There are cultures on every continent that have amulets of good luck as part of their cultures. Pick a county and you will find a way to avoid bad luck as part of the country’s customs and history. But one country where I saw this literally everywhere and in the most colorful of ways was Turkey, when I took the trip Turkeys Magical Hideaways with Overseas Adventure Travel.
The concept of avoiding the evil eye or a harmful stare dates to antiquity, and can be found in Judaic, Christian, and Islamic history and cultures. The poet Virgil wrote about it, and citizens of the Roman empire feared it. Second century Rabbi Eliazir wrote about it as he was introducing the world to the Torah, and the Prophet Mohammed warned his followers of it. In some Christian and Catholic countries such as in South and Central America, infants today are given a bracelet for good luck. And wishes for good luck are just a more positive way of trying to avoid the Evil Eye. Touch a mezuzah on a door post for good luck as you enter a Jewish home or institution, and you are participating in a similar custom that is still alive today.
The amulets to avoid the Evil Eye can be found all over Turkey in just about every form; paperweights, wall hangings, earrings and other jewelry, refrigerator magnets, and more. They are often found combined with a three fingered hand, the hamsa hand. The word hamsa, also spelled khamsa and hamesh, means “five” referring to the fingers of the hand. In Jewish culture, the hamsa is called the Hand of Miriam; in some Muslim cultures, the Hand of Fatima. The Miriam hand of the Jewish cultures have five full fingers pointed downward, while the Islamic version has three fingers pointed downward.
But the blue amulets so popular among tourists in Turkey are the biggest and often most photogenic take away of this trip. They can be purchased in Istanbul’s Grand Bizarre among many places. And they are striking beyond anything else you may have seen in your travels amongst the fairy chimneys that comprise the landscape of spectacular Cappadocia. Shop owners and residents know this is a unique and special part of the culture, and tourists can be treated to the magic they add to the already surrealistic landscape of that part of the country. Often you will find the Fatima hand combined with a blue amulet against the Evil Eye.
When I look back fondly on this trip, I think of two things. One was the four nights we spent on a gullet in the Mediterranean where I stared up at the sky to unobstructed views of the Milky Way in the middle of the trip. The second came at the end in Cappadocia, when I saw so many parts of that unique landscape dotted with trees, planters, and other views filled with the blue amulets against the Evil Eye. Those blue sparkling images against the backdrop of the fairy chimneys stand out in my mind in just as striking a fashion as those four nights I felt one with the Milky Way. Not as cosmic, of course, but equally as other worldly and extraordinary.