Evil, Cosmological Capture, and Magical Disorder in Cyprus

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Theodoros Kyriakides Lecturer, University of Cyprus, Cyprus

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Abstract

The magical idiom of evil occupies an important position in numerous Christian societies. Cosmological capture refers to a historicized process through which Christian narratives and institutions attempt to integrate evil into dualist and oppositional cosmological schemas. This article begins by addressing the way that biblical stories of defeated magicians contribute to modern dynamics of cosmological capture. It then proceeds to address the role of evil in Cypriot society through narratives and descriptions of everyday rituals and events. As these narratives and rituals show, capture remains incomplete, and as evil extends beyond the limits of dualist categorization, the result is a situation of ‘magical disorder’: a cosmological arrangement in which evil manifests as an indifferent and inhuman force, which nevertheless conditions everyday experience and social relations.

As Peter Brown (1970) shows through historical analysis, the establishment of the Christian churches imposed new cosmological taxonomies, and specifically, the antithesis of magic and religion, onto preexisting beliefs and rituals. Christianity in modern Cyprus repeats the process Brown describes. As I ethnographically demonstrate by focusing on the cosmological idiom of evil, magico-religious relations in Cyprus are largely shaped by Christian institutions that antagonize magical practices and perceptions through established narratives of religious doxa and deviance. In this article, I develop the concept of cosmological capture to refer to a historicized assemblage of Christian institutions and narratives, whose objective is the othering of magical practices by integrating them into oppositional and dualist schemas.

I conceptualize this process as one of ‘capture’ because it confines the cosmological and social relevance of magic to Christian-centric categories, hierarchies, and perceptions. But magico-religious antithesis, othering, and capture ultimately do not exhaust the valence of evil as a cosmological concept. In several conversations during my fieldwork in Cyprus, interlocutors described evil as a force of radical contingency, but also of intimate familiarity. As I talked to an acquaintance one afternoon over coffee, he extended a fatalistic rumination: “If evil finds you, it finds you. Everything is about circumstance [katástasi]. The fact that you wake up every morning, healthy and alive, also has to do with circumstance.” Cypriots routinely refer to incidents of misfortune—minor and major—as a ‘bad hour’ (kakiá óra) or ‘bad moment’ (kakiá stigmí). Rather than enacting a magico-religious politics of distinction, narratives of evil in Cyprus rather showcase an awareness of an indifferent, disorderly, and affective cosmos.

Ever since Mauss's (1972: 13) characterization of magic as an “institution only in the most-weak sense,” anthropologists have described it as lacking the centralized aspects of Western religious dogmas. Nevertheless, the Christian motif of a cosmological “totality” (Durkheim 2001: 336; Mauss 1972: 113) continued to condition early ethnological treatises, often resulting in the marginalization and othering of magical practices in such theorizations. Mary Douglas famously critiqued Émile Durkheim who, following the work of pastor and scholar of comparative religion Robertson Smith, defined “magic and magicians as beliefs, practices and persons not operating within the communion of the church and often hostile to it” (Douglas 1966: 21). In this way, Durkheim made the distinction between magic and religion the basis of his work, thus reifying historicized processes of cosmological capture and influencing anthropological perspectives on religion for decades to come. Talal Asad's (1983) seminal critique of Clifford Geertz's symbolism made anthropologists more aware of the Christian-centric underpinnings of their conceptualizations of religion and cosmology. As Asad argued, by ignoring the power dynamics that shape religious life and symbols, Geertz unintentionally circumscribed the concepts of culture and religion within an ahistorical, Christian-centric paradigm of a unifying cosmos, operating through doctrinal institutions and authoritative discourses.

To be sure, organized religion has often used, and even canonized, magical beliefs and practices (Weber 1992: 113). In the case of the Mediterranean, magical perceptions and practices such as spells or belief in the evil eye are conceptualized as loosely related or as implicitly undermining the power of Christian religious dogmas such as Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Magic, in such cases, enacts and partakes in dynamics of power and distinction that in turn shape national politics of taste, class, and identity (De Martino 2015; Hauschild 2011; Stewart 1991). Ethnographic analyses also showcase how the popular reappropriation of Christianity leads to the emergence of novel consumerist practices and cosmological perceptions that often involve magical thinking and objects (Roussou 2011; Souvlakis 2021).

But one must be careful in thinking of magic through its relations with doctrinal forms of religiosity—whether these constitute relations of continuity or resistance—since by doing so one risks falling prey to historicized tactics of capture and antithesis. As Asad (2003) argued, Western institutions of modernity implicitly affirm the Christian project of conditioning an integral perception of the cosmos through doctrinal narratives. If institutions of Christianity and modernity have been historically linked through doctrinal forms of power, it is because they similarly display an appetite for institutional-cum-cosmological centralization (Johnson et al. 2018). In the case of Cyprus, another important part of modernity and postcolonial history is the establishment of the Cypriot Orthodox Church as an important institutional and political actor. Cypriot religion and modernity thus underwent parallel trajectories of institutional stratification, both of which resulted in the marginalization of magic from the public sphere and its labeling as a deviant phenomenon (Kyriakides and Irvine 2021: 796–799).

At the same time, evil in modern Cyprus still informs a culturally implicit narrative of an “impersonal” (Douglas 1970: 155) and indifferent cosmos, in which religiosity, social standing, and morality have no input or relevance. This discrepancy between ratified and popular narratives shows that, in order to “take magical force seriously” (Favret-Saada 1980: 195), one must extend analysis from the institutional to the cosmological level, in order to account for the ability of magical agents and forces to partake in but also remain “just out of reach” (Irvine and Kyriakides 2019) of politics and power dynamics of organized religion. In this sense, cosmology can be more broadly conceptualized as an ongoing dialectic between institutional order and cosmic disorder (Abramson and Holbraad 2014; Kyriakides 2016; Mikkelsen 2016; Puett 2012), according to which the former incessantly tries to confine the latter to cultural classifications, hierarchies, and taxonomies. Kapferer (2002: 20) thus describes a cosmology as “a process whereby events, objects and practices are brought together into a compositional unity, are conceived and patterned as existing together, and are in mutual relation.” Kapferer (ibid.: 20–21) nevertheless conceives of magic and sorcery as “metacosmologies . . . [that] attack the very ways in which human beings routinely are seen or conceived to construct their realities.” By exploring projects of modernity in postcolonial states, Kapferer shows how the very concept of cosmology contains a potential toward structuration that can be recruited to bolster ideological claims and relations of power, but also how magical practices, beings, and forces can undermine such co-constitutive processes of cosmological and political ordering.

