Friday, January 16

The Maloik (Malocchio) or the "Evil Eye"

While not Italian in origin, many Italians believe in il malocchio (often pronounced "maloik.") Part superstition, part tradition, it is the belief in the evil eye, placed on someone when someone else is jealous or envious of the other's good luck. The malocchio then manifests itself in some sort of misfortune onto the cursed person, usually some physical ailment.

It can also be done involuntarily, like when you see a beautiful baby and you compliment the parent. That could be construed as envy and the parent must then say something like "God bless her" right after it to ward off a possible malocchio, many believing that even though the compliment may have sounded sincere, its real motive was envy. That's why my cousin made me put a red ribbon over the threshold of my new home and told me to throw salt out of all the doors- to protect us from envious people. The person who gives the evil eye is not necessarily evil, but does indeed harbour jealousy.

One can also ward it off by wearing a horn (cornuto) around the neck
or making a gesture with your hand (mano cornuta-which you may know from heavy metal concerts). It is said that Italian men wear the cornuto to protect their genitalia from the malocchio, as the curse is said to harm sperm.

I can't say that I believe or disbelieve the malocchio and I only have one indirect experience with it...

When my mom was in her twenties, she got a great job with the government. Soon after, she began getting terrible headaches that aspirin would not relieve. She suffered with them intermittently for a few weeks when it dawned on my litte Sigi grandmother what the problem was.

"Someone gave you the maloik. (malocchio).""You're crazy. Who would do that?" my mom responded, not telling her she was crazy for believing in "stregheria" or Italian witchcraft, but, rather, for thinking someone would put the curse on her. (The irony that my grandmother was a devout Catholic whose church forbids belief in witchcraft is not lost on me.)
"Who knows? You have that nice job now- someone is jealous and put it on you."
"Nobody is jealous of me."
"I want you to go see the strega down the street."
The local strega, or Italian witch, was known to be capable of removing the horrible malocchio that afflicted unassuming Italians in the South Philadelphia neighborhood where they lived.
"I'm not going to the strega. Forget about it. The headaches will go away."
My grandmother never mentioned the malocchio again to my mother.

About a week after the strega conversation, my mom could not find her watch when she was getting ready for work. She asked my grandmother if she had seen it but she had not. My mom, a very organized and detail-oriented individual (you say anal, I say detail-oriented) who never misplaces anything, was disturbed by the missing watch. She looked everywhere for it and finally resigned herself to the fact that it must have slipped off to or from work. The stress only contributed to her constant headaches. (Knowing my mom like I do, I don't for a minute believe that she accepted that her watch was gone, and she probably continued to search for it for at least 24 hours more.)

A few days later my mom woke up and found her watch on her bureau. She put it on and asked my grandmother how it got there. My grandmother told her she didn't know. When she got home from work she grilled my grandmother about the watch.

"Are you sure you didn't borrow it and not put it back?"
"Bah, why do I need a watch? I don't go anywhere!"
"Did Daddy find it and put it in my room?"
"I don't think so. So... how are your headaches?"
"Funny, I didn't get one today."

My sigi grandmother smiled but did not say anything.
"Why are you smiling?"
"I took your watch to the strega since you wouldn't go yourself. She took off the malocchio."
she yelled
"It worked, didn't it?" My mom didn't know what to say to that. It was more troubling to her that someone had put the malocchio on her then the fact that there was a Sicilian witch living on their street who claimed to be able to both curse and remove curses.

How did the strega allegedly remove the malocchio. Probably by inserting the tip of a needle into the eye of another needle while saying: “Occhi e contro e perticelli agli occhi, crepa la invida e schiattono gli occhi." That means “Eyes against eyes and the holes of the eyes, envy cracks and eyes burst.” She then dropped the needles on top of three drops of olive oil in water and sprinkled three pinches of salt into the water. The strega would then jab scissors into the water through the oil three times and cut the air above the bowl three times and POOF! The spell was FINITO!

...or the aspirin finally kicked in.


Tom Melchiorre said...

I to know about the Malocchio and lived in fear of it. I am highly educated but I do believe this does happen.

Kel said...

