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Every culture has superstitions of which some originated thousands of years ago. Belief in the evil eye is widespread in Mediterranean countries, and nazar boncugu is a Turkish charm to protect someone from the curse of the evil eye. Let’s explore the age-old tradition of the “evil eye bead” and its symbolisms today.
What’s the Evil Eye?
To understand what the nazar boncugu is, we first need to look at what the evil eye is exactly. The evil eye is a curse caused by an envious “glare” or “stare” and is believed to bring bad luck, such as misfortune, illness, disaster, and even death for the person at whom it is directed. It’s believed that someone who achieves great success also attracts the envy of others, which can turn into a curse to undo your good fortune.
This belief in the evil eye is extremely old, and its origin is obscure and buried in antiquity. According to The Fabric of Life: Cultural Transformations in Turkish Society, the evil eye originated within the cultures of the Near East during the Neolithic period around 7000-3000 B.C.E. and spread throughout the ancient Mediterranean world and beyond. Even today, the concept of the evil eye exists in Central and West Asia, Latin America, West Africa, and Central America.
To ward off the evil eye, various amulets, talismans, and good luck charms have emerged. The nazar boncugu is one such amulet.
What is the Nazar Boncugu?
The nazar boncugu originated in Turkey. Derived from Arabic terms, nazar means sight and boncuk, or boncuğu, means beads. Thus, it’s a bead of the eye.
The Turkish version of the nazar boncugu depicts it as a circle of dark blue glass with 3 smaller circles set within it. These are:
- White “eyeball”
- Light blue “iris,”
- A black “pupil” at the center
Though often dubbed the evil eye, the nazar boncugu is simply the charm meant to repel, distract, prevent, and minimize the effect of the evil eye upon the wearer. This makes it a positive symbol and a good luck charm.
The nazar boncugu is sometimes paired up with the hamsa hand, embedded within the hand. The hamsa hand features a hand pointing upwards or downwards, and symbolizes good luck, prosperity and righteousness. When the nazar boncugu is added to the center of the hamsa hand, the double symbol created a meaningful image, repelling evil and offering protection.
Why Is It Blue?
The belief that “evil eye beads” should be of blue color was probably influenced by Greek philosopher Plutarch, who said that those best at delivering the evil eye curse were blue-eyed.
However, it is likely because blue eyes are a genetic rarity in the Mediterranean area. Also, the depiction of blue Eye of Horus discovered in Egypt and the connection of the color itself with Tengri, a sky deity of ancient Turks and Mongols, likely influenced the symbolism.
Nowadays, the striking image of the cobalt-blue eye is everywhere in Turkey from ceramics to carpets, jewelry, and clothing. In fact, it’s still a tradition for Turks to adorn newborns with such charms, and the symbol is now acknowledged by from Central America to Eastern Europe and West Asia, wearing it as jewelry, placing it on front doors, in their cars, in handbags, and near other valued possessions.
Meaning and Symbolism of Nazar Boncugu
While the superstition on the curse varies slightly from culture to culture, the general idea remains the same. Here are the interpretations for the nazar boncugu:
- A Protection from Evil Eye – According to common superstition, a glare of jealousy whether intentional or unintentional can cast a curse even if the person doing the looking doesn’t intentionally have bad motives. In fact, even in ancient Greece and Rome, it was thought that the evil eye was the greatest threat to anyone who was overly praised. In different cultures, various amulets and talisman like nazar boncugu are believed to give spiritual protection.
- A Symbol of Good Luck – Whether someone believes in evil eye or not, nazar boncugu has become a sort of lucky charm to bring good fortune and comfort, as well as to relieve stress and anxiety. It’s important to remember that the nazar boncugu isn’t the evil eye itself; rather it repels the evil eye.
Fun fact – did you know that the nazar boncugu has now become an emoji? The nazar boncugu emoji was created in 2018, symbolizes protection and good luck and evokes Turkish culture.
Nazar Boncugu in Jewelry and Fashion
Jewelry is the most common form of good luck charm, and nazar boncugu appears as pendants, charms, and motifs on medallions, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, rings, and even earrings. The symbol is often depicted with concentric blue and white circles but can be modified to feature gemstones or neutral shades.
While some designs are made of glass beads and strung on a leather cord, others are made of silver or gold, and often studded with diamonds, sapphires, lapis lazuli, and other gemstones. Sometimes, the nazar boncugu is depicted with other religious symbols and charms.
Nazar boncugu has been popping up everywhere and can also be seen in tattoos, home decorations, embroidery, and graphic prints on various fashion items, such as t-shirts, handbags, key chains, scarves, dresses, and hair accessories.
FAQs About the Nazar Boncugu
Many believe that if your nazar boncugu amulet has cracked, broken or fallen from where it’s hanging, it means that it has completed its job of protecting you from the evil eye. In this case, you will have to replace the amulet as it’s no longer effective.
People often choose to hang the nazar boncugu around their neck or wear it as a bracelet. This is why jewelry with the nazar is so popular, as it offers ongoing protection. However, others choose to hang it over doorways and entrances, as it’s believed to ward off any negative vibes when someone enters. Popular places include homes, offices, in workspaces like shops and in vehicles.
Yes, we’ve said it many times, but it’s worth reiterating. The nazar boncugu, or Turkish eye, symbolizes good luck and protection. Unfortunately, many believe that it’s an ‘evil eye’ in itself. This is a common misconception in the West.
According to a survey conducted in 1976, over one-third of the world’s cultures believe in the evil eye! And in case you were wondering, the evil eye is believed to be a curse that is cast on you if someone looks at you with jealousy or ill thoughts. The evil eye can be cast unconsciously.
The belief in the evil eye has persisted throughout the world into modern times, especially in the Middle East, Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. The use of nazar boncugu as a symbol of protection in Turkish society is deeply rooted in cultural beliefs, but it also has a powerful influence in modern life, fashion, and jewelry design.