Magic, then, in all its manifestations of spirits, demons, dead ancestors, and supernatural forces, pertains to disorderly and opaque facets of the cosmos that “can be policed but not necessarily controlled” (Gilsenan 2000: 610). For Cypriots evil is such an uncontrollable magical force—mysterious, affective, and pervasive of everyday life and social relations. Cypriots thus attempt to thwart, partake in, and even harness the magical force of evil through ritual and apotropaic objects, not because they want to resist Christian institutions and practices, but because such force constitutes an essential part of their cosmos and everyday existence. Understood as an “unruly” (Pocock 1985) and “non-human” (Ricoeur 1967: 314) force, evil unconcernedly exists, but also fiercely and impulsively intervenes in human affairs and social relations.

In the following, I ethnographically and theoretically frame these introductory remarks by depicting relations between Christianity and magic in Cyprus as a historical process of capture. An important part of this process is Christian institutions striving to control local magical perceptions through the development of narratives of magico-religious hierarchy and antithesis. As I show, biblical stories of Christian figures triumphing over their magical opponents play an important role in conditioning such antithetic relations. In the latter half of the article, I focus on narratives and practices revolving around the broader cosmological relevance of evil in Cypriot society. As these narratives and practices showcase, evil often manifests as a disorderly and impersonal force that transcends the influence of Christian categories. Moreover, despite its disorderly nature, the magical force of evil crystallizes in ritualistic practices, apotropaic objects, and cosmological perceptions that allow Cypriots to participate in society and to navigate social relations. In this way, not only does evil elide cosmological capture, it also pushes our anthropological understanding of cosmology beyond assumptions of dualism, hierarchy, and taxonomy, in order to account for magical disorder as an important cosmological and social principle in itself.

Magico-Religious Capture and Antithesis in Ancient and Modern Cyprus

Like in numerous Mediterranean societies, magical perceptions and rituals in Cyprus operate through the magical force of evil and the ritualistic praxis of binding. Traditional Cypriot magical practices—used to transmit or thwart evil—are referred to as yitíes: binding spells routinely conducted in Cypriot villages by farmers, midwives, or persons of exceptional ability called mágoi (masculine plural) or mágisses (feminine plural).1 The history of yitíes and their corresponding magical logic of binding are ancient. In Greek antiquity the capacity to bind was called goēteía—from which the contemporary Cypriot and Greek yitíes stems—meaning to charm one into submission. This magical logic of binding was primarily evident in the ancient Greek cursing rituals of katadesmoí (to tie), later absorbed by the Latin term defixio (to nail down) (Gager 1992).

In present-day Cypriot yitíes, deities such as Hermes, Hecate, and Tyche might have been replaced by Déspoina (the Holy Mary), the Holy Spirit, and other saintly figures, yet the underlying magical praxis of binding the target's intellectual and bodily vitality or pleading with a deity to intervene in human life is sustained. Despite acquiring Christian elements, binding rituals nevertheless showcase qualities that depart from Christian norms. As Juliet du Boulay (2009: 85–86) points out,

[yitíes] include mention of the holy figures of Orthodox faith . . . but whether or not these holy figures are cited, a spell also takes the form of a stereotyped narrative about a figure who casts the evil eye . . . This is noticeably different from the pattern of a church prayer, and is thus regarded with suspicion by the clerical hierarchy.

Throughout Cypriot history, Christian lore has played an important part in how the Cypriot Orthodox Church conditions this deviant nature of magic and yitíes in society. A famous event narrated by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles is the duel between St. Paul and Jewish mágos Bar-Elymas, which took place in the Cypriot city-state of Paphus in AD 45, during Paul's first missionary journey. As historian Michael Bailey (2007: 47) summarizes, “Paul invoked the power of the Holy Spirit to blind the man, albeit only for a time, so that others would realize the superiority of Christian power.” As the Acts detail, the miraculous event also resulted in the local Roman Proconsul, Sergius Paulus, converting to Christianity. In the present-day city of Paphos, one can locate an important archaeological site referred to as “Paul's Pillar.” According to local Christian narratives, St. Paul was captured, tied to this pillar, and flogged 39 times during his first visit to Cyprus, to prevent him from teaching the Christian gospel. Given Sergius Paulus's conversion, documented in the Acts of the Apostles, this punishment likely took place prior to Paul's duel with Bar-Elymas. Although the event of Paul's flogging lacks historical authentication, the unassuming pillar has, over the centuries, accrued substantial religious significance. Locals and pilgrims from outside Cyprus visit the pillar around the year, and a complex of chapels has mushroomed around its location.

Like St. Paul, the figures of St. Cyprian and St. Justine also mark an important intersection of ancient and modern magico-religious relations. According to Christian legend, Cyprian was a mágos who lived and practiced in third-century-AD Antioch. Like many magicians, he received training in Greece, India, and Egypt. When a wealthy client hired Cyprian to bind Justine to him, Cyprian discovered that his love spells had no effect because of Justine's daily Christian prayers and fasting. A futile effort to bind Justine made Cyprian realize the power of the Christian God, and ultimately led to his conversion. Justine and Cyprian are said to have been martyred, together, in the Diocletianic Presecution of AD 303. Despite lack of evidence and historical inexactitude surrounding the figures of both saints, they are highly revered in Cyprus. One of the few chapels in the Christian world dedicated to St. Cyprian and St. Justine is located in the Cypriot village of Menoiko, where one of the island's largest religious festivals takes place every 2 October.

As the examples of St. Paul, St. Cyprian, and St. Justine showcase, biblical stories of Christian heroes defeating their magical opponents occupy an important position in the island's Christian mythology and religious life. Yet such Christian stories do more than provide the impetus for religious effervescence: they also play a crucial role in mediating relations between magic and religion in modern Cyprus, and in enacting present-day dynamics of magico-religious antithesis and capture.

