Evil Eyes All Around!

In ancient legend, it is believed that the evil eye was the biggest threat to someone who accepted praise for something beyond what they truly deserved. That person would become “so swollen with pride” that doom would come from the evil eye in the form of incurable illnesses. Society thought that “gods were punishing those who had become too proud of their own achievements” and would restore the balance of humanity by destroying their ego.

DisplayWhile the legend has changed some over the years, it is still told in many societies. Some believe that there are three types of evil eyes – the first is unconscious evil eyes. These harm people and things without intending to. The second type intends to harm. The third one is an unseen, hidden evil that is the most formidable one out of the three. While the classic, traditional evil eye amulet is a cobalt blue evil eye bead with white and turquoise circles in the middle, they can also come in different colors that supposedly offer protection in more specific areas like health and love. Glass eye beads are generally blue because cobalt and turquoise blues are thought to be the most defensive colors against the bad luck that results from the negative attention or jealousy of others. The bead will often be shiny in order to “reflect back the evil” from the wearer. It is believed that not only do the evil eyes protect the wearer from ill, but they also encourage positive thinking–basically protecting you from your own negativity!

Bracelet

Even though the beautiful, blue eye beads are typically seen alone in jewelry, they can also be paired with the hand of Hamsa. The Hamsa hand is a hand with (usually) two thumbs and three fingers pointing downwards. With blue glass eye beads made of striking cobalt blue, vivid reds, lemon yellows or pure white glass with black center dots strung on red cord, evil thoughts are thought to quickly evaporate before their purposeful stare. “Hamsa” is an Arabic word (خمسة), which means five (referring to the fingers of the hand). In Jewish culture, the hamsa is called the Hand of Miriam; in Muslim culture, the Hand of Fatima, in the name of Mohammed’s daughter.

Evil Eye The hamsa is usually worn as a charm, but also appears either directly painted on walls or as a plaque. Additionally, it is hung over doors and windows much like a horseshoe. When received as a gift, if one does not believe in the evil eye entirely, it works as a “hand of friendship” by connecting two people together (typically in jewelry form). There are plenty of shops selling glass evil eye beads for tourists across the Middle East, as they are usually uncommon for Westernized citizens to be wearing. However, they are making an appearance on various clothing, jewelry, and even makeup/nail art here in America. I have seen various drawings of hamsas in buildings around Ohio University’s campus and, lately, as a popular tattoo choice. They range from simple to complex designs and I love how accepted they’ve become. Now that I know what these symbols stand for and why they are cherished, I have a much bigger appreciation for them. (And now I really want to own one!)

The myth of the evil eye seems to make a lot of sense in our current world. When you think about it, the idea that too much fame, money or praise can bring about one’s downfall is prevalent all over pop culture in America, which reinforces the idea of the evil eye. Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, Kim Kardashian, etc. are prime examples of celebrities that fall into this category. Pop culture has been filled with celebrities that are not the best role models and it makes a negative precedent for the rest of society. I think we could benefit from taking a page from the evil eye legend.

Protected

I personally love the concept and design of the evil eye! I think it’s a simple, yet powerfully symbolic way to tie yourself to a religion (similarly to a cross for Christianity), but also to a culture or relationship. It is also something a esthetically beautiful that I am drawn into every time I see them. What do you think? Would you buy an evil eye or hamsa talisman? Do you think the symbol will continue to evolve with the societies that use them?

References: BellaOnline, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, Jewish Gift Place, EvilEyeStore, Sahra Design

Elegance In Writing

When I found that calligraphy is the highest form of visual art in Islamic cultures, I was completely intrigued. Calligraphy isn’t present in Western art (or even culture) and I ended up scrolling through countless Google images of beautiful Islamic calligraphy. Calligraphy script is clearly revered because of the lettering in the Quran. I, and countless others, have used this basis as an association with the culture. It can be both decorative and symbolic of knowledge, resulting in its wide range of uses.

One of the reasons calligraphy is regarding so highly in Islamic culture is because there are no images of people orIslamic Art animals allowed in their art. It was written that “those who paint pictures would be punished on the Day of Resurrection and it would be said to them: Breathe soul into what you have created.” (Sahih Muslim vol.3, no.5268). This is especially important when it comes to depictions of God (Allah) and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him). Beautiful writing became imperative for transcribing the word of God and for creating sacred Qur’ans. The text remains the focus of art pieces and usually comprises of Quran quotations, other religious texts, poems, and/or praise for rulers. I found this extremely special considering how much American culture promotes free speech and there are very few, if any, admired pieces of work dedicated to our President or other government figures.

As parchment was replaced with paper and the reed pen was replaced with an angled nib, the calligraphy styles evolved but never lost their grace. They are simply gorgeous on their own and stand out even more so with a little extra decoration. Calligraphy can be scribed onto anything from parchment to wood to metalwork to stained glass and are usually vibrant in color. However, there will never be an artistic interference with the work itself; the extra details should never distract from the content of the text. Islamic societies regard calligraphers as highly prestigious citizens. They train for many years before they can be considered calligraphers in order to create exact replicas of certain models and texts.

This traditional process paid off! I’m sure that anyone visiting the the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem or the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, can’t help but stand in awe of the writings and decorative architecture. The images speak for themselves (if the pictures below aren’t proof enough – check out this Pinterest page!) Even though I cannot read Arabic, it is still truly amazing and I can see why it would quickly be incorporated into so many other artistic forms. The simple elegance of plain black script is enough for me to want the artwork everywhere around me. After looking at multiple museum web sites, it seems that these striking words appear on almost every precious object, as I would expect! Seeing images of all these magnificent buildings made me put the destinations on my bucket list instantly. Breathtaking!Dome of The Rock

Spain PalaceI’m definitely enthralled with Islamic art now, but I still do not know as much about calligraphy and its importance in Islamic culture as I’d like to. Is calligraphy still used in Islamic art today even with the ease of computers and printing? Is calligraphy still used involving religious texts or has it been involved with propaganda-type materials?  Do you think calligraphy styles will continue to evolve, or will they continue to be preserved within the ancient text styles?

                                                          References: About Islamic Art, Calligraphy in Islamic Art, The Spirit of Islam: Experiencing Islam Through Calligraphy, Islamic Art Collection