Jun 3, 2013

Evil Eye

In Bosnia the effect of spellbound eyes is called urok, this name stems from the Illyrians and represents "captivation" or "fascination". The negative effect of the human gaze, according to belief, is mostly demonstrated in small children, especially in the first months of their life. That's why, in order to protect the small child a red, black or green string is tied around its wrist, in order to divert the first and most harmful gaze and in such a way to neuter the power of spellbound eyes.


The use of red string and tying knots on it while repeating specific chants is a traditional form of white magic which can be seen all around Bosnia. Usually older women practice this form of magic since they are the ones that believe in the effect of spellbound eyes the most. One of them is Fatima Dautović from Velika Kladuša, for quite some time she used to tie 99 knots on a black thread 40cm long. Before every bind she utters the verse Ayetul Kursi, blows into the string and strengthens the knot. This technique first of all requires calmness, concentration and time. When she finished tying all of the knots, the string is then wrapped around a small piece of yew (Taxus) tree in order to enhance its apotropaic power. An amulet constructed using this technique will protect the wearer from black magic, spellbound eyes, bad luck during travel. According to Fatima, if this amulet is worn by married women, they will be more dominant in marriage.

Ziba Kovačević from Zenica also practices an identical method of amulet construction against spellbound eyes, the only difference is that she uses red thread and ties 41 knots. The thread with the knots is wrapped around a small piece of yew tree. An amulet constructed in such a way is often wrapped around a child's hand.

-Yew is a tree that protects against evil and it is advisable that everyone carries a piece of it with them, in their pocket or wallet, Ziba explains.

It is also believed that the thread used to stitch the cloth used to wrap a dead person, gains prophylactic powers. A thread of 10 cm is used and once it has been threaded through the cloth, it is then divided into two equal parts. The first part of the thread is thrown in a whirlpool of a river and the other half is used to tie a knot and is carried alongside the user. Allegedly such a knot protects against all forms of evil, spellbound eyes and black magic.

There are various forms of spellbound eyes that are known among the Bosnian folk:

zazor is a name for jealousy which is manifested through spellbound eyes,

začud is a name for admiration for one's beauty, assets or health and that was the reason for the effect of spellbound eyes,

presjek is a name for spellbound eyes that cause loss of appetite in children and it loses weight suddenly, etc.

In order to find out if her child was a victim of spellbound eyes a mother uses her tongue to lick specific places on the child's face, temple and the area between the eyebrows, in order to justify her suspicion. If she feels a salty or sour taste then the child has been affected.

Negation of the effect of spellbound eyes should commence as soon as it is discovered, since, according to folk belief, in the course of three days the power of spellbound eyes dominates the entire body of the child and can cause serious illness.

In Bosnian tradition there exists a popular belief that every mother can best protect her child from spellbound eyes which is illustrated by the first words of this magical formula:

Mother gave birth, mother cured!

Scatter spellbound eyes like the leaves in the forest,

like the foam on water,

like gold among gentleman.

While repeating this formula the mother uses her tongue again, this time she licks the child up its nose continuing to the forehead and ending where the hair starts. She repeats this procedure three times.