As Stanley Tambiah (1990: 4) writes, “Early Christianity had a definite conception of true versus false religion, was strongly exclusive with regard to other faiths and was intolerant of them.” Yet the relation of early Christianity to non-Christian beliefs and rituals was not merely one of exclusion but, more importantly, one of antithesis. The objective of early Christian discourses and institutions was not to simply exclude paganistic religions from the Christian cosmos, but rather to cultivate a necessary opposition that showcased Christian practices as superior. Following Mircea Eliade's work, Mary-Jane Rubenstein (2012: 498) cites myth as a crucial technology of Christian appropriation of new lands. Indeed, as in the case of Cyprus, narratives revolving around the archetypical figure of the foreign holy man and, conversely, a converted or defeated local magician, were a crucial part of Christian expansion throughout antiquity (Brown 1983). To also quote historian of religions Joseph Sanzo (2019: 202), “Tales, which contrast heroes of the faith with flawed or evil antagonists, were often used to highlight sins and practices deemed inappropriate.” The diffusion and canonization of such narratives played a decisive role in the reduction and categorization of a plurality of localized forms of ritual expression as non-Christian, paganistic, and blasphemous (Koselleck 2004: 169–180).

The painting by Raphael displaying Paul extending his arm and blinding Elymas (Figure 1) does well in conveying the power dynamics of capture that comprise such antithetical Christian narratives.2 The painting does not show Paul ousting Elymas from the Christian cosmos but rather immobilizing him, rendering him still, even drawing him in. Apostle and magician remain in perpetual tension, and provide the dualist, cosmological architecture that precipitates Christian expansion and conversion throughout antiquity and into the present day. I regard this historicized antithesis between magic and religion as mythic, and not only because it connects to several mythical events in which Christian figures triumph over magical ones. In addition, the ‘plot’ of the antithesis itself, akin to a myth in the anthropological sense of the term, acts as a recurrent narrative that prefigures cosmological and social relations between magic and Christianity during various historical periods, and in a diversity of cultural settings.

Figure 1:
Figure 1:

Raphael, The Conversion of the Proconsul (1515), depicting Paul's encounter with Bar-Elymas, Wikipedia Commons, public domain.

Citation: Social Analysis 67, 1; 10.3167/sa.2023.670102

Early Christianity thus facilitated the formation of an enduring cosmological infrastructure and a historicized field of narrativity, through which events of religious deviance and conversion emerge even up to this day. As Ernesto de Martino (2015: xi) writes, Christianity resulted in an “underlying antimagic polemic that runs through the entire course of Western civilization.” In the case of Cyprus, ancient encounters between Christian and magical figures reverberate and play an important role in shaping and conditioning modern-day magico-religious relations. The “miracle stories” (Cotter 1999) of Paul defeating the Jewish magician and St. Cyprian's conversion were recounted to me in several conversations I had with clergymen and churchgoers, while numerous Christian Orthodox bookshops stock ‘manuals’ for prayer (Figure 2), which, like St. Justine, Christians can use to protect themselves against binding spells and the evil eye.

Figure 2:
Figure 2:

Christian booklet used for protection against evil and magic. Photo sent to author by Yiannis Papadakis.

Citation: Social Analysis 67, 1; 10.3167/sa.2023.670102

Yet the narratives of the antithesis of magic and religion shape not only the ancient but also the modern history of Christianity in Cyprus. Like Elymas and St. Cyprian, the handful of mágoi who were rumored to be distributed in villages across Cyprus are often the protagonists of magico-religious contests and stories. This is especially true of the mágos of Peyia—a village situated on the outskirts of the city of Paphos, the same city in which Paul encountered Elymas almost two millennia ago. During fieldwork I was often told that the mágos of Peyia was the most popular and powerful out of all the magicians in Cyprus, and that for this reason the Church of Cyprus had engaged in a prolonged and feverous campaign to reduce his social standing and influence. The popularity of the mágos is attested in an interview conducted by Argyrou (1993: 260), in which the man is recounted as not wanting his name in print because it would attract the Church's attention. In my own archival research, I also located a headline from Cypriot nationalist newspaper Makhi, in which the then Bishop of Paphos called upon locals to excommunicate the magician and “eliminate” his satanic influence from their community (“The Bishop of Paphos” 1963).

But perhaps the most palpable instance of magico-religious tension I experienced during fieldwork was when I drove to a village on the edge of the city of Larnaca, in which I was told that another mágos used to operate some 30 years ago. Upon arriving, I entered a kiosk to buy a bottle of water and asked the woman working there if she knew anything about the magician. “He died long ago,” was her first reply. “I don't remember him that well, I must have been five or six years old when he passed away. He had a book with spells and people would go to him when they suspected they were under the influence of evil.” “His daughter is still alive but last I heard she burned the book because she is now religious,” the woman finally said to me.

The mention of a book containing spells was a frequent occurrence during fieldwork. I was often told that once their owner stopped using them, books had to be passed on from man to woman or woman to man. The alternation of book ownership from male to female and vice versa did not have to take place between blood relatives, although this was often the preferred choice. In her ethnography of southern France, Jeanne Favret-Saada also recounts narratives of “bad books” (1980: 103) containing spells, which “are kept in the family” (ibid.: 88n30). Favret-Saada (ibid.: 119) also recalls similar incidents of atoned magicians and their relatives burning spell books they inherited in order to absolve themselves from the books’ magical power.

When I talked to a grocer, he reiterated the narrative given to me by the woman at the kiosk, that the magician's daughter lived nearby in an old stone-walled house, but that she had decried her father's work because she grew up to be a devout Christian, and for this reason she perhaps would not be willing to talk to me. The grocer provided me with some directions, saying that her house was between a barber shop and a coffee shop, but when I made my way there I could not locate either one. After aimlessly walking in the village for some time, I spoke to another elderly couple who said that the magician's daughter “lived in a different neighborhood” but that they did not know where exactly. The couple also cautioned me that this might be a sensitive issue: “she tore up her papers,” the woman said to me, meaning that the magician's daughter destroyed her father's spell book. The man elaborated by adding a crucial detail, which explained why the magician's daughter burned her father's book: “She stopped bothering with spells because she married into the priest's family, and she doesn't want to talk about nor listen to these things anymore.”

