CHILDLESS PEOPLE AND THE EVIL EYE: VICTIMS OR PERPETRATORS?

Victim of a curse or source of evil eye for parents? Initially considered victims of the evil eye, childless women (the evil eye is often combined with the feminine!) after a certain age, are considered as the transmitter of the curse. They are therefore to be avoided.

In some Muslim communities, conceiving children is an obligation. Many Muslims are convinced that it is a baraka, at best a divine reward. These same people explain the absence of children by a punitive action of the Divine. With this in mind, the family or parents of a newborn child dread visits from a childless woman or a childless man .

For example, in an article, Papreen Nahar and Anneniek Richters describe a belief in Bangladesh that seeing the face of a childless woman brings bad luck.[1]

The evil eye : a global belief

Belief in the evil eye is found in many cultures around the world. It is not exclusive to Eastern and Arab-Muslim culture, it is present on all continents.

Belief in the evil eye considers that a fascination conveyed by the eyes can destroy the object of envy. Thus Slimane Touhami, anthropologist, describes the possible objects of envy: agriculture, cows, a cart, beauty, etc. In Italy, it dries up the udders of young mothers, in Galicia it makes the carts overturned. In communities with a Muslim tradition, speech is also feared. The spell is warded off with the formula  [2]what God wants, it is the will of God. (MashaAllah)

Obviously, in societies where the belief that every human being wants a child or that the position within a community depends on the status of parent, many assume that children or parents are envied. They are therefore to be hidden from the sight of childless people.

A double penalty for the childless by circumstance

Women childless by circumstance first experience grief. The grief of a desired child that they cannot have; the grief of not having found a partner in time to try to conceive a child, the grief of knowing that they are infertile, the grief of the repeated failures of the fertility treatments. Then, these women face ostracism in their religious community and stigma in society whilst they seek support.

The pressures in some communities are so strong that « childless woman » becomes a full-time job; more is demanded of them. They are asked to prove their good faith if not their good joy in the face of happy events affecting their loved ones or friends.

An acquaintance in her sixties, married and from a sub-Saharan African country, found herself in a senseless situation. She wanted to go to her niece’s wedding but was unwell she thought of cancelling. Yet, she felt compelled to participate despite her obvious illness because she was worried about the comments, heard again and over again, about her supposed jealousy due to her childlessness.

In other cases, childless women by circumstances or by choices are not even given the opportunity to experience the joys and sorrows with relatives or friends. For example, pregnancies are hidden from them for fear of their « evil eye »!

Everyone should then remember that the stars are of variable dimensions, so the difference is desired by the Divine. The Creator was not mistaken, He wished for childless women and men.

Childless men and women by choice and circumstance have so much to offer. That parents do not take advantage of it is perhaps the … evil eye!


Original Text Les personnes sans enfant et le mauvais œil : victime ou bourreaux ?

Translation by Discussions Essentielles and Deep L

© Photo creditPexels- Anna Shvets


[1] Papreen Nahar and Annemieck Richters « Suffering of childless women in Bangladesh : the intersection of social identities of gender and class » Dans Anthropology and Medecine ,2011

[2] Slimane Touhami La part de l’œil une ethnologie du Maghreb de France, 2010

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