If you've ever seen a person of Greek origin sporting a circular glass charm that shows a curious blue eye, then you've seen the classic Greek evil eye symbol -- the matiasma. This eye's main purpose isn't really an aesthetic one, but rather to serve the function of warding off the effects of the evil eye. Matiasma means "evil eye" in Greek, and is often shortened to mati, or "eye." The word is used to describe the eye symbol itself, which looks something like a bull's-eye, with a dark center "pupil" surrounded by a circle of light blue, then sometimes white, then finally an outer circle of dark blue.

The Evil Eye

The concept of the evil eye is widespread in Mediterranean countries, with its roots planted in ancient Greece. It is mentioned or discussed in many ancient texts including the Old Testament, Talmudic literature and the Koran. The idea is that the gaze of someone who harbors feelings of envy or jealousy can bring misfortune upon the one who is seen -- the one who "gets the evil eye."

Effects of the Evil Eye

Those who receive the evil eye are often expected to experience health problems. Intense head pains and sadness are considered to be two common effects of receiving the evil eye. Other forms of bad luck are also frequently associated with the evil eye, from financial difficulties to family problems. And according to folklore, a person who gives the evil eye doesn't necessarily have to do so intentionally or with bad motives. If a person gazes at another while innocuously coveting their seemingly superior physical appearance, riches or even strong family bonds, that could be enough for the evil eye to have its effect.

An Eye for an Eye

The use of the eye as a symbol is directly related to the idea of a simple stare possessing destructive powers. The depiction of an eye is used as protection by those who believe in the evil eye, to fight fire with fire, so to speak. Those who display an eye as a talisman hope that its power will counteract or ward off the evil eye, whenever it should fall on them.

Protection Against the Evil Eye

Greek people often safeguard themselves against bad fortune by keeping some form of mati or eyeball symbol somewhere important to them, such as their residence, workplace or vehicle. The glass charm is also common in Turkey, where it is called a nazar or nazar boncugu. Babies in Greece and Turkey are often adorned with such charms, as children are believed to be extremely common targets of the evil eye, along with women. The charms, or more realistic depictions of a blue eye, are also frequently found on jewelry and accessories such as bracelets, necklaces and anklets.