By this point I was completely disoriented about which part of the village I was in, and I was also losing the daylight. Tired by the contradictory and vague directions to the house, as well as the repeated precautions that the magician's daughter would not talk with me, I decided it was best to leave. I even entertained the suspicion that locals were sending me in the wrong direction in order to diffuse a potential encounter between me and the magician's daughter. Even though to this day I have not managed to locate her, the narratives I collected attest to the modern relevance of the “Pauline antithesis” (Douglas 1966: 6) between magic and religion that developed from antiquity, as well as its operation in Cypriot modernity. Like the story of St. Cyprian converting to Christianity, the story of a repenting magician's daughter marrying into a priest's lineage and burning her father's spell book contains an archetypical narrative of capture, and enacts ancient dynamics of power through which Christian conquest over magic is epochally conditioned in modernity.

The historicized antithesis between magic and religion thus continues to act as a motor of Christian assimilation and capture, which lures and confines magical practices and perceptions into a totalizing, oppositional cosmos. A pertinent question, which I address in the remainder of this article, is the fluctuating ability of these Christian narratives, institutions, and dualisms to achieve magical capture. In the next section I relocate attention from magico-religious relations of power that pervade Cypriot history and modernity to the ambivalent yet pervasive position of evil in everyday life, and more specifically to how individuals negotiate evil through yitíes. In doing so, I wish to showcase the way that implication with evil in Cyprus is not necessarily perceived through narratives of magico-religious antithesis, propounded by the Orthodox Church since the Christianization of the ancient world. In its ontological guise, evil instead connects to a cosmology of magical disorder and contingency, which conditions social relations and mundane spaces of dwelling in Cyprus.

Evil as Magical Disorder

Under what cosmological circumstances can one entertain the possibility of instantaneous death? On a hot July afternoon, I underwent for the first time a yitía often conducted in Cypriot villages, referred to as ‘extracting one's fear’ (éfkalma tou fóou). This ritual is a form of lecanomancy, and its objective is to dissolve the evil accumulated ‘on’ someone. The ritual was performed by Mrs. C., one of the few remaining ritual experts on the island. As I was driving to her house, in a village at the edge of the Nicosia district, the cracked tarmac of Nicosia's urban sprawl started giving way to communities of detached houses and fields of cropped wheat and watermelon. Dry Cypriot heat was pounding my windshield: Mrs. C. had urged me that the ritual must take place before sunset.

The happenstance through which I learned of Mrs. C. is also relevant. During another interview, a man mentioned that an acquaintance's daughter, from a well-off family in Nicosia, went “to have her fear taken out” after she saw two black snakes coiled and fighting each other while crossing the road to get to her car. According to the man, for two weeks following the sighting the woman experienced bouts of anxiety and restlessness. As she did not want to go to a psychologist for fear of sounding irrational, her parents sent her to Mrs. C. As the man continued to explain, the binding ritual of extracting one's fear is meant to solidify the origin of fear with the objective of vanquishing it.3 “But were not the snakes the ‘origin?’” I asked. “It could have been the snakes, or it could have been something else—these things are relative to each other,” the man replied. I asked him if he could track down Mrs. C.’s contact details and he said he would try. Three days later I received a text message with Mrs. C.’s telephone number.

Mrs. C. greeted me outside her house. When we walked into her kitchen, I saw she already had a small pot of water boiling. Next to the pot was a large, semispherical piece of solder, which she dropped in the pot. While waiting for the solder to melt, I told Mrs. C. how I found out about her. “She had to come three times. She had a lot of evil on her,” Mrs. C. exclaimed, referring to the woman who saw the two snakes. Mrs. C. also mentioned that she bought her book for two hundred euros from an old man who used to sit outside a bank she worked in as a cleaner.

Mrs. C. had me sit on a chair in her kitchen facing east, and draped a velvet burgundy cloth on my shoulders. She then circled a clay thurible of burning thyme, commonly found in Cypriot houses, over my head three times. She put her right hand on my head and, standing behind me, recited what she later told me was the ‘wish’ (euchí) of St. Cyprian. While the length of the euchí was substantial, she recited it very fast, in less than a minute, in a mumbled, incomprehensible fashion. She then took the pot of melted solder and poured it into a bowl of cold water. The liquid amalgam hissed as it touched the cool water, and with a thud it solidified and sank to the bottom of the bowl. Mrs. C. picked up the piece of solder and examined it. “That's good, it mostly stayed in one piece,” she said. “If you have evil on you it splinters into smaller pieces. But you do have some [evil], probably from someone envious of you.” She provided this evaluation while using her index finger to trace a series of sharp edges on the mutated piece of solder (Figure 3).

Figure 3:
Figure 3:

Solidified piece of solder used in yitíes against evil. Photo by author.

Citation: Social Analysis 67, 1; 10.3167/sa.2023.670102

While I was undergoing the ritual, Mrs. C.’s husband was sitting in the corner of the small kitchen smoking a cigarette, persistently reciting a litany of misfortunes and social contests:

You don't know what is going to happen these days. There is this one guy at work, he keeps taking my parking spot. I told him numerous times not to, and we ended up getting in an argument over it. And then a few days later I came home and saw that our neighbor, the mechanic, dumped his lot of car tires right next to our yard. A few days after that I fell and fractured my forearm. My wife said that I had a lot of evil on me.

The man paused for a few seconds while I was handing Mrs. C. the modest ten-euro fee for the ritual. He then proceeded. “This other time, I saw a dead man.”

“You saw a dead man?” I replied.

“Yes. I went to the bank to make a deposit and I saw two paramedics coming out with a man on a stretcher. His face was pale, and his tongue was hanging out of his mouth. I was sure he died there and then.” After another brief pause, he coolly concluded: “Who knows, one day I might be walking and drop dead.”4

          * * *          

The affective dynamics of evil have often been ethnographically represented as an expression of social agonism, embedded in a moral economy of envy, mediated through the ocular medium of the ‘eye’ (Galt 1982; Herzfeld 1981). We can understand the emotive idiom of envy to be intimately connected to the cosmological process of capture outlined here, since it serves to reinforce Christian narratives of morality and personhood (Hughes 2020: 200). By equating evil with envy, not only is magical force negotiated and countered through Christian morality, it is also seen as originating from human intention and agency. The end result of such conceptualizations is that evil has come to be contained in social relations, symbolism, and belief systems, while theorization of evil as a magical force permeating everyday life has remained at a minimum.

