Malocchio, the Italian Evil Eye

Malocchio – Facts About the Italian Evil Eye

Ever wondered what is Malocchio, and if the curse is real? 

Italians take it seriously, but it’s also a belief many other Mediterranean cultures share.

In this article, I’ll explain the Italian evil eye curse in detail, looking at:

In a Nutshell

  • In short, Malocchio, or the Italian evil eye, is a cultural belief in a curse that can bring misfortune or illness, transmitted through a negative, envious gaze.
  • The evil eye is not just found in Italy. Its roots are deep in history and widespread, and it is shared by various ancient civilizations, including Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
  • Italians employ amulets, prayers, rituals, and community support to guard against and overcome the effects of the malocchio. The diagnosis is confirmed by pouring olive oil in water and watching out for the shape of an eye.

What is Malocchio, An Italian Evil Eye?

Illustration of an Italian evil eye symbol
Illustration of an Italian evil eye symbol

So, what’s the deal with the Malocchio, the spooky Italian evil eye? It’s been freaking people out for ages. Just hearing its name can make you think of evil stares and bad luck. 

This curse is believed to bring all sorts of misery, like illness or just plain old bad luck. It’s all about envy and negative energy, supposedly passed through mean looks. Sounds kind of wild, but Italians take it seriously.

I’ll try to break it down for you so you can understand the history of it, whether other cultures have Malocchio as well, and what Italians do to wade it off. 

Historical Roots of Malocchio

Let’s take a trip back in time to understand the history of the evil eye. It’s not just an Italian thing; it’s been around for ages and was taken seriously in ancient times, even in Rome. 

Back then, people believed the evil eye wasn’t just superstition; it was seen as a real curse. In Italy, being suspected of giving someone the evil eye could even get you in trouble.

But Italy wasn’t alone in this. Other cultures around the Mediterranean, like ancient Rome, feared curses by envy. It wasn’t just an Italian worry but a shared concern among many ancient civilizations.

A nice interview with S. Maniscalco, where Malocchio is discussed.

Malocchio Across Cultures – A Universal Phenomenon

Beyond the Italian peninsula, the evil eye has been a universal phenomenon with a presence that spans the globe.

From the Middle East to the Americas, superstition has taken on various forms and interpretations, often reflecting the values and fears of the people who hold them. Other cultures with Malocchio  include;

  • The Balkans
  • The Middle East
  • Central Asia
  • South Asia
  • Africa
  • The Caribbean
  • Latin America

In the Middle East, North Africa, and even parts of the United States (often among European-Americans), a significant portion of the population believes that harm can come from an envious gaze, especially towards vulnerable groups like children. 

This belief in the power of evil eyes is deeply rooted in these cultures and continues to shape their understanding of the world.

This widespread belief even influenced significant world religions, integrating the evil eye into religious narratives and practices, often attributed to the will of a god.

Recognizing the Signs – When Malocchio Strikes

How can one discern when the evil eye has struck? Symptoms of Malocchio range from subtle headaches to disruptive financial troubles. 

Sometimes, they manifest as fatigue, skin irritations, or anxiety. It’s believed that the source of these maladies can be traced to a malevolent glare, a curse born of jealousy, or a wish of bad luck, whether intentional or not.

Such fear has compelled many to seek confirmation through traditional methods like dropping olive oil into the water to detect the curse’s presence. The diagnosis is positive if the oil turns into an eye.

From Envy to Curse – The Psychological Underpinnings

Envy and jealousy, emotions as old as humanity itself, are the seeds from which the belief in the evil eye sprouts. 

Ancient cultures, such as the Greeks and Romans, recognized the destructive potential of these feelings, attributing them the power to cause real, physical harm.

This and other Italian superstitions may have served as a cultural defense mechanism, particularly in societies where wealth was unevenly distributed, and institutional protections were lacking.

In Southern Italy, prosperity and beauty were often seen as finite, coveted resources, setting the stage for envy to flourish and potentially leading to Malocchio’s casting.

Artifacts and Amulets – Physical Evidence of Ancient Protection

Illustration of ancient evil eye talismans
Illustration of ancient evil eye talismans

The earliest known talismans designed to protect against the evil eye date back to ancient civilizations, such as the eye idols of Mesopotamia and the Eye of Horus from Egypt. 

