If we sneezed during a conversation about sickness or death, we were supposed to pull on our left ear to ward off the evil eye. If we knocked over the salt, we had to throw a pinch over our left shoulder; same reason.
Italian Rituals and Superstitions
Concepts of the Evil Eye are some of the most ancient and prevalent superstitions of the entire Mediterranean.
Every culture seems to have their own version of the Evil Eye and their own ways to combat it. One thing they all have in common is that the Evil Eye is caused by jealousy and envy. By coveting somebody’s possessions or more importantly, admiring another family’s newborn baby can cause a curse, even if the envious person did not mean it. A grandmother tells the story of how her daughter was the victim of the Evil Eye as an infant and got some type of “sleeping sickness” where she could hardly stay awake.
She took her baby to a local woman who could perform a test by dropping olive oil in a plate of water. The oil formed one large drop in the middle of the plate – a sure sign of the Evil Eye, but after chanting the right prayers that only women are allowed to know, the oil broke up into tiny droplets and spread out.
This ritual broke the curse of the Evil Eye and her daughter was said to have gotten better immediately.