As David Parkin (1985: 10) writes in the introduction to the quintessential anthropological volume on evil, “the increased institutionalization of the religion brought about personal interiorization of guilt. It converted descriptive into moral evil, the wrongful acts of man himself rather than the cosmos surrounding him.” Nevertheless, as David Pocock (1985: 46) writes in a chapter of this same collection, “although the word ‘evil’ obviously has meaning in the language of morality, it has also distinctive ontological weight.” Given the immense influence of Christian power and dualisms on societies and magical traditions around the world, it is doubtful whether one can clearly differentiate between evil in its moral and ontological guise. Rather than accepting this moral versus ontological distinction as indicative of a spectrum of cultural diversity and relativism, I thus propose that anthropologists pay closer attention to how this distinction is culturally and contextually negotiated through processes of Christian capture and magical disorder.

The insight offered by Michael Taussig in his ethnographic historiography of shamanism and evil in colonial Colombia is pertinent here. He writes that during colonial times, “magic became a gathering point for Otherness in a series of racial and class differentiations embedded in the distinctions made between the Church and magic” (1987: 465). Between such distinctions, envy became a “discursive force” (ibid.: 394) deployed to morally mediate and make sense of social conditions of misfortune and inequality. At the same time, Taussig gestures to the way that the cosmological idiom of evil extended outside moral discourse and manifested as a fatalistic and indifferent force affecting everyday life:

Sorcery . . . is preeminently the domain of active human agency, the result of the conscious intention of the envious other. Evil wind, however, is not. It “can be said to be an impersonal agent” . . . While sorcery is personal and moral . . . evil wind by contrast is amoral and asocial . . . evil wind appears like a force of nature, emanating from far beyond the tortured confines of the envious social relations of the living. (1987: 370–371)

The analogy of evil as a sort of “wind” (de Martino 2015: 18–19) precisely implies a cosmic understanding of evil as a force in flux that cannot be confined to individual facets of agency and morality. It is true that Cypriots understand evil as connected to the envy and jealousy of others. Indeed, this was Mrs. C.’s diagnosis. Yet nefarious glances and social contests are but partial manifestations of the magical force of evil that pervades Cypriot society. Rather than being indicative of a moral order (Herzfeld 1981; Stewart 1991), I argue that narratives of envy in Cyprus are means of vicariously experiencing and participating in magical disorder through circumscribing evil to specific individuals and events.

In this sense, personifying misfortune in the figure of an envious opponent does not imply that evil is contained within them, but that both the recipient and giver of envy exist in and are conjoined by a cosmos in which the disorderly force of evil prefigures the prospect of misfortune. This magical disorder, in which life in Cyprus is embedded and continuously negotiated, crystallized in my perception through Mrs. C.’s husband's offhanded allusion to the possibility of instantaneous death. Unlike for the magician's daughter, for Mrs. C. her customers engaging in evil does not constitute a sin or a satanic act. Evil rather manifests in their experience as a chaotic milieu of magical involvement and relationality, in which the premise of dropping dead is not that far-fetched. The comment made by Mrs. C.’s husband, that “you don't know what is going to happen these days,” succinctly evokes Ernesto de Martino's (2015: 94) notion of a “metahistorical horizon” as an indeterminate field of magical complicity. “These days,” in other words, does not refer to the literal here and now, but to a temporally nondelineated cosmos, in which magical disorder and human existence are intimately and essentially intertwined.

The individual, moral-religious misdemeanor of envy can thus be understood as a particular manifestation and even occasional conduit for evil. Yet, on a broader cosmological level, Cypriots understand evil as operating beyond the domain of individual morality and envy, and perceive it as a disorderly, inhuman force that renders human experience reactive to indiscriminate cosmic forces and happenings. Or, to return to a previous example, the two coiled snakes were not the origin of the woman's anxiety: rather, the snakes act as indexes or, as the man put it, “are relative” to larger and more powerful cosmic forces that one is affected by. Akin to what Otávio Velho (1991: 11) writes in his own ethnography, Cypriots thus “detect the existence of a horrible cosmic ‘evil,’ together with characters that function as internal representations of evil.” While certain entities and happenings such as snakes, accidents, dead people, and envious others play the role of such internal representations of evil, they also act as vehicles and transient manifestations of a more foundational cosmological process and narrative—that of the magical disorder that permeates and conditions life and vitality.

Another indication that attests to this cosmic, amoral, and disorderly nature of evil is the insight, offered to me in more than one conversation, that evil operates through contagion and that it is not contained in individuals but rather ‘sits’ or ‘sticks’ on them. In addition, looking at someone ill-manneredly, or even thinking of someone, could constitute unintentional acts that “open the door” (Csordas 2019: 47) to evil, and that further contribute to magical disorder. To thus deploy a distinction developed by Tambiah (1990: 105–110) by way of Lévy-Bruhl, while on an individualistic-moral scale evil pertains to a cosmology of “causation,” in which envy is the culprit, on an ontological scale evil eschews such individual concerns and situates individual experience on a collective plane of magical “participation.” When a Cypriot toddler experiences their first accident, Cypriots tend to jokingly claim that “it's for evil” (en yia to kakó), and perceive it as an event through which the child ‘hardens’ and becomes capable of dwelling in the disorderly and ambivalent space of social relations, and thus evil.

For Cypriots, then, the magical force of evil does not constitute the negation of the social and moral order. On the contrary, much as Evans-Pritchard (1937: 194) writes of Azande witchcraft beliefs, evil constitutes an important cosmological block and a vector of relationality that, were it to be erased, would signal the very collapse of Cypriot society and cosmos. Nevertheless, the marginalization of magical practices and yitíes in modern Cyprus poses the question, which I address in the next section, of how individuals lacking ritual knowledge and expertise orient themselves in the disorderly milieu of evil.

‘New’ Magic

As several ethnographic accounts have demonstrated (Pedersen 2011; Siegel 2006; Vitebsky 2017), modernity often takes the form of a temporal, cultural, and political rupture, which results in a disconnect between staple cosmological perceptions and disappearing ritual practices. The decades following the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus kickstarted a process of nation-building, as well as a cultural project of Cypriot modernity, into which yitíes were integrated as folk superstitions of ‘the past’ (Kyriakides and Irvine 2021; Ionas 2013; see also Stewart 1989 for the case of Greece). During this process, the social setting of the ‘village’ (horkó), of which yitíes were an important part, came to be regarded as a relic of a premodern Cyprus, socially inferior to the infrastructure, classes, and lifestyle of urban centers (Argyrou 1996).

