Turkey’s Talisman Superstition: Evil Eyes, Pomegranates and More


Fortunately, there are a number of beautiful ways in Turkey to protect yourself and others from the ubiquitous “evil eye” and “Nazar” that are used to describe the negative consequences that arise from one’s gaze. Central to the culture of the country, these concepts overlap in a wide variety of talismans and amulets in Turkey that are worn as jewelry or used to decorate houses.

Below is a list of the most important “lucky charms” in Turkey and the traditions and superstitions that surround them.

The evil eye is everywhere

The concept of the evil eye as a protective talisman, dating back to at least the 6th century, persisted throughout ancient Greece, the Phoenicians, the Persians, the Roman Empire, and the Ottoman era. Although it is also the most popular souvenir among tourists, the evil eye adorns practically every apartment or place of business in some form and can be found in the jewelry box of every Turk there has ever been. The “evil eye” is generally a blue glass bead or an object with a white and black eye in the middle. The theory is that they will distract you from malicious or jealous looks that superstitions say can lead to harm or misfortune.

There are a variety of beads of different shapes and sizes, some made from recycled glass. The smallest minute can be used to adorn jewelry, while 1-centimeter pearls are attached to clothing with a safety pin, a regular practice for babies. Bigger Evil Eyes are hung as they are or incorporated into wall hangings and can often be spotted hanging from trees.

The evil eye can also be seen hanging in trees. (Shutterstock photo)

The evil Assyrian look

A popular evil eye talisman in the Turkish province of Mardin is the Assyrian evil eye, which is either in the form of an oval turquoise pearl with two horizontal holes that resemble eyes, or a circular seven or nine hole pearl. They are often wrapped or embedded in silver or gold and should never break if smashed or dropped. These pearls are traditionally worn on necklaces.

Terebinth wooden totems

In the Mount Kaz (Ida) region of Çanakkale and Bayramiç, there is a popular lucky charm carved from terebinth wood. The terebinth or turpentine tree is widely used in Turkey, including as a flavoring for coffee and as a soap for shampooing hair, but it also serves a more spiritual purpose. The wood is carved into a tiered totem called the “tree of life,” an indication of the wood’s ability to withstand all harsh conditions. Smaller versions, about 2 inches high, are used as pendants on necklaces, while larger versions can be hung on the wall.

Pomegranates for prosperity

Every New Year’s Eve, households across Turkey smash a pomegranate in front of their door, a superstition that is said to bring prosperity in the coming year. According to superstition, pomegranate pictures in the house, in whatever form, can be symbolic and also promote prosperity.

The hand of Fatima

Known as “Fatma Ana Eli” in Turkey, Hamsa in Arabic and the Hand of Fatima in English, the imagery of a hand with an eye in the palm has been used as a talismanic symbol throughout the Middle East. The symbol is supposed to protect against the evil eye and promote goodness, abundance, fertility, happiness and health. These characteristic hand images can be found in ceramic form or in the Iznik Çini style of Turkish porcelain, but also as necklace pendants and earrings made of filigree. In the Turkish “Telkari”, this form of filigree metalwork, in which thin silver or gold threads are arranged in artistic motifs, is a traditional jewelry production in Turkey.

A gold bracelet with a Hand of Fatima pendant.  (Shutterstock photo)

A gold bracelet with a Hand of Fatima pendant. (Shutterstock photo)

Walk along eggshells

In rural areas of southern Turkey such as Adana and Mersin, it is a tradition to empty an egg and place the eggshell on a stick next to planted products for protection. There is also an art form of carving intricate designs into eggshells that can also be used as lucky charms and decorative items.

Seeds, seeds, and more seeds

In the Turkish “Hurma”, the popular date fruit has always had an important meaning in Turkey, especially since it is the first food that is consumed every evening to break the fast in the holy month of Ramadan. However, apart from religion, there is another superstition that carrying a date seed, especially in your wallet, attracts luck and prosperity.

“Çörek otu”, which is known in English as black cumin or fennel flower, has always been known for its health properties and understandably adorns countless baked goods and breads all over Turkey. These seeds can also be worn on the body as protection.

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