Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Evil Eye

I'm sure you have heard of the evil eye, or mal de ojo as it is called in Spanish. Many different cultures around the world believe in the evil eye and although the causes & cures vary somewhat, one thing is quite common among all of the superstitions - pregnant women and newborn babies are most susceptible to its effects. 

My closest friend in Mozambique was pregnant while I was there. (She was due a month or so after I left and we've not been able to keep in touch due to the fact that there was hardly any access to internet in the village.) She always told me that a pregnant woman should try to be nice to everyone. One should avoid getting into arguments or boasting while pregnant, for fear of the evil eye. She believes (and I believe) that envy and negative feelings are not healthy during pregnancy.

I really believe that negative emotions can have an effect on things. Just look at this experiment on water:





So, I am trying my best to be humble and kind these days. Not that I ever tried to be cranky before, but I guess it is on my mind more now!

So what about you? Are you superstitious? 

5 comments:

  1. Oh I am totally superstitious, and the evil eye or "mal de ojo" is totally a thing in Mexico too. There are bracelets with a certain seed (ojo de venado) that are supposed to protect you, same as the little eyes from Turkey and some kind of glassy stones from Indonesia.
    Speaking about superstitions, I wanted to comment on your post about choosing a name, but because it is somehow related I will do it here.
    For years and years there was this name I *really* liked, I always said that I would name my child like that. Later I talked about it to Mark and he likes this name as much as me. While we were in the (long) process of waiting for our baby, we always talked / assumed this would be the name we'd use (though we like a couple of others too). We "called" our baby with this name, asking it to come to our lives. Well, about a year and a half ago a cousin lost a baby just after it was born, and it was baptized with a shorter version of the name we had chosen for so long. My mom also knows how much we liked this name, and now, when we can actually think of using it, we do not know, we want to do that, On the one hand, on a practical level, of course we do not want to hurt my cousin and his wife (eventhough we are not really close to them), on the other, my mom and sister in law believe that names in families are best not to be repeated, because you can pass "energy" or "karma" with them. So now, we are freaking out (well, I am). It's not like we would be naming our baby after this other baby, we had thought of this name way before. My husband, not superstitious at all, says it is just a name and that names get repeated all the time. I just want to protect our baby, so eventhough we still really love this name, we don't know what we will do. We have both asked "her" to let us know in one form or another how she wants to be named, and we have agreed to make a list of 5 names or so and then decide / *know* when we see her. It's complicated.

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  2. I have very ambivalent feelings about superstition and its relationship to IF and (especially) loss. On the one hand, I think we *do* all have some form of superstition, or perhaps the appropriate term is ritual, that we use not only as a talisman against bad fortune but also to give ourselves the hope and strength to keep going when these battles seem hard fought. In many places where I worked in the rural Middle East and in Asia, the evil eye was taken pretty seriously, and babies (if not pregnant women) were often adorned with some token to that effect. I chose to interpret those tokens as a kind of blessing as much as anything, and remember I even brought my baby nephew one to put in his stroller the first time I came to visit him in Canada. I like and acknowledge that aspect of it; the fragility of new life, and the special attention and good vibes that it deserves.

    However, I think there are aspects of a superstitious approach which can be really hurtful and inappropriate when talking about IF/loss, because they end up leading to an implication of blame when a pregnancy (or fertility treatment, I don't doubt), doesn't go well. I don't think there is a single woman out there who has lost a baby and not tormented herself with endless thoughts about what she could have done differently to save her baby, whether it's not having excersized as much or having behaved less boastfully. We all question and blame ourselves, to some extent, and the last thing we need are societal values that suggest at those same awful thoughts. And as we all know, no matter how 'perfect' a woman behaves while ttc or during pregnancy, she may still draw the short straw while a random crack addict can easily have one healthy child after another. It's random, crap luck.

    Another common response which I think is unique to pregnancy and infant loss (maybe also the case with IF, and I'd be interested if anyone can correct me), is the superstitious idea that loss is somehow a form of contagion, which is expressed in the comment above. When you lose a baby, people suddenly disappear, or want nothing to do with you. My own sister-in-law told us that she didn't want to be around us when we lost our son because she didn't want to 'jinx' her own pregnancy. Having attended many loss support groups, I can say that sadly, it's a not uncommon attitude; and one that is so destructive and hurtful.

    So I do see that there are charming dimensions to the idea of superstition and on some level a lot of us probably subscribe to that. I respect that there are some cultural beliefs which make a big deal of superstition around pregnancy and infancy, but I'm also hella glad that I come from a culture that doesn't place (at least not to the same degree) that pressure and responsibility on women, because I've seen how 'barren' women or those who experience recurrent miscarriage can be treated in such environments.

    I know this is an insanely long and dark response to a post you were probably aiming at being light and convivial, but it's something I feel strongly about (and find fascinating) both as a woman and a scholar. I'll shut up now! :)

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  3. I am superstitious about some things, mostly it has been in regards to playing sports though. I do fully believe that we have a choice over our attitudes. We can CHOOSE how we respond to things. Of course it's not easy, but we can choose to hold into anger or be a happy person. This post is a good reminder to me. I've been pretty tired and emotional lately. I need to work on not getting worked up over little things.

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  4. I agree, how we react to things is always a choice. Of course sometimes the choice is easier than other times!

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