Thursday, October 1, 2015

On Dreams, Superstitions and the Evil Eye

By Archimandrite Vasilios Bakoyiannis

A Greek proverb says “The devil has lots of legs.” He can walk many paths, some of them very torturous. So he is perfectly capable of trapping you at any time.

Mediums, the occult, astrology and so on, are paths that the devil treads. Just how and why, we will have a look at now.


Should we believe in dreams? If you have a dream that suggests something bad is going to happen to you, should you take it seriously or not pay any attention to it? There are human, diabolical and God-sent dreams. The only ones that are valid are those sent by God.

Human Dreams

“The poor man dreams of crumbs,” says a Greek proverb. Now what does that mean? Well, it means that what the poor man has on his mind (food, in this case), is what he sees in his dreams. In other words, whatever we’ve got on our minds, whatever is bothering us in our subconscious, might come out as a dream. As Karen Horney, the internationally famous psychiatrist, says in her book Self-Analysis, dreams are the voice of our aspirations.

Diabolical Dreams

The devil sows all sorts of thoughts in our brains. The Evil One doesn’t confine himself to this task only when we’re awake, but continues when we’re asleep. So it’s perfectly possible for us to see things in our dreams that actually come from our enemy.

And naturally, through our dreams, our enemy will try to do us harm, to terrify us, to threaten us and so on. This is why we ask the Lord every evening to “preserve us from every Satanic fantasy.”

Divine Dreams

God, too, can speak to people through dreams. There are plenty of examples of this in the Scriptures, such as the dreams of the Pharaoh that Joseph interpreted (Gen. 41).

How To Tell Them Apart

Saint John of the Ladder advises and urges us: “Believe ONLY those dreams that have to do with Hell and the Judgment, though if they make you despair then they, too, are from the devil.”

Therefore: Diabolical dreams terrify us and make us despair. Divine dreams (the only ones which are valid) show us Hell and the Judgment. We awake from them concerned, positively concerned, about the salvation of our souls. Human dreams neither terrify us, nor cause us to despair, nor bring us to repentance and the salvation of our souls.


In the old days superstitions were rife, especially in country districts. Now that life in general has changed so much, many of these superstitions are dying out. Some are still going the rounds, though, and it’s with them that we’ll deal now.

New Year

Everybody hopes that the New Year will get off to a good start and continue in the same vein. Indeed, we pray for this. Some people, however, take a superstitious view and resort to “charms”.

They bring in the New Year by eating, drinking and having a good time. They’d think it bad luck not to welcome the New Year with feasting and revelry. They’d be worried that the whole year would be spoiled.

They play cards or gamble for the same reason: if they’re lucky at New Year, the whole year will be lucky. They go to church on New Year’s day for luck (not out of due piety). They even take communion for luck (not “for the remission of sins and life everlasting”).

However, a New Year enters our lives every moment. Every minute that we live is also a new year. So what happens at New Year also happens every minute of the day. Every moment is New Year’s day.

If you want the New Year to go well, then use this everyday continuous New Year to the best advantage. Do good “here and now.”

Unlucky Encounters

If you’re on your way to work first thing in the morning and you happen to meet a cripple, a blind person - or, in Greece, a priest! - you take it as a bad sign.

In fact, the “bad sign” isn’t the meeting at all. It’s your own faith and superstitiousness. It is a sure sign that you’re deeply deluded.

St John Chrysostom says that the way your day goes doesn’t depend on whom you meet first thing in the morning. Your day goes badly when you live in sin. So when you leave your house, beware of an encounter with sin.

At Weddings

When the superstitious are about to marry, the first thing they make sure of is that the wedding does not take place on an “unlucky” day, such as Friday 13th. This, according to St John Chrysostom, is not only stupid thinking, it’s actually diabolical. Happiness for them depends on dates and not on their personal struggle. A Greek proverb says “Every day is God’s” and this is the way to look at it. Some people ask: “Is it all right for two siblings to get married at the same time?”

What matters here is what the Church says, and the Church doesn’t forbid it. “Is it all right” they ask, “for the same family to have a memorial service and a wedding in the same month (or six months)?” The same thing applies here: the Church doesn’t forbid it.

After Childbirth

There are all sorts of superstitions regarding women after childbirth. For example: a) it doesn’t do for new mothers to travel before the fortieth day, b) It doesn’t do for new mothers to go out at night, and so on.

The only thing the Church lays down is that the woman is not permitted to enter a church, nor, of course, to take communion, before the service on the fortieth day.

At Funerals

Some of the superstitions associated with funerals are: a) Some people thinks it is a bad sign to look back when a dead person is being brought out of a house, b) Some will break an object, often a plate, to drive away bad luck (as if death would be afraid of the odd broken plate!), c) Others will cut themselves off from the Church for a year! - again, as if cutting yourself off from the Church for a year is going to avert evil.