Referring to changes in the Azande social structure due to colonial rule, Evans-Pritchard (1937: 513) famously suggested that “new situations demand new magic.” A socio-temporal distinction Cypriots often make is that between the ‘old’ (palioús) and the ‘new’ (néous)—the former denoting a part of Cypriot society that lived during a time when magic and yitíes constituted essential parts of Cypriot village life. A regular piece of advice I received during fieldwork was that if I wanted to learn about yitíes I had to talk to the ‘old’ and not the ‘new,’ since the latter did not know anything about them and never experienced or practiced them. As it was put during a conversation I had with a paliós, “Cypriots nowadays suffer from astyphilía”: a yearning for city life.

Nevertheless, and given the perennially important position of evil in Cypriot society, even néoi are unavoidably immersed in the cosmology of magical disorder analyzed in the previous section. The prospect of evil thus configures the myriad occasions and settings of city life: the office, car, school, park, and so on. Despite not having any ritual expertise or knowledge, young Cypriots have developed an array of means of orientating and participating in the disorderly milieu of evil. Panoplies of apotropaic evil-eye amulets (ammatópetres) often adorn Cypriot houses, cars, clothing, and jewelry, and constitute cursory practices separated from the masterful “technique” (Mauss 1972: 36) of ritual, such as the one conducted by Mrs. C. In addition, modern practices of new-age consumerism and social media provide mediums through which magical practices used to avert evil are recast anew: many Cypriots superimpose online pictures of their newborns with digital images and emojis of evil-eye stones, and some even use online applications and websites that conduct rituals to expunge evil from a distance (Roussou 2021; Seremetakis 2009).

The distinction between “opening” and “closing” the house, developed by Peter Geschiere (2013: 130–133), can help us better perceive the cosmological gravity of such modern apotropaic practices and objects used to thwart evil. Geschiere (ibid.: 131) writes that while African circumstances of witchcraft necessitate “opening” the house in order to expunge evil from kinship relations, in the European context families use magical protection as a means of “closing” the house and protecting it from outside interference. As Geschiere points out, these latter practices showcase a general concern with magical protection, yet they do not demonstrate the sociological cyclicality of African witchcraft accusations. Magical objects and practices in modern Cypriot society are not used to deploy one's agency in order to “name the witch” (Siegel 2006) and expunge it, but to secure oneself and family from the disorderly ferment of evil that surrounds them. Given their lack of ritual knowledge and yitíes, the ‘new’ magical measures that Cypriot néoi use appear preemptive, conveying anxiety or even futility regarding the prospect of averting evil. In certain cases, of exceptional cosmological duress, I was told of individuals who must keep purchasing new evil-eye amulets because the old ones keep “breaking on them.”

For néous, ultimately, the challenge is how to “speak” (Taussig 2015: 20)—in other words, how to conduct ritualistic interventions in the realm of evil and social relations. Ironically, instruments of religion often provide the ritual means for young Cypriots to participate in the cosmic economy of evil. Those under the influence of evil often visit the chapel of St. Cyprian and St. Justine in Menoiko to undergo a praying ritual conducted by the chapel's priest, referred to as ksemátiasma: taking the evil eye ‘off’ you. When I visited the chapel to conduct an interview with the priest, he was persistent in pointing out that, although the Cypriot Church acknowledges the existence and negative influence of evil, prayer should nevertheless constitute the only means of protection against it, and not evil-eye amulets. Indeed, during fieldwork, a phrase that I heard repeated verbatim, as if an agreement had been signed between the Cypriot polity and the Orthodox Church, was that “the evil-eye is also accepted by the Church.” As another ethnographic interlocutor put it, “since so many people believe [in the evil-eye], the priests [papádes] also have to say something about it.” In fact, the saintly figure evoked in both the ritual of fear extraction I underwent and the ritual of ksemátiasma conducted by the priest is that of the converted mágos, St. Cyprian. When I brought this similarity up, the priest emphatically repeated that “I only conduct a prayer for those who need it.”

Afterward, while taking a short walk in the village and stopping by a local coffee shop (kafeneío), I recounted my dialogue with the priest to a local. His reply was curt: “What else will the priest tell you? He will tell you what the Church says.” During a later dialogue I had with an acquaintance in Nicosia, she mentioned that in the backyard of the chapel one can find a faucet sourcing holy water from a well located under the altar of the chapel (Figure 4). Visitors often use the faucet, a fact that the priest intentionally or unintentionally omitted from our interview, to rinse and discard articles they find in their houses that they suspect pertain to binding activity, such as nail clippings, bits of hair, and pieces of red ribbon.5

Figure 4:
Figure 4:

The author drinking holy water from the faucet at the chapel of St. Cyprian and St. Justine in Menoiko. Photo by Allyson Kerri McAbee.

Citation: Social Analysis 67, 1; 10.3167/sa.2023.670102

Conclusion: Magical Disorder as Cosmology

As Talal Asad (1983: 252) asks, “how does power create religion?” A consistent motif of Christian expansion and power is the use of narratives and myths showcasing Christian practices as superior and more powerful than magical ones. Rather than completely excluding magic from their cosmological frame, these Christian myths attempt to confine it in an antithetic cosmos in which Christianity reigns supreme. The original concept developed here—that of cosmological capture—addresses this historicized process of Christian institutions striving to integrate magical practices and perceptions into totalizing cosmological hierarchies and dualisms.

My intention in this article was to problematize such historical relations of capture through addressing the cosmological role of evil in modern Cypriot society. More specifically, the crucial question I posed is whether processes of cosmological capture are capable of fully encompassing the position of magic and evil in Cypriot modernity. On the one hand, Cypriot modernity constitutes the continuation of an ancient process of capture, in which Christian institutions and narratives further consolidate their position in society, while magical practices such as yitíes become marginalized as irrational remnants of a premodern epoch. On the other hand, evil exceeds such oppositional, magico-religious schemas and manifests as a disorderly force that grounds everyday experience and social relations by providing a field of cosmological complicity and participation.

