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March 30, 2017

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Evil eye lives on in Lebanese tradition

BEIRUT -- Judging by the many amulets hanging inside cars and vehicles in the streets of Lebanon, fear of the evil eye is still widespread in the country.

Daily life in Lebanon is full of superstitious beliefs in spite of the huge economic and social transformation that has taken place in recent years. The evil eye is just one such belief with evokes widespread obsession while only a small number reject the whole notion.

The evil eye is seen as a hidden force linked to all the bad things that can happen to a person. It is when someone eyes your good fortune with jealousy and bad luck in some form may befall you.

"The evil eye can be traced to a time when medicine was not in an advanced stage especially in rural environments, where the mortality rate was very high, particularly child mortality," said Edwar al-Qash, Professor of Anthropology at the Lebanese University.

"At that time, children were a family's only wealth and having boys was very important because they were seen as an economic asset in an agricultural society."

"Therefore, concern for the lives of children governed daily life, and those who were deprived of this economic asset, or children, envied those who had it," al-Qash told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

In traditional societies, the belief is that the eye is the source of the envy. It is not necessary for someone to utter words of jealousy, it is enough to look at something in a particular way to infect it with envy and harm.

This is why many people in traditional places use the phrase "shame the eye" in conversation in order to save them from evil.

In the past, according to al-Qash, women who could not have children would envy those who could. Children along with youth, money, power, health and strength are considered to be vulnerable to envy.

To avoid the evil eye, people tend to hide their valuable property for fear of attracting attention and envy. "Despite the change in the basis of such beliefs and progress and development in many areas, such as medicine, there has not been much change in these symbolic beliefs up to today," al-Qash said.

Belief in the evil eye is widespread in Lebanese folklore, which can be seen in the large number of references to it. This includes novels about the evil eye and description of the methods and rituals used to prevent it.

It is thought that the "evil eye" belief had its roots in ancient Egypt, and it was passed on later to Mediterranean tribes and cultures, then to the Greeks and Romans.

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