Rent a house or a Room in Gozo, Malta
Belief in the Evil Eye was very strong in Gozo in olden days.
crucifix hung around the neck against the evil eye
They say that the evil eye is either involuntary or deliberate. The latter is thought to produce such misfortunes as illness, poverty, injury, loss of love, bad luck, loss of a job or even death.
This belief is ancient and every culture has referred to it. The oldest appears in the cuneiform texts of the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, around 3000 BC.
Superstions surrounding the evil eye still strongly persist in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Greece, Malta and Gozo. In the Maltese islands it is part of our Folklore.
The Story of the Rings
My great-aunt was born sometime around 1890. I have heard her narrate her story many a time and with such conviction that she made her listeners including myself believe that these strange things do happen.
Lace making was a craft very common in Gozo up to the 1950's. She was a good lace-maker and she produced lace-work fine enough to fetch good prices for the merchant who commissioned her. Old ladies and young women used to make lace at home to earn a few extra shillings to help with the family budget.
Note: 20 shillings were equivalent to Euro2.33cents but in those days in the 50's and 60's you could go quite far with this amount.
With 2s 6d (that's 2 shillings and 6 pence, or 30 pence) I used to go to the Cinema on Sunday evening which cost 8d, buy a Coke 6d, 2 pastizzi 6d and two cigarettes 4d. And I would still have 6 pence in my pocket.
The story goes that one summer afternoon as my great-aunt was working at her 'cushion' outside her door making a white cotton center-piece, a woman stopped and stood behind her watching her at work. My aunt knew this woman only by sight because she was from another village. As she was leaving the woman was over-praising her work and exclaimed," Oh my, what beautiful lace you make".
That evening, my great-aunt narrates that she fell down the stairs and horror of horrors she broke the two gold rings on her fingers. Luckily she was not badly hurt but breaking her gold rings set her thinking about the strange woman and the evil eye. I believed her story when I first heard it and I still do today.
These old women of yesterday were as honest as the day and you couldn't catch them lying. That evening she burnt some olive leaves which had been blessed the previous Easter at church and recited prayers and an incantation,"if there is an evil something, send it out of this house".
So is the evil eye true or not? Even the church admits that it could be true but does not encourage belief in it. It is like a spell or curse and originates out of envy. It strikes when you are feeling good, your children are doing well, you are more or less financially secure, in a word when you least expect it.
When I was a young boy, there was this other woman who had a lad of my age. She was more well-off than my mother, so I don't know what was there to envy, but she used to look at me with her bright blue penetrating eyes in such a way that I could not stand her gaze. I used to hear so much about the "Ghajn", (Maltese for 'evil eye', pronounced 'aye-n') that I was already superstitious at that young age and they always made me wear a crucifix around my neck. Whenever I saw the woman approaching I used to step inside or run off out of her way.
Farmers and animal breeders believe in the evil eye too and they do not like anyone overly praising their livestock. If you do they are likely to spit on the floor as a safeguard. They stick bull's horns and horse-shoes over their farm door and keep an olive branch hidden away in a dark corner.
Others keep people out of their farms as much as possible and stable their animals out of sight to protect them from the evil eye of envious rivals.
Amulet against Evil Eye
When you think or doubt that somebody might cast the evil eye on you, make the downpointed bull-sign of the fingers behind your back to ward off the spell :-)
In Greece and Turkey people wear amulets as a safeguard but here in Malta and Gozo we prefer to hang a small holy medal or a crucifix around our necks.
A sprig of olive leaves hanging behind the front door does not do any harm either.
Nowadays some Gozitan families secretely 'fumigate' (ibahhru) their homes at Easter-tide with burnt olive leaves to ward the evil eye away from their home and family. The church recommends prayer and good deeds because only God can protect us from evil.
How To Fumigate Your Home (tbahhar : t-bah-ha-r)
You need some straw, dry olive leaves and a piece of candle both blessed at Easter.
Place the straw and the olice leaves in a small metal plate, tin lid or tray.
Say a prayer like the "Our Father" and "Hail Mary" and light the Candle.
Drop candle wax on the leaves and light them with the candle itself.
Go into all the rooms of the house all the while saying the prayers.
Warning: The smell is horrible but it soon wears off. There is a special incantation which I will include later when I have it. The chant distinguishes between the voluntary (out of jealousy, hatred, etc. ) and the involuntary evil-eye curse (such as due to over praising).
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Rent a house or a Room in Gozo, Malta