The ethnographic narratives and descriptions collected here thus showcase the way that the Cypriot cosmos is contextually negotiated through competing and at the same time complementary processes of cosmological capture and magical disorder. It is true that magic often speaks through Christianity and vice versa. As shown by the important position St. Cyprian and St. Justine occupy in Cypriot society, magico-religious relations provide a spectrum of reversibility that allows Cypriots—especially those lacking the ritual knowledge of their ancestors—to enter the domain of evil through ritual practices tolerated by the Orthodox Church. Magico-religious relations in Cyprus thus result in a spectrum of cosmological perceptions and magical affordances, of participating in the quasi-religious, quasi-heretical economy of evil. Here, the cosmological axis between magic and religion shifts from antithesis to contiguity, or even continuity.

Yet, reframed as a process of capture, the proximity of magic to doctrinal religion, as it manifests in Cyprus and numerous other societies, does not necessarily indicate an integrated magico-religious cosmology. Given the unease with which the Cypriot Church regards local magical practices and perceptions, relations between the two are anything but cohesive. Rather than cosmological integration, the proximity of magic and religion in Cyprus thus directs us to a historically consistent motif, of Christian institutions attempting to sublate magical force through the development and deployment of cosmological hierarchy. To return to a repeated saying among Cypriots—that “The [evil] eye is also accepted by the Church”—one can see how doxic discourses on the evil eye serve as a cosmic apparatus of capture, through which evil becomes contained in the realm of human relations, morality, and subjectivity, and thus rendered antithetic to ethical regimes of the Orthodox Church (Stewart 2008).

But magico-religious relations and perceptions are certainly not exhaustive of the cosmological implication of evil in Cypriot society. Magico-religious relations might act as nodes of Christian capture, yet they also offer possibilities for magical action and protection. These possibilities expand and contrast according to the positionalities that individuals entertain with Christianity, evil, and magic. While for certain individuals, such as the magician's daughter, magico-religious relations operate as a mechanism of cosmological capture, for others they provide necessary ritual means to negotiate and partake in magical disorder. Magico-religious relations, in other words, do not constitute a “total” (Stewart 1991: 76) cosmological structure, but rather act as nondelineated focal points of a more expansive cosmology, conditioned by the disorderly force of evil. Rather than feeding into narratives of Christian superiority and power, the readiness with which Cypriots locate themselves in the chaotic milieu of evil, either through ritualistic acts of binding or apotropaic tactics such as the use of amulets, ultimately refigures the ancient magico-religious antithesis as one of day-to-day magical engagement and even play.

Rather than “a negative aspect” (Parkin 1985: 3) of morality and society, the disorderly force of evil thus contains a cosmic generativity that sustains social relations and individual vitality within Cypriot society. In other words, instead of indicating the lack or dissolution of cosmology and society, magical disorder can itself be conceptualized as an important cosmological principle, operating through staple ritualistic practices and cosmological perceptions. As I thus made evident through my ethnographic depiction, entanglement with evil in present-day Cyprus should not be understood as a form of religious deviance or resistance, but as a commonplace yet powerful occasion. Engaging evil does not constitute moral failure and does not convey suffering or abandonment (Csordas 2013). On the contrary, evil is social, cosmological, and collective, and situates experience in a milieu in which social relations and everyday dwelling are conditioned by the prospect of magical disorder. To return to another ethnographic segment, Mrs. C.’s husband was not simply lamenting his misfortune. Rather, his narration acted as a demonstration, or even affirmation, of his ongoing cosmic participation and “situatedness” (Roussou 2014: 436).

The importance of evil in Cyprus showcases how magical force can undercut institutional order and religion. Rather than the heretical antithesis of religion and Orthodoxy, evil in such narratives manifests as a disorderly and magical force that nevertheless conditions everyday experience and social relations. Near-extinct binding rituals, popular apotropaic amulets, and even Christian prayer create a space of possibility, which constitutes the means that Cypriots use to negotiate evil and magical disorder. Such objects and rituals thus enact and partake in a mode of cosmological participation of which impersonality is a crucial characteristic. Impersonality, in this case, is an outcome of the nonhierarchical constant of magical disorder, which does not favor any one individual over another. Good things happen to bad people and vice versa. Or, to return to a saying from one of my interlocutors: “If evil finds you, it finds you.”

Acknowledgments

I would like to especially thank the SA editor, Hans Steinmüller, for his meticulous editorial guidance, which was very important to clarifying the focus of the article. I would also like to thank the SA anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and feedback.

Notes

1

As Cypriot ethnologist Paraskevas Samaras (1985: 276, my translation from Greek) writes, even up to the late 1970s “there was no Cypriot village that did not have someone, man or woman, specializing in binding spells.”

2

The painting was commissioned by Pope Leo X to decorate the Sistine Chapel and is now part of the Royal Collection.

3

Rather than an apotropaic ritual, the extraction of fear was also explained to me as a lytikó—an unbinding ritual or a ‘breaking’ of the spell. See Argyrou (1996: 82) for a similar scenario.

4

Ernesto de Martino (2015: 31, 57) also addresses similar narratives of children “dropping dead.”

5

Argyrou (1993: 261) also describes such incidents.

References

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Contributor Notes

Theodoros Kyriakides is an adjunct lecturer at the Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cyprus. His research interests and publications span the anthropology of magic, medical anthropology, and science and technology studies. His work has been published in journals such as Cultural Anthropology, Social Anthropology, Ethnos, and Religion and Society: Advances in Research. ORCID: 0000-0001-8862-5096

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Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

  • Figure 1:

    Raphael, The Conversion of the Proconsul (1515), depicting Paul's encounter with Bar-Elymas, Wikipedia Commons, public domain.

  • Figure 2:

    Christian booklet used for protection against evil and magic. Photo sent to author by Yiannis Papadakis.

  • Figure 3:

    Solidified piece of solder used in yitíes against evil. Photo by author.

  • Figure 4:

    The author drinking holy water from the faucet at the chapel of St. Cyprian and St. Justine in Menoiko. Photo by Allyson Kerri McAbee.

