My loving mother lived courageously with the threats of evil eyes, warning all within her reach of the perils of ignoring them. They were part of a larger assembly of superstitions that guided all of our lives since birth. For example, she warned us never to step outside within three hours of washing our hair - a rigid rule in our house that, if broken, could lead to pneumonia or painful death. She never said why that was so.
We were always under strict orders never to sleep on our left side. It had something to do with the pressure on the heart, as she explained it. Besides, wasn't there a rumor that an elderly fellow up the street had succumbed to a heart attack in the middle of the night and was found to be sleeping on his left side?
I must tell you, too, of my near encounter with death as a 12-year-old as I burned up with fever from pneumonia. Ignoring medical science, Mom slid a large butcher's knife under my pillow and sat at bedside throughout the night until I came to my senses at dawn. With that, she withdrew the knife, kissed it and concluded that it had cut the fever!
My Aunt Lulu played the superstition route daily with stacks of "dream books" that would associate a three-digit number to whatever dream you had in your deepest slumber. A few pennies on the dream image in the book and you would greatly improve your chances of winning a few more cents. Of course, there were 999 possibilities of 3-digit numbers so your chances with this gambling exercise were rather slim. May Aunt Lulu rest (peacefully) in Vegas!
Like countless others, my mother took steps to ward off the evil eye with a tiny gold pendant that she strung around my neck. It was shaped like a an animal horn and called a corno by an Italian family that gave it to her. With a corno, you could be reasonably safe from the dark spirits that threaten us every day. Back when I was being tutored in the Italian language, my teacher was annoyed to get a phone call from his wife that she had been afflicted by an evil eye from a stranger at the next table in the restaurant. She rushed home and went to work ridding herself of the certain misfortune (What? Nobody ever says!) with a batch of tea leaves placed above her head. At least that's how my tutor later explained it with wry disbelief.
History tells us that even Plato referenced evil eyes and may have believed in them himself. Are any of us smart enough to play in Plato's league? I think not. Fair warning to 84 pct. of Americans who reject the notion of the evil eye.