposedly brings luck, happiness, and good health to its owner.

The Evil Eye Today. When I asked my guide about the evil eye, she said that, today, the amulet (or its representation) is used to ward off ill spirits. People put evil eyes in their homes, on their doormats (I saw them in my Airbnb), on their phones, on everything. It is even a Turkish tradition to bring an evil eye to newborn children.

While I myself did not feel compelled to bring an evil eye home, I did buy one for a friend, and in Athens I bought a bag with the evil eye on it. So far it hasn't brought me any good luck, but I haven't had any terrible luck, either. (Maybe because I have nothing for someone to anyone to envy, but I guess I will count my blessings!

My good luck evil eye purchase from Athens :D


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May 06, 2023

I love this ~ great photographs, and I want one of these evil eye pendants, if not for anything else to hang with my strange collections of items of beautiful places. This is another reason for me to take a trip to Istanbul :-) These travels must have been such a beautiful treat and eye-opening experience for you Jess.


Hi Jessica,

Thanks for the history and background on the Turkish evil eye. I knew none of this and now feel enlightened.

Jessica Cyphers
Jessica Cyphers
Apr 24, 2023
Replying to

You're welcome! I didn't know any of it, either, before my trip.

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