These items were held in high regard, believed to possess the power to ward off curses, and were often incorporated into homes or sacred ritual spaces.

Over time, this ancient belief manifested in various charms and amulets, with the eye symbol becoming a ubiquitous protective emblem across cultures, often attributed to its attribute power.

Defensive Measures – Guarding Against the Evil Eye

Italy’s daily battle against the evil eye is waged with amulets, prayers, and rituals as the primary weapons. 

Pregnant women and newborns are especially shielded with ribbons and amulets, while others incorporate protective superstitions into their daily routines, such as crossing themselves or wearing religious medallions.

Traditional remedies like burning chilies and mustard are sometimes turned to when illness or bad luck persists, despite medical intervention, pointing to a belief in the supernatural efficacy of these practices against the malevolent glare.

Rituals and Prayers – Invoking Divine Protection

Illustration of a person performing a protective ritual
Illustration of a person performing a protective ritual

In the Italian tradition of countering the malocchio, the spoken word carries a significant power that cannot be underestimated. 

Prayers and rituals often invoke divine entities, as seen in the Malocchio prayer, which pleads for deliverance from envy and witchcraft. These practices may include pouring olive oil into the water as a diagnostic ritual, where the formation of an eye shape confirms the curse’s affliction.

When someone compliments you, some people might respond by touching themselves or praying to protect against the evil eye before anything terrible happens.

Symbols of Safeguarding – Horns, Red Chilli, and More

Illustration of protective amulets against the Italian evil eye - Malocchio
Illustration of protective amulets against the Italian evil eye – Malocchio

Physical embodiments of protection against the evil eye include amulets like the cornicello, which resembles a bull’s horn, and the mano cornuto, or horned hand. Made from materials such as gold, silver, or red coral, these charms are personal talismans and put up in homes and vehicles, extending their safeguarding reach.

The mano cornuto charm, in particular, is designed to deflect negative energy downward, away from the person wearing it, reinforcing the communal belief in the power of protective gestures and symbols against the evil eye.

RELATED: Learn more about Italian symbols.

Breaking Free – Success Stories of Overcoming the Curse

Getting rid of the heavy burden of the Malocchio often means making big changes for those it affects. But there’s hope: many people have managed to escape its grip. They find comfort and freedom by returning to old traditions and rituals that seem to work immediately.

To shake off the curse, people often have a moment where they realize what’s going on, decide to kick negativity out of their lives and go back to doing things meant to bring them good luck and happiness.

The Role of Community: Support Systems in Warding Off Evil

Illustration of a community engaging in a protective ritual
Illustration of a community engaging in a protective ritual

The malocchio curse isn’t just something one deals with alone; it feeds off the whole community’s feelings. Emotions like jealousy and feeling like there’s not enough to go around affect how much people trust each other and their relationships.

But when the community comes together to deal with the evil eye by doing rituals and understanding what it means, it strengthens the culture. It builds up the support systems already in place and helps everyone feel more connected.


Feeling cursed by the Italian evil eye, Malocchio? Don’t stress – ancient remedies offer protection. It can put a damper on things, but fear not! The tight-knit Italian community is always there to help lift the curse.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Malocchio mean in Italy?

Malocchio means “evil eye” in Italy, and it is a superstitious condition characterized by misfortune, unluckiness, negative energy, and sometimes illness. The term is derived from “mal” meaning bad and “occhio” meaning eye.

How do you clear the curse?

To clear malocchio, you can perform a traditional ritual by using a bowl of water and olive oil and saying a silent prayer while performing the sign of the cross over the water, then adding olive oil into the water three times. Could be worth a try!

Can the evil eye affect anyone?

It is believed that anyone can be affected by the evil eye, but Italians use rituals and amulets to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Are there specific signs that indicate the Evil Eye afflicts someone?

Yes, common signs of Malocchio affliction can include headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, anxiety, and financial troubles. Be observant and seek help if you notice these symptoms.

Is belief in the Evil Eye limited to Italy?

The evil eye belief isn’t just an Italian thing; it’s worldwide, found in many cultures with their interpretations and ways to ward it off. Different cultures have their understanding and practices for dealing with it, each with unique traditions to stay protected.


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