Eye in history
The evil eye is well known throughout history. It is mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts, as well as in many famous literary works, including the Bible (Proverbs 23:6: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats”), the Koran and Shakespeare.
The evil eye is essentially a specific type of magical curse, and has its roots in magical thinking and superstition. Let’s say that a person experiences bad luck, ill health, accident, or some unexplained calamity — perhaps a drought or an infectious disease. Before science could explain weather patterns and germ theory, any bad event for which there was not an obvious cause might be blamed on a curse. Curses, including the evil eye, are an answer to the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people.
The association of special powers with the eyes is not hard to fathom: Eyes, it is said, are the gateway to a person’s soul. Shifting eyes are said to subtly betray liars, while a steady gaze may be endearing or menacing depending on the circumstances. Actors use their eyes to convey a wide range of emotions, including love, hate, disgust, boredom, scorn, surprise, and envy. In fact it is this last emotion — jealousy — that underlies the evil eye’s cultural association with magic.