The Battle of the Legend and the Curse
I am not one to believe in tales, but if there is one thing in life that I have learned it is that if many people proclaim some level of truth to a narrative, the odds are that most likely, there is something to it. Doubt it as much as you like, the fact of the matter remains that it becomes all too overwhelming to ignore a story that resurfaces over and over again. It might appear in a different form, a different place, a different moment in time, and yet it captivates you with the same magnitude every recurrence. I experienced this firsthand through the story of the evil eye, in Crete.
A Grecian version of events
Last year, in July of 2017, I decided to spend some time on the island of Crete. I honestly don’t recall how I happened upon the idea of traveling there, but let me tell you, I had no regrets. It was the quintessential European experience. At the time, my soul hungered for something my ordinary life could not satiate. So I went looking for the nourishment it needed. That came in the form of blissful adventure, beaming sunshine, delectable food, crystal clear seas, rich culture; just a few of the simple and yet wonderful things that made Crete phenomenal. I mean, who wouldn’t want that?
Yet, of all this, what enchanted me most, was a deep sense of mystery that laid in the undertone of almost everything there. It wasn’t a bad thing. If anything, I found it intriguing. However, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. The history behind the rise and fall of ancient Greece, the breadth of classical folklore that encompassed you almost in physical form, and a people who represented the exact depiction of all that you had read about. Crete, the fusion of traditions, and the gateway of trade to all of the world. You have to wonder in the distant past, were goods merely all that were traded? Or, could there have been more- like stories that transcended far beyond lands and cultures.
A road less taken
One beautiful day, I decided to visit the lovely Lake Kournas, in Chania, Crete. I had read up on this area, famed for one of it’s most popular excursions, paddle boating. Now I don’t know if its all so necessary to know how to swim in order to risk paddle boating, but I can tell yah…I couldn’t swim to save my life. I never learned, and thus far, considering all the risky water activities I’ve already partaken in, I really question if it would benefit me at all now. Shame on me, but I didn’t care. Come hell or high water, we were paddle boating that day. Solo, I made my way to this location.
I had spent almost 3 hours riding on the local mega bus. Excited by my window seat, I watched eagerly as mountain after mountains engulfed our vehicle. The bus driver was kind enough to remember where I needed to get off, and eventually, he announced my stop. I stepped off the bus, looked straight ahead, and then did a double-take. Turning back around to the open doors of this mega bus, I asked the driver: where is the lake? “Over there!” he yelled and pointed to a deserted road. Despite clearly seeing no lake in sight, I took his word for it and decided to head down this road. All the while, praying in my head that he would not have geared me in the wrong direction. Five minutes into my walk, I wondered, where the heck am I?
Signs of hope
I started walking quickly in hope that the faster I went, the closer I would get to this lake. I had seen a sign that said ” Lake Kournas, 6 Kilometers.” Not that that meant anything to me…cause yeah, I’m American. If it’s not in inches, feet, yards, etc., it means zilch to us. On top of that, I’m a very one-directional person, so my goal was to just hurry and get to the lake- whether that was in 6, 12, or 24 kilometers. Piece of cake, I thought. Pff, boy was I wrong. Fifteen minutes on foot soon turned into an hour and so on. This was not turning out to be the fantastic adventure I had planned out in my head.
Then, something suddenly came over me. I started to actually pay attention to my surroundings. What was presented in front of me was the most beautiful road I had ever seen. A street adorned in bushes of jasmine and lavender flower and speckled with tiny Grecian homes dressed in vines of bougainvillea on both sides of the road. I could hear the cows mooing, and see the butterflies fluttering past me.
With not a soul in sight, it was just me on this open road. I took down my pace, started walking slowly, and absorbed every single moment. The series of events that occurred, was somewhat atypical for a city girl like me. A 1ft nothing stray dog chased me for 30 minutes; although, I suspect he just wanted to play with me. A gigantic cicada harassed me, making relive my very rational fear of all bugs. Yet, it wasn’t all that scary. The sounds of jingled bells on the necks of grazing sheep, the sweet scent of those flowers along the road, and the pleased faces of the few locals passing by, made me realize something. I was meant to have this experience.
It was then that I came up to the road I had been looking for all along. A sharp turn to the right and I would soon reach Lake Kournas. I proceeded even slower, looking straight ahead at the sun-drenched road before me.
There it was- a lake of a mixture of shimmering blue color, protected by some of the most majestic mountains I had ever seen. You would think I had really and truly found…Eden, with just a tad bit more scantily dressed or barely dressed people hanging around. Who would have thought, such beauty could exist in Crete, of all places?
As I walked, taking in the moment, a Greek man, sitting in front of his shop attempted to flirt with me in a rather courteous manner, I should say. I explained to him that I was in a rush to reach the lake, but he insisted I give him a moment. He had something to give me. Thinking he was trying to pester me with a sale, I quickly said I have no money. I was lying of course, but I’m a New Yorker. If there is one thing we are good at, it’s saying “no” to very passionate and eager salespeople.
” Here,” he said. ” I simply want you to take this on your journey.” He placed in the palm of my hand, a small amulet that looked like a blue eye. “I can tell you are already being protected,” he said. “But this will keep all ill-willed people at bay,” he continued. I honestly thought he was a little crazy, but for some reason, I believed him.
You see, legend has it, that this particular talisman was crafted by artisans centuries ago. Adopting a few names including the Grecian, mati, and the Arabic, nazar, terms synonymous for sight, the emblem has manifested itself in several forms throughout history. It has even resurfaced in various religious texts. When an individual seems to be excelling in life and wonderful things are happening for them, other people might not take to well to their good fortune. These people look at them with envy and jealousy. The look is capable of shattering that individual’s entire world. For this reason alone, the evil eye was designed to shield away this force, much to the contrary of its name.
At the time, I didn’t know all of this, but simply accepted this gift, since gentleman insisted. However, that very moment, it dawned on me- this too was meant to happen. I felt like my soul lead me to this road, to this man, to this experience. I was so blind-sighted by my determination to get to the lake, that I didn’t even see the significance of the journey that led me there. This encounter was a wake-up call, and for some bizarre reason, I felt like I could not take this man’s words for granted. As I took the gift, he gently kissed my hand and wished me luck on my journey to the lake.
From that point onward, it was a brief and beautiful walk. With my paddle boat ready to go, I drifted into the dazzling waters of Lake Kournas. Alone, and feeling fearless, I smiled at myself. Maybe I was being protected. Strange, that it took a visit to Crete, for me to come to this realization. Oddly enough, it wouldn’t be the last time I would encounter this evil eye phenomenon. This story would unexpectedly come up again a year later, but this time across the Mediterranean sea, in Turkey. I suppose certain legends just can’t be ignored.