Entertaining post, even if it was about the Malocchio. My mom mentions this every so often. I have an Italian horn, but I didn't even realize it was associated with the Maloochio. I just wear it because I like it.

Tony said...

Brings back many memories. I tried to my version in

anei said...

I have a question for anyone out there. I just learned how to remove the malocchio with the water and oil and the needles. Can I remove the malocchio for someone now, or does someone special need to do it.?

Sigi Me said...


I don't have a definitive answer but when my nonna was alive, she used to say that a strega had to remove the curse.

I used to wear the mano cornuta to ward off the malocchio back when they were in style (80's!)

Sorry I don't know more.

Geraldeena said...

If I'd been wearing a Maloik all these years, I wonder how different my life would have been?

Mikey Rots said...

is there any information around on the origin or translation of the actual word Malocchio?? does it have anything to do with alleged demon god Moloch from Biblical texts?

a said...

can you please direct me to a strega? i live in philly and thing i might have the makocchio.

lucarosella said...

I don't think you need a Strega. My aunts not a strega - also lives in S.Philly - and she has taken the maloik off for me too. And never wants me to thanks her she'll say "Yea it was on you. No zi zi you don't thank me" All I know is it works.

anthony russo said...

my mother would do it with the oil
and it had to do with the oil spreading or not spreading.

meshell8888 said...

I have seen both my mother and grandmother perform this many times and it has ALWAYS worked. Both are Italian but I don't think they are witches. Just true believers. My mother has lifted the curse from me over the phone. It really is amazing!


AGAIN with people who assume that the word Malocchio has anything to do with the Biblical demon "Moloch". You are mistaken. Those are two different subject matters. A demon may be named after Moloch in ancient times but the word Malocchio has nothing to do with it.


Two words which means Evil Eye. So simple, no need to complicate it.

KarenD said...

I remember my (first generation) mother telling me about my grandmother once in awhile giving her a bobby pin to take "to the lady up the street" when they lived in Jersey City (this would be in the '40s/'50s) when she would get a bad bout of headaches. Now that both my mother & grandmother are gone, I never knew the spelling of "molyook" (as I remembered it from my childhood!) & here it is. Thanks so much - I have to remember the removal ritual!

Dr. C said...

I enjoyed reading your post about the Malocchio. I cannot say I liked it because that can be taken as envy and I WON'T go there! However you need to mention to those that do not know or for those that care to wear the Horn, the Italian Horn must be given to you for it to have any power to protect you from Malocchio. It needs to be a gift not bought by you, but given to you. The original ones in Italy are made of Coral, I personaly like the ones made of Bone or Gold.

motorbaby said...

My Grandmother would tell us in Italian the words to use to get rid of the evil eye. According to her it could only be told to someone on Christmas Eve at midnight. Anyone ever hear of that?

oheleneo said...

The Malocchi was passed to me on Christmas eve more than 30 years ago. I never knew I was a strega!
I know I can give it, to people who have hurt me or my family, but the circumstances must make me really angry.
I can remove it too, but I have found, people come to you only when they are in trouble, some people do not have the malocchi- just life problems.
The tendancy to think that people are cursing you can become an obsession!
Since you are not paid, this practice can be a burden and i do not tell people about it.
If I think you have a problem, I will pray for you and have done "malocchi" removal on my own.
My advice is: Stay away from negative people and people who complement you too much. I have tried to avoid jealousy, but no matter how much or how little I have had, people are jealous. Pray for your enemies.
It all comes down to POSITIVE thinking. Prayer is positive thoughts! Pray for those you know and love. Do not thing negativly about others. Negative thoughts hurt!

motorbaby said...

Oheleneo, so true about staying positive and keeping away from toxic people. I have just started to rid my life of bad energy and I feel better already. Envy and jealously are bad traits in people and better to stay away from people like that. Keep positive and good aura will stay around you. Be thankful for what you have and don't want what others have. This will keep you happy.

Sigi Me said...

It's great to see that other Italian-Americans grew up with the "maloik" and have so many stories to share! Thank you all!

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palmar said...

I grew up seeing my Italian father take away the malocchio from friends and family. I could remember the people sitting with my mother in the living room while my father went to another room with a cookie/cracker, said prayers over it and came back into the room giving the cookie/cracker to the person to eat. People swore whatever prayers he said worked. He did this into his 80s until he died.

