“It goes by many names; the cursing eye, sick eye, eye of envy, hairy eyeball, sour eye, beating with eyes, the devil’s eye, even the rather cute name ‘fat eye’. Regardless of what you call it, it is one of the most widely held and deeply believed superstitions in the world. From the American South to South America, Portugal to Poland, Iran to Israel, everyone fears the Evil Eye.
The lingering gaze, the outright stare, the ‘over-looking’ of a stranger can make the skin crawl, and perhaps for good reason. The dangers of the evil eye range from the mild, moths attacking clothing, accidents involving furniture (Dick Van Dyke comes to mind) and sour milk, all the way up to fire, sickness and the downright deadly. Children are thought to be especially susceptible to what Italians fearfully call the malocchio.
The concept of the evil eye predates all major religions and can be traced back to the very earliest of human records. Starting in the middle east, the belief made its way across Europe and Asia. While Medusa is perhaps the most famous practitioner of the evil eye, the Hindu god Shiva can also shoot a deadly burning beam from his third eye, and even Socrates was accused of possessing the evil eye with which he held his students in a demon trance. Even a Pope was said to have the evil eye. ‘Pope Pio Nono was supposed to be a jettatore (evil eyer), and the most devout Catholics, whilst asking his blessing, used to point two fingers at him.’
(via Curious Expeditions)