A Quick History of Evil Eye Beads

The history of evil eye beads spans from ancient Egypt to Mediterranean communities, all the way to Asian tribes, European cultures and Native American communities. The history is documented in the Old Testament of the bible, Quran as well as in classical writings of the Greek.

The concept of evil eye beliefs underlies the progressive history of evil eye beads, their origin, spread and popularity. Such consequences as bad lack are in most cultures viewed as to have been triggered by envious and ill-wishing persons. The superstition then calls for a protective measure against such evil eye influences. The answer comes in a set of articulately handcrafted evil eye beads. The history of evil eye beads therefore, must detail how such beliefs have manifested themselves and how beads have come into the gap as protective measure.

Cultural Forms of Belief versus Evil Eye Beads

In all these cultures as detailed above, the evil eye referred to malevolent gazes that evil-minded people bestowed on their victims in an attempt to wish them ill. Evil eyes were believed to cause poverty, bad luck, diseases and similar ills. The evil eyed person might do that intentionally out of malice and envy, or intentionally if he or she is doomed to that fate naturally.

Alan Dundes, UC Berkeley folklore professor have conducted numerous studies in South American communities, Chinese and the Indians. He reports that in all these cultures, an evil eye is most feared when the victim is a newly born babies, new brides or rare livestock breeds, bumper harvest and new businesses. Because it is impossible to know who the evil eyed individual is outrightly, or to keep such persons away, the only way is to protect oneself and loved ones with an anti-evil eye shield (beads). Thus emerges the history of evil eye beads as a protective shield.

The History of Evil Eye Beads

Literary, archaeological and anthropological evidence attest that the evil eye superstition most probably originated in Eastern Mediterranean cultures. This can be gleaned from the early works of Plato, Hesiod, Diodorus Siculus, Callimachus, Theocritus and Plutarch.

The belief then spread to the classical age where ancient scholars like Aristophanes, Plutarch, Athenaeus and Heliodorus reflect the same in their works. Actually, speculations that Socrates had an evil eye abounded, probably resulting from those who were fascinated by his glaring eyes.

This belief survived through the Greco-Roman era where scientific explanation (such as Plutarch’s) stated that evil eyes accrued from deadly rays that sprung up from the recess of an evil person just as poisoned darts. It was however during the Roman Empire that the evil eye belief gained intensity across Europe and some parts of Asia. Romans usually classified not just individuals but also tribes as evil eyed, as was the case with Scythia and Pontus (referred to as evil eye transmitters). This reached a climax and propagated across the globe by the mighty pro-Greek Empire of Alexander the Great.

Historical Distribution of Evil Eye Beads

Evil eye beads were used more popularly by communities living in Middle East, Central America, East and West Africa, South Asia and Europe (Mediterranean region) and Central Asia. From these regions, evil eye beads found their way into the Celtic regions and Northern Europe. European colonists then took it to the Americas and to the global expanse.

For the mare fact that the evil eye has been documented in the Islamic doctrine, consequent to Prophet Muhammad testament, “The evil eye influence is a fact…” (Book 26, Number 5427), evil eye beads became an authentic part of Muslim prayers. Similar concepts can be found among the Jews (in Europe and Americas), Philippines and Turks.


In all these societies, evil eye beads were, and remain, the single most effective protective measure against the evil eye. The core thread that runs across the history of evil eye beads is the existence of belief in the evil eye and thus the need to protect oneself and loved ones using the beads.