The Evil Eye

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER V....continued

10. The Evil Eye.

From various passages in some very old documents, it may be inferred that the belief in the evil eye was very prevalent in Ireland in old times. The great Fomorian champion, Balor of the Mighty Blows, had a tremendous evil eye called Birach-derc ('speary-eye': bir, 'a spear'). It was never opened except on the field of battle; and one baleful glance was enough to enfeeble a whole army of his enemies, so as that a few brave men could put them to flight. The Tale of the Second Battle of Moytura relates how he came by his evil eye. When he was a boy, his father's druids used to concoct their spells in a room carefully closed, 'cooking sorcery' over a fire in a caldron, from some horrible ingredients, like Shakespeare's witches in "Macbeth." The boy, curious to know what the druids were at, climbed up and peeped through an opening, when a whiff of foul steam from the caldron blew into his eye, and communicated to it all the baleful influence of the hellish mixture. But this eye, powerful as it was, was not proof against the tathlum or sling-ball of his grandson Lug of the Long Arms. At the Second Battle of Moytura, Balor was present, prepared to use his eye on the Dedannan army. But Lug, who was on the side of the Dedannans, kept on the watch; and the moment the lid of the Cyclopean eye was raised, and before the glare had time to work bale, he let fly the hard ball from his sling, which struck the open eye with such force as to go clean through eye, brain, and skull.

These observations may be brought to a close by the remark that the superstition of the evil eye has remained among our people—as among others—down to this day.

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