Warding off the Evil Eye

According to R.C. Maclagan's Evil Eye in the Western Highlands (Nutt, London 19 02) the Evil Eye superstition was widespread in the area well into the late 1800s. Possibly it still lingers in the Western Highlands of Scotland. The simplest way of telling who had the Evil Eye (the 'diagnostic mark') was to look out for persons with different coloured eyes but as he says 'all the parti-coloured eyes in Scotland would not account for a tenth part of the results accredited to evil eyes.' Atrtractive children were particularly prone and various dress codes are suggested to ward it off:


A woman of twenty-eight, whose information is quite
reliable, the daughter of a respectable man in one
of the inner islands, remembers when young people
talked a great deal about these things, and many were
very much afraid of them. "The idea was that it
was always the best and prettiest of beast or body
that was most liable to be injured by a bad eye.
(My) youngest brother was awfully pretty when a child.
They used to have him dressed in a red frock and
white pinny, and with his fair skin, fair curly hair,
and red cheeks, he was the nicest-looking child in
all the place. Many a time, when my father would
take him out, the neighbours would be warning him
to take good care lest some one might do the child
harm, and some would advise my father to go in and
take the frock and pinny off him, so that he might not
draw one's attention so much."

From Ross-shire we hear the same thing. A
native "remembers when he was young, people believed
in the Evil Eye and were afraid of it." It
was supposed that pretty children were specially
liable to be injured by it, and it was a common
device with some mothers, in circumstances where
there was any suspicion of danger, to take care that
at-least some article of the child's dress would be at
fault, either in respect of neatness or cleanness, or
better still, to have one of the child's stockings turned
outside in when being worn. These were supposed
to form a protection to the child against injury.
The reciter remembers quite well a woman who
in her own person and house was the pink of neatness,
but full of superstition, and he cannot remember
ever having seen her children without something untidy
about them. Always a stocking or something
else wrong on, and this was done intentionally by
their mother to keep away the Evil Eye.

A native of Bernera (Harris) testified : " When a
person appears well dressed and good-looking, it is
supposed that she is in danger of being affected by
the Evil Eye. A recommendation in such a case is
to wear some article of clothing with the wrong side
out, as a preventative of harm."

An old man of eighty-seven, uneducated, but full
of information, somewhat difficult to understand from
the loss of his teeth and the weakness of his voice,
telling his experiences in the most pathetic manner...
" The first one of my  family was a daughter. She was
a pretty child, and I was very fond of her. But what
happened but a day that was there, she was out at
the side of the house and a person passed who had an
Evil Eve, and the Evil Eye went into the child and she
was injured. From that time the creature went back so
much, until at last she was only kept alive by a little
wine put into her mouth with a teaspoon."...

"When people had occasion to go to farmer R.'s
house, having children with them, they contrived to
put some attractive article of clothing on the children,
so that the gay clothes might divert his eye from the
wearers and save them from injury."

A native of Knockando (Elgin) says that there is
an impression that the young, either of man or beast,
are verv liable to receive injury from an Evil Eye
fastening upon them, if that should be the first eye
that sees them after their birth. This belief makes
people take great care often to secure that any one
supposed to possess an Evil Eye will not be, the first
to see an infant immediately after birth, or any other
young animal.

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