And that’s how evil does, in fact, come. Evil brings evil. St Nikodemos the Hagiorite says: “What are you doing, you thoughtless person? Don’t you know that by not going to Church, you’re making an enemy of God and His saints. You’re in conflict with them because one of your relations has died? And who are you to war against God, Who does everything for our good, both in our life and in our death?”

THE EVIL (JEALOUS) EYE: Action of the Devil

When an envious person sees something good about another, he or she will suffer. The same is true for the cunning devil. The devil and the envious are jealous of other people doing well. That’s the trait they have in common. The devil exploits this. He uses it to pass on his wickedness to people. In other words, an envious (jealous) look becomes a conduit or a conductor through which the devil’s poison is distributed. “The evil eye” says St Basil the Great, “is an action of the devil which is committed by envious people” ... “dispel every action of the devil, every satanic onslaught.”

This means that the evil eye is NOT, for example, an ordinary headache, an ordinary dizzy spell or whatever. It’s definitely something EXTRAORDINARY, something dreadful, something unbearable, something SATANIC. Eyewitnesses report that a villager had a fine horse. Some envious person looking at it, said, “What a fine horse,” and the animal dropped dead on the spot. That’s obviously an action of the devil.

Which People Have “the Eye”?

The story above reveals that the evil eye belongs to those who have evil within them: “Dispel every poison of corrupt and envious people.” (From the Prayer Against the Evil Eye). In older times, it was common for people to spit if they admired, for example, a beautiful child. In this way, they would symbolically get rid of the “poison”, i.e., any trace of envy that might do the child harm.

Whom does the “Eye” affect?

Obviously, since the evil eye is an action of the devil, it can affect anyone who’s not equipped with the weapons to combat the devil and his machinations, which are prayer, fasting, confession and Holy Communion. This is why: a) Saints aren’t affected, b) Priests aren’t affected either (because of the priesthood), c) Neither are those affected who take part in the sacramental life of the Church.

Dispelling the “Eye” - THE PRAYER

Given that the evil eye is an action of the devil, a special prayer is required to exorcise him. The Orthodox Church has adopted a special prayer against the evil eye which exorcises the devil. This prayer is to be read only by a priest.

Sinful Attempts at Exorcism

Suppose you’ve had the evil eye put on you, and instead of going to a priest you go to a woman who “specializes” in such cases. If you do this both you and the woman are committing a sin.

You are sinning because you are scorning God’s appointed servant (the priest) and going knocking at the door of a stranger, and the woman is usurping the position of the priest.

To be more precise: Lay persons, because they aren’t ordained, don’t have the right to make the sign of the Cross over other people in a sacramental way. Why don’t you just make the sign of the Cross over yourself? What’s so holy about these people’s hands?

Since they’re not priests, they obviously can’t perform a sacrament, such as, for example, Holy Unction. Yet these women dare to do just that. They “sanctify” a bit of oil themselves and then make the sign of the Cross with it! Have you ever wondered why they don’t use oil from an icon-lamp?

In their rituals, they mix up words from the Church and from elsewhere (i.e. the devil). Do the prayers of the Church really need fortifying by those of the devil? In the end, which words will be effective, those of the Church or those of the devil? It is likely that the Lord will pay any heed to defiled prayers?

And don’t say: “But just as soon as the woman exorcised me, I felt well again” because it could be psychological or it might have been the devil who has made you well.

An Instructive Event

On 2/3/1998, a certain gentleman from Patras, Greece, told me about something that had happened to him about 15 years earlier.

In brief: From the age of 14, his family would take him along to be “exorcised” every so often. But this was just the handle the devil wanted. He himself began to have the power of the eye. Something bad happened to anyone he admired. He might, for example, look at a woman walking down the street and at once she’d stumble or twist her ankle.

On Great Thursday, 1983, he attended the evening Passion Service at the Church of St Spyridon, in Aigaleo. Suddenly, at the most holy point of the service, he felt unwell. His mind went completely fuzzy. The congregation began reeling before his eyes. At the same time, he broke out in a cold sweat. Unable to stand it, he went outside. Hard on his heels came a woman he knew, who had often “exorcised” him. She went up to him and asked what was wrong. She began to “exorcise” him again, saying some strange “prayers”, which were invocations of demons. At that very moment, this gentleman noticed something which shocked him deeply. The face of the woman was transformed. She had become really horrible to look at. At the same time, her face took on a weird grimace. Her mouth looked more like the muzzle of a wild beast. She pulled from the folds of her dress a “good luck charm.” “Take this,” she told him. “Wear it and you’ll come to no harm.”

And with her satanic invocations (i.e., the help of the devil) he “recovered…”

After this unforgettable experience, the man lost no time in going straight to confession. He regained his peace of soul, and what’s more, he stopped putting the evil eye on people.

From the book Confronting the Devil, Magic & the Occult, Orthodox Book Centre, Athens 2003.