Winged Phallus Sculpture

The “fascinus” of ancient Rome: the phallus-shaped amulet that protected against the evil eye.

one of the great bugaboos of ancient Rome was the fascinus , the evil eye , a evil influence which was believed to be conveyed in words, with particular gestures or simply with one look . It was the so-called oculus malignus , "evil eye", exact ancient correspondence of the term "evil eye": it was thought that there were people with deformed or enchanting eyes, capable of casting evil spells just by looking at a person.

The fascinus it could have many effects, even fatal ones (sudden deaths were also attributed to the evil eye, and in addition to explaining the onset of illnesses it was also called into question to justify poor harvests, deaths of livestock, accidents to one's home), and it could affect everyone, but a category particularly subject to negative influences was considered to be that of children .

More generally, there were many ways to escape the fascinus or to push him away. From the already mentioned rituals we moved on to simpler practices, such as apotropaic, superstitious, conjuring gestures (some very ancient gestures still survive today: think of the gesture of the horns ), but the distraction of the evil gaze was particularly widespread through amulets : the most widespread of these was the amulet phallic shape , considered a very powerful means to ward off the fascinus (so much so that the amulets in the shape of phalluses were known by the same term: that is, the amulet was also called fascinus ).

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