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53 THE EVIL-EYE [Back to Contents] From the medieval period onwards, the mass of the Gaelic-speaking, native population of Ireland believed the evil-eye (magical powers located in their eyes) harmed humans, livestock and agricultural produce, through intentional use by witches and unintentionally by those unlucky enough to have inherited the ‘gift’.24 Belief in the evil-eye continued in these communities throughout the early modern period, but by the nineteenth-century it had seeped into Ulster Scots popular culture. It is also referred to as ‘over-looking’ or blinking and is occasionally linked to fairy attack. General belief [Back to Contents] O/S Memoirs, Parishes of County Londonderry XI, vol. 31, Parishes of Ballynascreen, Desertmartin and Kilcronaghan, J McCloskey, 1821. (p. 124) ‘In a mountainous region such as that under review, superstitious holds longest her old domain. Witchcraft is now forgotten, or perhaps never had footing here, though fascination or the effects of an evil-eye both on man and beast are commonly believed. There are still some ghosts seen.’ O/S Memoirs, Parishes of County Antrim XIV, vol. 37, Parish of Carrickfergus,Lieutenant G. H. Mallock, April. 1832. (p. 77) ‘It is believed that cows are deprived of their milk either by being “elf-shot” by the fairies or by being blinked. The “evil eye” is confidently believed in here.’ O/S Memoirs, Parishes of County Down III, vol. 12, Parish of Blarish, Lieutenant G. F. W. Bordes, Nov. 1833. (p.32) ‘Their old traditions, manners and customs are losing popularity, for the croaking of a raven or hooting of an owl will not disturb the plebians as a foreboding of evil in the manner of “other times”; yet the greater number believe in fairies, elves and the visitation of departed spirits. Another absurdity is the bewitching or overlooking of cattle and this imaginary malady is so far from losing ground that a number of both sexes may be found who pretend to cure these fantastic diseases (as well as some real ones as toothache etc.) by remedy still 24 See: Hutton, ‘Witch-hunting in Celtic Societies’: 59-60, 64-5; Jacqueline Borsje, The Celtic Evil Eye and Related Mythological Motifs in Medieval Ireland (Paris, 2012), chapters 1 and 2; Eva Pocs, ‘Evil Eye in Hungary: Belief, Ritual, Incantation’ in, Jonathan Roper (ed), Charms and Charming in Europe (Palgrave, 2004).

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