Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another Quote: Ritual Incantation against the Evil Eye

After my last post, I just could not help but quote the incantation against the Evil Eye, something feared throughout the ancient Mediterranean and ancient near east--Tolkien's Eye of Sauron seems to rely upon some of these characteristics, particularly the first line:

The Eye goes, yea it runs;

It has seen its brother, that he is good.
Its brother, that he is lovely;

It has begun to devour his flesh without a knife.
To drink his blood without a cup;

It is the eye of a BTY-man that has seen him [the brother],
The eye of a BTY-woman that has seen him,

The eye of a price-setter,
The eye of an assembler,
The eye of a gate-keeper.

The eye of a gate-keeper, to the gate-keeper let it return!
The eye of the assembler, to the assembler let it return!
The eye of the price-setter, to the price-setter let it return!

They eye of the BTY-man, to the BTY-man let it return!
The eye of the BTY-woman, to the BTY-woman let it return!

RS 22.225, Trans. Dennis Pardee

This text is rather well put together and well preserved. The first part portrays the Evil Eye as an independent entity, something that seems to rove to and fro throughout the land, something suggested in this translation by the capital "E." This piercing Eye, through its gaze, devours the flesh and drinks the blood of the one it sees. This independent, somewhat abstract Eye (that reminds me of the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings), then is expressed in individual people. This section is organized in a chiastic pattern, with the eye of individual figures given, and then their gaze returned to them in reverse order. These individuals are the concrete expressions of giving the Evil Eye: it is through their particular gazes that the Evil Eye can manifest to devour flesh and drink blood. It is the returning of the gaze that is really the point of the text. The incantation reverses the gaze to the gazer: the various figures who give the Evil Eye, now will suffer its consequences rather than the good "brother."

2 comments: said...


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