The Metaphysics of the Evil Eye

11 02 2010

Part II – The Pope and jettatura

From The Evil Eye, by Frederick Thomas Elworthy:

Pope Pio Nono was supposed to be a jettatore, and the most devout Catholics, whilst asking his blessing, used to point two fingers at him. I remember once in Nice there was a gentleman who had this reputation. The Préfet, being a Frenchman, invited him to a ball. He soon, however, discovered that if the jettatore came many others would not, and he had to convey to him delicately the request not to accept the invitation.”

Ask a Roman about the late Pope’s evil eye reputation, and he will answer: “They said so, and it seems really to be true. If he had not the jettatura, it is very odd that everything he blessed made fiasco. We all did very well in the campaign against the Austrians in ’48. We were winning battle after battle, and all was gaiety and hope, when suddenly he blessed the cause, and everything went to the bad at once. Nothing succeeds with anybody or anything when he wishes well to them. When he went to S. Agnese to hold a great festival, down went the floor, and the people were all smashed together. Then he visited the column to the Madonna in the Piazza di Spagna, and blessed it and the workmen; of course one fell from the scaffold the same day and killed himself. He arranged to meet the King of Naples at Porto d’Anzio, when up came a violent gale, and a storm that lasted a week; another arrangement was made, and then came the fracas about the ex-queen of Spain.

“Again, Lord C—— came in from Albano, being rather unwell; the Pope sent him his blessing, when, pop! he died right off in a twinkling. There was nothing so fatal as his blessing. I do not wonder the workmen at the column in the Piazza di Spagna refused to work in raising it unless the Pope stayed away!”

Mr. Story tells another tale–of Rachel and a rosary blessed by the Pope, which she wore on her arm as a bracelet. She had been visiting a sister who was ill in the Pyrenees, but one day she was so much better, that Rachel left her to visit another sister. While laughing and chatting merrily, a message arrived that she must return instantly as a fit had come on. Rising like a wounded tigress, she seemed to seek some cause for this sudden blow. Her eye fell on the rosary, and in rage and disappointment she tore it from her wrist, and dashed it to the ground, exclaiming: “O fatal gift! ’tis thou hast entailed this curse upon me!” and immediately sprang out of the room. Her sister died the day after.


We can question if this is from a reputable source, but considering the fortune of Pope Pius IX, such stories would be hardly surprising if true.

Modern Catholics, as I have been writing of late, tend to have this tendency to think that the Church and the world function exactly along the lines of a well organized PTA meeting. God is nice, the saints are our friends, the world is governed by rational principles just like a clock… But the idea that a Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth, could be the cause of curses, and that the saints can “punish” you just as well as help you… that seems like complete blasphemy to the modern, sanitized Catholic ear. What do you think we are? Pagans?!

As I have said in the past, to be deeper in history is to cease to be anything. We have changed, and perhaps are changing, too much.



6 responses

26 02 2010

So we have a few anecdotes (with no sources cited, of course) where a blessing of the pope supposedly preceding something bad that happened. How many other blessings did he give during his long reign where things turned out okay?

The blessing of a member of the clergy is the blessing of Christ. How could Christ’s blessing be tainted with evil? It’s not so much the pope’s blessing as God’s. Color me highly skeptical.

20 02 2010

Ignore that last partial sentence above. My editor is up past his bedtime.

20 02 2010

I think everyone who comes to this board understands that the wisdoms of various traditions have largely been written in the analog medium of art and the poetic. Given that, I’ve been kind of suspecting for years that the one of the higher levels of meaning of the “evil eye” was to indicate a disapproval of those cultii who used the eye as one of their primary symbols. A common ward against the “eye” was a hand sign made in the form of a “bull”– the one with the index and little finger raised. Sexual signs or “phallic” wards are also common. It suggests perhaps “lunar” vs “solar” cults, maybe?

I should note the bull cult somewhat manifest in the later historicThebean priesthood of Amen-Ra did have quite a clash with Akhenaten’s fairly iconclastic and anti-priestly solar Atenism. Later Assyrian and Persian (again somewhat “solar”) iconclasms might have been later manifestations of the kind of strife against “iconophiles”.

These connections are somewhat tenuous, but intriguing. In any event, even if they have some substance, Christianity and Catholicism (and the Amen-Ra priesthood, for that matter) were not “lunar” per se, but I think the issue to the iconoclast is that they are not, as it were, “anti-lunar”, as they themselves were.

Of course this issue might have still been playing itself out in modern times.

I’m not actually a Catholic, by the way. My mother was, but I’ve been shorn by American culture of all my roots. Still, they seem to be seeking me out.

In any event, these practices are remnants of essentially pre-historic cults, mixed and matched

12 02 2010

I recall my grandparents telling a story of something which happened with a friend of theirs. My grandfather had a motorcycle, and on it he had a medal of the BVM. One day he gave a ride to his friend, who spit on the medal, uttering some blasphemous remark. Apparently the man died some months later of throat cancer…

Though all this does sound shocking, I recall that somewhere back in the OT Elisha “cursed” some children who mocked him and they ended up being eaten by a bear…

12 02 2010
Robert Thomas Llizo

Yup! Verse 22 reads “furta, avaritiae, nequitiae, dolus, OCULUS MALUS, blasphemia…”

11 02 2010

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. Mark 7: 21-22.
That’s the Douay-Rheims version. Most modern versions have “envy” instead of evil eye. But if you look at the Greek and even the Latin, it does indeed say “evil eye.” Just another example of how much we have changed.

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