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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Evil Eye Among the Greeks of Australia: Identity, Continuity and Modernization

This article deals with the beliefs and attitudes concerning the evil eye, as they are manifested in the pre-wedding ritual of the Casteilorizian Greeks of Perth, Australia. The evil eye is considered as regards the Castellorizian ethnic culture and identity in the broader Australian social framework and the transmission of this culture from one generation of immigrants to another. In the first part of the paper the concept of the evil eye, its dissemination and manifestation through the ages are examined, and some of its most valid interpretations are reviewed. In the second part the evil eye is considered in the context of the pre-wedding rituals of the Greek immigrants from Casteilorizo island, and their descendants, who have settled in Perth and have formed a vibrant community, since the early years of our century. Two pre-wedding rites, the blessing and spreading of votania (wild herbs} and the threading of mousoukarfia (cloves), are examined as regards the ways they express, reproduce, transmit and modify Castellorizian cultural values and symbols that revolve round the concept of the evil eye. The evil eye is the notion that unites these individuals into a community “on the basis of a shared form, though not necessarily of a shared meaning”, to quote Antony Cohen. Some CasteNorizians of the second or third -generation may overtly reject the idea of the evil eye as being a “superstition”. Yet, they perform rites that embody and express this idea. Moreover, even when these individuals consciously reject the idea of the evil eye, cultural values and attitudes, such as competition and gossip, continue to be expressed among the Castellorizians, thereby forging a continuity that guarantees the perpetuation of a community with its own “moral” quality in a modernized world.