  • Abramson, Allen, and Martin Holbraad, eds. 2014. Framing Cosmologies: The Anthropology of Worlds. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Argyrou, Vassos. 1993. “Under a Spell: The Strategic Use of Magic in Greek Cypriot Society.” American Ethnologist 20 (2): 256271.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Argyrou, Vassos. 1996. Tradition and Modernity in the Mediterranean: The Wedding as Symbolic Struggle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Asad, Talal. 1983. “Anthropological Conceptions of Religion: Reflections on Geertz.” Man 18 (2): 237259.

  • Asad, Talal. 2003. Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • Bailey, Michael. 2007. Magic and Superstition in Europe. London: Rowman & Littlefield.

  • Brown, Peter. 1970. “Sorcery, Demons, and the Rise of Christianity from Late Antiquity into the Middle Ages.” In Witchcraft Confessions and Accusations, ed. Mary Douglas, 1745. London: Tavistock Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brown, Peter. 1983. “The Saint as Exemplar in Late Antiquity.” Representations 1 (2): 125.

  • Cotter, Wendy. 1999. Miracles in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook for the Study of New Testament Miracle Stories. London: Routledge.

  • Csordas, Thomas. 2013. “Morality as a Cultural System?Current Anthropology 54 (5): 523546.

  • Csordas, Thomas. 2019. “From Theodicy to Homodicy: Evil as an Anthropological Problem.” In Engaging Evil: A Moral Anthropology, ed. William C. Olsen and Thomas Csordas, 3650. Oxford: Berghahn.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • De Martino, Ernesto. (1959) 2015. Magic: A Theory from the South. Trans. D. L. Zinn. Chicago: HAU Books.

  • Douglas, Mary. 1966. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge.

  • Douglas, Mary. 1970. Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology. London: Routledge.

  • Du Boulay, Juliet. 2009. Cosmos, Life, and Liturgy in a Greek Orthodox Village. Limni: Denise Harvey.

  • Durkheim, Émile. (1912) 2001. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Trans. Carol Cosman. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1937. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  • Favret-Saada, Jeanne. Deadly Words: Witchcraft in the Bocage. Trans. Catherine Cullen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Gager, John. 1992. Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Galt, Anthony. 1982. “The Evil Eye as Synthetic Image and its Meanings in the Island of Pantelleria, Italy.” American Ethnologist 9 (4): 664681.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Geschiere, Peter. 2013. Witchcraft, Intimacy and Trust: Africa in Comparison. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

  • Gilsenan, Michael. 2000. “Signs of Truth: Enchantment, Modernity, and the Dreams of Peasant Women.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 6 (4): 597615.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hauschild, Thomas. 2011. Power and Magic in Italy. Trans. Jeremy Gaines. New York: Berghahn.

  • Herzfeld, Michael. 1981. “Meaning and Morality: A Semiotic Approach to Evil-Eye Accusations in a Greek Village.” American Ethnologist 8 (3): 560574.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hughes, Geoffrey. 2020. “Envious Ethnography and the Ethnography of Envy in Anthropology's ‘Orient’: Towards a Theory of Envy.” Ethos 48 (2): 192211.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ionas, Ioannis. 2013. Superstition and Magic in Past Cyprus. [In Greek.] Nicosia: Cyprus Research Center.

  • Irvine, Richard D. G., and Theodoros Kyriakides. 2019. “Just out of Reach: An Ethnographic Theory of Magic and Rationalization.” Implicit Religion 21 (2): 202222.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Johnson, Paul Christopher, Pamela E. Klassen, and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan. 2018. Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kapferer, Bruce. 2002. “Outside All Reason: Magic, Sorcery and Epistemology in Anthropology.” Social Analysis 46 (3): 130.

  • Koselleck, Reinhart. 2004. Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time. Trans. Keith Tribe. New York: Columbia University Press.

  • Kyriakides, Theodoros. 2016. “Jeanne Favret-Saada's Minimal Ontology: Belief and Disbelief of Mystical Forces, Perilous Conditions, and the Opacity of Being.” Religion and Society: Advances in Research 7: 6882.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kyriakides, Theodoros, and Richard D. G. Irvine. 2021. “Not-Knowing Magic: Magical Memory and Ineffability in Contemporary Cyprus and Orkney.” Ethnos 86 (5): 793813.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mauss, Marcel. 1972. A General Theory of Magic. Trans. Robert Brain. London: Routledge.

  • Mikkelsen, H. H. 2016. “Chaosmology: Shamanism and Personhood among the Bugkalot.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 6 (1): 189205.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Parkin, David. 1985. “Introduction.” In The Anthropology of Evil, ed. David Parkin, 225. Cambridge: Basil Blackwell.

  • Pedersen, Morten Axel. 2011. Not Quite Shamans: Spirit Worlds and Political Lives in Mongolia. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

  • Pocock, David. 1985. “Unruly Evil.” In The Anthropology of Evil, ed. David Parkin, 4256. Cambridge: Basil Blackwell.

  • Puett, Michael J. 2012. “Social Order or Social Chaos.” In The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies, ed. Robert A. Orsi, 109-129. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ricoeur, Paul. 1967. The Symbolism of Evil. Trans. Emerson Buchanan. Boston: Beacon Press.

  • Roussou, Eugenia. 2011. “Orthodoxy at the Crossroads: Popular Religion and Greek Identity in the Practice of the Evil Eye.” Journal of Mediterranean Studies 20 (1): 85105.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roussou, Eugenia. 2014. “Believing in the Supernatural through the ‘Evil Eye’: Perception and Science in the Modern Greek Cosmos.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 29 (3): 425438.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Roussou, Eugenia. 2021. Orthodox Christianity, New Age Spirituality and Vernacular Religion: The Evil Eye in Greece. London: Bloomsbury.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rubenstein, Mary-Jane. 2012. “Cosmic Singularities: On the Nothing and the Sovereign.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 80 (2): 485517.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Samaras, Paraskevas. 1985. “Magic and Demon Invocations in Cyprus.” [In Greek.] Laografia 33: 268281.

  • Sanzo, Joseph. 2019. “Early Christianity.” In Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic, ed. David Franfurter, 198239. Leiden: Brill.

  • Seremetakis, Nadia. 2009. “Divination, Media, and the Networked Body of Modernity.” American Ethnologist 36 (2): 337350.

  • Siegel, James. 2006. Naming the Witch. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • Souvlakis, Nikolaos. 2021. Evil Eye in Christian Orthodox Society: A Journey from Envy to Personhood. New York: Berghahn.

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