Gina Mell said...

For years I asked my grandmother to pass down to me the olive oil and water "spell" for checking to see if a person has the malocchio, and how to fix it. Apparently, she was the strega! I think she didn't like being called the witch, and didn't want me to be called it either. Now she is old and not lucid, and I felt the tradition, quaint as it may be, was lost. Thank for your post. I enjoyed it! - 1/4 Abruzzesa, 1/4 Siciliana...with a maiden name of Calabria... :)

Karmasreal said...

What would someone do if they found a voodoo doll(black) with a label on it and their name??? I found 1 , at work. It had 4 to 5 pins in head and 1 in stomach. I am so disturbed by this finding. I turned it in to management. The woman who did it...does not like me at all. she claims it was a joke. Not a joke to me!!! I suffer from migranes...and was actually in hospital when her joke was going on. I went to work next day(A Sat when most r not there) and found it. She wasnt there when i found it and i think left it out by mistake. I dont know if i need husband mentioned the horn thing. joke or not could this doll be causing my bad luck and more frequent/worse migranes??? any advice PLEASE!!

XoXsamiiseeXoX said...

Hi Claudia,

Unfortunately my family has a very bad maloik. My mother and I have been trying to find solutions to end this horrible thing. It would mean the world to my family and I if you could possibly share the Strega's name or any other information to help. My family is also from Philly but I fret that I am commenting on this post too late considering you are no longer active? Please please please get back to me as soon as possible. Maybe an exchange of emails would be better? This is pretty much an emergency considering most of my family is deceased possibly from this maloik. Please take the time to contact me.

-Thank you

XoXsamiiseeXoX said...

Hi Claudia,

Unfortunately my family has a very bad maloik. My mother and I have been trying to find solutions to end this horrible thing. It would mean the world to my family and I if you could possibly share the Strega's name or any other information to help. My family is also from Philly but I fret that I am commenting on this post too late considering you are no longer active? Please please please get back to me as soon as possible. Maybe an exchange of emails would be better? This is pretty much an emergency considering most of my family is deceased possibly from this maloik. Please take the time to contact me.

-Thank you

Polack said...

So, what's a non-Italian to do?

(I did grow up in an Italian neighborhood.)

Polack said...

What's a non-Italian to do?

(I grew up on an Italian neighborhood, by the way,)

stu gustu said...

Keep it to your self ;)

Sarah Miller said...


Is there any way you could contact me about the Malocchio and your family's local strega? My Italian grandmother, now deceased, thought she had the evil eye placed on her and she went to a witch doctor in Philadelphia (my grandparents hometown) and it was confirmed. Since then her eldest son was murdered for working with the black market in Vietnam, and all of her other sons (2 others)) have died painfully of cancer. My grandmother died of a stroke that killed her slowly and painfully. And her husband, my grandfather, died of a broken heart and colon cancer. There is no one left to carry on the Donatoni name, my mother is the only one left. And my mother and I think that that was my grandmother's curse. My mother is the only one left and I have been nothing but a burden to my family. From an early age; asthma, bloody noses out of no where; and now an abundance of painful kidney stones that no doctor, from Georgetown to John's Hopkins can figure out what is wrong with me. I cannot hold a job and can therefore not live on my own. Something has go to give.

If my family was cursed due to my grandmother, I don't see why it was not lifted at the time of her oil and water ceremony. I'd like to go and meet someone who could possibly lift this off of myself or my family. Headaches are a regular occurrence and my nose bleeds come out of no where to this day (I'm 27). If you do not feel comfortable sharing local information, I understand but if you could point me in the right direction, or to outside sources, I would be greatly appreciative. Family means the world to me and my Italian heritage is greatly important as well since my brother and I are the last two who can carry on any resemblance of our heritage...even with the last name Miller :) I wear my grandmother's coral Italian horn necklace, but nothing helps.

I would appreciate any help or advice you could give.


Sigi Me said...

Hi Sara- I just saw these comments, I will email you.

jellums said...

Just followed the oil needles and scissors ritual on my husband and it worked

jellums said...

Ive just followed the oil needless and scissors ritual on my husband and his headache has gone