Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Evil Eye

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunnèd it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.


And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,


And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

                - William Blake, "A Poison Tree," 1794
My friend and co-author Sophie Reicher has just posted an excellent piece on a topic which has not received much coverage of late - the Malocchio, or "evil eye."  The Evil Eye is one of the more unsettling concepts of traditional witchcraft. The idea that someone can cause you psychic and physical harm with a dirty look is bad enough.  Someone who has this gift doesn't have to burn a candle, sprinkle powder on your doorstep or sacrifice the neighbor's cat to the Prince of Darkness: a good (or bad) gaze is all they need. But to make matters worse, they don't even have to hex you deliberately. They might see you as a dear friend and be outraged at the idea they would wish you harm.  Like most magic, the Evil eye is fueled by the subconscious: it operates not on the lies we tell ourselves but on the truths we wish to keep hidden.

Many Chaos Magic workings attempt to tap into the subconscious. Anyone who has ever worked with sigils knows they are to be charged with intense emotional and/or sexual energy, then left to ferment in the deepest parts of the magician's mind.  In time the forgotten sigil will blossom forth to work changes in the magician's consciousness and in the surrounding world. It is a way to tap into the immense power of the hidden mind and to reorder Chaos in a shape more suitable to our needs. 

Austin Osman Spare and disciples like Kenneth Grant and Peter Carroll have explored techniques by which we may introduce specific symbols into our subconscious.  Another great scholar of the psychosphere, Sigmund Freud, explored the non-consensual ways in which our subconscious can be reprogrammed.  His name for one major impetus for this involuntary sigilization - repression - bears careful consideration. The process of adjusting ourselves to our culture and becoming a functioning member of society involves repressing many of our natural drives and instincts. Freud concentrated most of his efforts on exploring the suppression of lust and the sexual drive.  He might have done well to explore the ways we try to distance ourselves from anger, avarice, envy or other states which were once classed as "deadly sins" and are today scorned as "unevolved emotions."

I've run into many New Agers and spiritually-inclined folks who work desperately to avoid any kind of "negativity." They rule over their psyches like a Victorian schoolmaster trying to save his charges from the evils of masturbation. Any hint of anger is greeted with a cold shower of mantras and a bland diet of affirmations and channeled transmissions.  Expressing honest objections and setting boundaries is replaced by passive-aggression and the condescending smug superiority that masks itself as "tolerance and acceptance."  After reading Sophie's report, I'm not surprised to see that some of these people are also manifesting the ability to cast malocchio.  If you don't own your shit, it gets backed up and sooner or later it explodes in a fecal volcano. And those who are trying to tamp down anger and jealousy with sparkly crystals and soothing music are most certainly not owning it.

Many cultures have come up with traditional amulets, incantations and spells designed to ward off the Evil Eye. If you are spending a lot of time dealing with Highly Evolved Passive-Aggressive types, you may want to invest in some of these. At the very least you may want to pick up a holy symbol or other means of protection and wear it as a shield.  If you have been zapped by someone who has been letting their jealousy and rage cook in a cauldron of benevolence, some of the remedies Sophie mentioned in her post may prove efficacious.  Do not underestimate the power of the Evil Eye. If you can empower a sigil with a couple minutes of autoerotic asphyxia, imagine what kind of a charge you can get out of locking your shadow away for a decade or a lifetime.