The Eye


One of the most widely attested symbols in the personal adornment of the West Asian and North African region is the eye. This symbol is closely associated with diverting evil and protection against physical harm. The eye as an amulet is found in several shapes and meanings that are all closely connected although not the same.
One of the oldest eye amulets is the Pharaonic Wedjat. This amulet was closely associated with regenerating properties and averting harm. In ancient Egypt it was considered one of the most powerful amulets and was frequently worn by living and given to the dead. There is some evidence that the Wedjat is still worn in the WANA region, although in a different shape, namely that of an amulet called Lochscheibe amulet (see the top left image). The first research done on this topic is by Sigrid van Roode and is presented in her website on Bedouin silver.
Other old eye amulets against evil can also be found in ancient Egypt in the shape of glass eye beads. Beads with a reference to an eye are manifold but from the Amarna period onwards they were also found as pendants of yellow and blue glass. Later these eye beads became very elaborate and were in the Phoenician culture made as face beads.
In the same light also a reference to the Evil Eye must be made. This age old believe, spread around the entire Asian and African region as well as the Mediterranean, is the believe that envy will attract evil. In the Arab world this is called Ain el Hassad. One method to keep it at bay is by confronting the Evil Eye with another eye. This can be done by wearing amulets in the shape of an eye (for this purpose shells, beads, pendants, patterns in for instance embroidery, marbles (below left) or buttons are used) or by confronting the Evil Eye with itself, with the use of a mirror. The shape of the eye in many of the amulets is often very symbolic only or almost abstract.