We focused on various evil spirits folklore known by international students at Dartmouth College. Evil spirit folklore takes on a variety of forms across the world. Common themes pertain to superstitions regarding ‘evil eye,’ as well as material folklore meant to ward off evil spirits. We were interested in the various forms evil spirits folklore presented itself across the world, and the international community of Dartmouth provided a rich pool from which we collected an international distribution of these beliefs. Our aim was to determine any underlying geographic and cultural similarities in the beliefs. Moreover, we sought to analyze the purpose of superstitions regarding evil spirits with respect to what a culture views as evil and how that evil is instantiated. We approached our project by interviewing a diverse sampling of international students. We have provided the audio recordings in each item, along with a rough transcription of the audio file. The transcription has been lightly edited for clarity; however, we did not want to revise the interview as this would lose important details in the subject’s manner of speaking. Throughout the project, we identified common themes of the superstitions, such as familial focus, temporal constraints, and cultural values. Some of the informants knew the superstitions but did not identify the superstition by any specific name. Superstitions and beliefs which were identified by a name by the informant have been recorded in the native language, transcribed phonetically, and translated into a near-English equivalent.
Evil spirit folklore of the international community reflects a variety of ways a person may fall victim to evil as well as preventative measures which may be taken. Our analysis focuses on the familial content of the beliefs, as well as the underlying cultural values reflected by instantiations of evil.
Nearly all of the superstitions and beliefs are shared within a family. Evil spirit superstitions such as the Rwandan naming tradition occurs when many of one’s family members have died, so the family names their child a ‘bad’ name to prevent future misfortune. In the Kenyan family belief, the family must be reintegrated after a separation under the guidance of elders. The integration occurs by a sacrifice. In Greece, the maternal authority in the family is responsible for ensuring the members of the family are protected against evil. The recitation of a prayer reflects the person’s relationship to a higher power, by which her position as the family’s head is reaffirmed and the family’s connection to a greater being is maintained. Ultimately, the intimate relationship held within a family necessitates mutual care and concern to ward off evil.
Evil eye superstitions reflect the negative trait of envy. Evil occurs when one violates the cultural value of humility, which is corrected by invoking the higher power of Allah (Turkish, Omani) and by wearing a ‘nazar’ to prevent evil (Greek, Kazakh). Reactions to the effects of evil eye provides a way for the society to both reaffirm their shared cultural values as well as maintain human intentionality under the abstract and untouchable force of evil.
Collectors: Alex Paget, Alex Leibowitz, Saif Malley, Stas Van Genderen
Tags & Keywords: Evil Eye, Envy, Evil Spirit, Customary Lore, Material Lore, International Lore