Kako Mati or Matiasma is an ancient Greek belief that others can cast an ‘evil eye’ of jealousy, envy, or malice on a person or a personal object, which brings them harm or misfortune.
Here are the Top 7 Things you need to know about Mati, Matiasma, and the Greek Evil Eye.
1. What is Kako Mati?
In Greek, ’kako’ means bad and ‘mati’ means eye.
So ‘kako mati’ literally translates to ‘bad eye’, and ‘matiasma’ is known as casting the evil eye.
The concept of the Greek Evil Eye has been with the people of ancient Greece since 700 BC and has been a common theme across Greek literature through the ages.
2. Where did the Greek Evil Eye come from?
The belief in ‘Kako Mati’ or the Greek Evil Eye can be traced to that of the ‘Evil Eye’, originating in ancient Egypt in 3000 BC.
From there the belief in the Evil Eye is said to have traveled to ancient Mesopotamia in 1500 BC, before reaching ancient Greece in 700 BC and becoming the Greek Evil Eye or ‘Mati’.
From Greece, the belief in the Evil Eye further traveled to ancient Rome in 500 BC, to become what is today known as Malocchio, or the Italian Evil Eye.
The belief further traveled to Spain, and with the Spanish to the Caribbean and South America to become Mal De Ojo.
Also to Turkey to become Kem Goz or the Turkish Evil Eye, as well as to modern-day India and the Middle East to become Nazar.
3. How does someone receive Mati or Greek Evil Eye?
It is said that Mati or the Greek Evil eye is given by a look of jealousy, envy, or malice, usually when the person receiving it is not aware of what’s happening.
Many believe that it can also be given accidentally in the form of exaggerated compliments and over admiration.
In Greek culture it is believed that people with blue or green eyes are more likely to give the curse to another. Which is why most traditional Greek Evil Eye talismans and amulets were blue or green in color.
An ancient Greek philosopher, Plutarch, even suggested that the eyes can transmit deadly rays, which can be like poisoned darts coming from the depths of a person possessed with envy.
In his group of manuscripts known as the Moralia, he touches on the subject of ‘baskanos ophthalmos’, or how children can be most harmed by those who cast the evil eye, but if the envy is strong, adults can be harmed as well.
He further discusses how even loved ones can accidentally give the evil eye, how dear friends, relatives, and even parents can inadvertently inflict harm without realizing it.
4. What are the symptoms of Mati or the Greek Evil Eye?
In Greece, it is believed that if someone has given you ‘mati’, you may experience a range of symptoms from stress, headaches, inability to think clearly, weakness, lethargy, malaise, to an unexplained change in favorable circumstances or bad luck.
Often the symptoms set in inexplicably, often soon after the ‘mati’ is received, with women and young children being most susceptible to it.
According to a 2018 survey by the Greek Headache Society, as many as six in ten (60%) Greeks believe that receiving the evil eye can give one a headache, and will seek solutions to rid themselves of ‘mati’ before consulting a doctor.
5. How do you cure Mati or the Greek Evil Eye?
The act of curing the Evil Eye or ‘mati’ is called ‘xematiasma’ in Greece, roughly translating to “an undoing of the eye”.
It is believed that there are several ways to perform a ‘xematiasma’, with the most powerful being with ‘vaskania’ or ancient ‘xematiasma’ prayers.
To date, ancient ‘vaskania’ prayers are handed down generations in traditional Greek families, with mothers and grandmothers teaching it to sons and grandsons, and father and grandfathers teaching it to daughters and granddaughters.
If this cross-gender and cross-generation order is not adhered to, or if the secret prayer is not revealed under very specific circumstances, it is said that the ‘vaskania’ will lose its power.
Also while the exact content of these prayers is kept secret, they broadly contain a request to the holy divine, to rid the person of their ‘mati’, addressing the person inflicted by name, and asking the divine to remove the curse on the person’s behalf.
