Traditions in Turkey

The Nazar Boncugu, history and legend of the Turkish Amulet

Is there a Turk who doesn’t have a blue amulet (Nazar Boncugu) hanging somewhere in the house? The answer is almost obvious, since even the most sceptical has had or worn, sooner or later, this famous amulet.

Whether it’s the large format at home or the small one put on a brooch to offer at the birth of a child, NNazar Boncugu is everywhere in Turkey. As soon as you arrive in Turkey, you feel overwhelmed and enveloped by this characteristic deep blue object. It can be found hanging on cars, on keys, in the house above the doors or present on jewels such as necklaces, bracelets, earrings.

What is Nazar Boncugu?

The Nazar Boncuğu is an ancestral talisman that is found from the Middle East to Greece, but it is certainly in Turkey that it can be seen in various and innumerable forms. It is a hand-made amulet, made from blue glass paste, in the shape of an eye or drop.

Nazar is said to be an Arabic word meaning look or eye, and boncuk means pearl. So we can literally understand it as a pearl of the eye. This translation is more realistic than the other translations we often hear, such as Evil Eye in English, amulet against the evil eye or the eye of Allah.

We must distinguish the amulet and the evil eye. In fact, the beauty of the amulet allows you to drive away the evil eye, understood as negativity, due to jealousies or envy. It is a talisman that absorbs negative energies.

The importance of the eye in history

We remember that the eye itself has always had a great importance throughout history. Aren’t the eyes and  looking in a mirror  our thoughts and  our soul? We remember the eye of Ra from the ancient Egyptians or the petrifying gaze of Medusa from the Greeks. If we go even further back, to biblical times, when the expression “eye for an eye” was born, we can understand the power of the eye in many cultures. The origins of the first eye-shaped amulets are thought to date back to the third millennium BC.

The deep blue colour is not a random colour, in ancient times it was thought that those with blue eyes were better suited to free men from curses, precisely because this eye colour is particularly rare in the Middle East, therefore the intense blue of the Nazar it serves to reject negativity. Blue has always been considered a divine colour, a symbol of heaven, infinity, spirituality and peace. Not surprisingly, we admire it in all ceramics, in the glass of mosques or in mosaics.

The origins are varied and like many Middle Eastern traditions, the origins of the amulet could be a syncretism of different cultures, even if it is thought that the Nazar tradition comes from Central Asia.

The Middle East has always been a crossroads of cultures. Although often wrongly called Allah, the Nazar has no religious origins. Legend has it that a blue-eyed man, only with his gaze, succeeded in destroying a rock that obstructed a road, while a group of 100 men did not succeed even with powerful means.

The charm of Nazar Boncugu lies in the fact that its use has never been altered over the centuries. It has always been a protective amulet. The Nazar Boncugu therefore serves to repel the evil gaze of jealous and envious people.

There is a village in the province of Izmir called Nazarköy, where many producers of nazar are concentrated.

On the Turkish Lounge website, you can find Nazar pendants which are handcrafted in Istanbul.

Do you want to find out how the Nazars are created? Join the I Love Turkey Group and watch the video I posted.

Superstition or tradition?

In Turkish, we say “nazar değdi” to say that the evil eye has struck, or we say “nazar değmesin” to hope that the evil eye does not strike.

To go beyond superstition, we think that if the Nazar Boncuğu breaks, it means that it has fully fulfilled its function, that is, that it has absorbed negativity. In this case, it must be replaced promptly. Here too, for the nazar to be effective, it must preferably be purchased by another person who has good intentions towards him.

I still remember that when my daughter was born, my whole family, respecting tradition, gave a gold coin attached to a small brooch with a very small nazar. The brooch is attached to a baby girl’s garment as a protective (and attractive) amulet.