6. How do you perform a Xematiasma?
There are said to be several ways to perform a ‘xematiasma’, most powerful and popular of which include using water and olive oil.
The ancient Greek custom of removing ‘mati’ with water and olive oil involves noticing how oil droplets react when dropped in water.
If the oil drops dissolve in the water, or come together to form a thin layer above the water’s surface, then the person is said to still be afflicted by 'mati' or the evil eye.
In exact, the healer takes a spoonful of olive oil in one hand, and silently recites a secret ‘xematiasma’ prayer, known as ‘vaskania’ under their breath.
The prayer is repeated three times, and each time the prayer concludes, the healer draws the sign of the holy cross in the air as close as possible to the person’s forehead, with the spoon filled with oil.
The healer then dips their finger in the olive oil on the spoon, letting three drops fall into the water at different places, with a few seconds gap between each drop.
If the oil stays together in individual droplets or even comes together to make a distinctive clump, then the ‘xematiasma’ is said to be successful.
Both the person and healer are said to even yawn several times at this step, a feeling that something is being released. With large yawns symbolizing a stronger and more malicious curse being broken.
However if the oil drops dissolve in the water, or come together to form a thin layer above the water’s surface, then the person is said to still be afflicted, and the healer looks to repeat the ritual the following day.
At the end of the ritual, the healer draws the sign of the cross in the air three times, touches the forehead of the person with their finger to apply a drop of the water-oil mix, and drains the remaining prayer water into a live plant.
7. How do you protect yourself from Mati or the Greek Evil Eye?
The Greeks believed that the best way to fight fire was with fire.
From ancient Greek clay drinking bowls being pottered with the design of an eye, to brides hiding scissors under their wedding dresses on the big day, new mothers sleeping with a nail under their pillow, and grandmothers hanging garlic in houses till the present day.
Different families and regions in Greece have their distinct ways of averting the Greek Evil Eye. Following are some of the most popular ways modern-day Greek's use to protect themselves from the evil eye.
A most popular way to avert the evil eye in Greek culture is to display the act of splitting, and saying Ftou! Ftou! Ftou! three times.
This is especially done when giving compliments, or genuinely admiring another’s beauty, success, relationships, or possessions.
The act of spitting is believed to counter the effect of any advertent or inadvertent ‘mati’, followed by the words “Ptou sou na min se matiaso”; the whole ritual roughly meaning “I'll spit on you so I don't put the evil eye on you.”
In modern-day Greece, this gesture in itself has become a compliment. A positive and open-hearted expression of admiration, love, and goodwill of one to another.
Another popular way to dispel the evil eye in Greece is by throwing a handful of salt into a glass of water, and stirring it while saying a silent prayer.
The prayer is addressed to the divine, asking them to remove the evil eye, ending with the phrase ‘let the evil eye dissolve as salt dissolves in the water’.
The salty water is then thrown into the toilet, and the glass is thoroughly washed with soap and freshwater.
There is no way to confirm if the evil eye was indeed received using this method.
But it is often used as an easy and safe ritual to regularly perform for evil eye protection.
Another most popular way to avert the Evil Eye in Greece is to wear mati amulets, pendants, and other talismans, also known as ‘mataki’.
Most often in the shape of a blue eye-shaped bead, the Greek’s believed that a person carrying a ‘mataki’ will keep away ‘mati’ or the evil eye, from him or herself.
It’s a deep-rooted custom in Greece to pin blue mataki beads on young children and mothers, as an effective way to protect them both from the evil eye when they are most vulnerable.
Older children are also often gifted evil eye bracelets to wear around their wrists, and ‘mataki’ beads are considered a welcome gift at the time of new business openings, house warmings, buying new cars, or any other occasion where the many people gather to wish one ‘good luck’ or ‘good fortune’.
In some traditional Greek families, ‘mataki’ beads are also used to adorn a family’s holy cross, as well as other sacred objects and religious statues.
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