As a boy, I lived in a coal-mining town in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. I grew up with radio, little television, no Internet and one late-afternoon newspaper. There was only one principal way to get the news other than snippets you could catch on a 15-minute radio or television news program. The Times Leader newspaper was delivered by a “paper boy”. Sometimes, the paper boy, who was my neighbor, would ask me to help him, especially on dark wintry evenings.
On those scary nights, with few streetlights, the paper boy would often remind me to ward off the evil eye one customer was suspected to have possessed. I hardly knew the old woman whose house was set back about 100 feet from the roadway. “Don’t glance at her crooked eye when she comes out for the newspaper,” he had said to me, “because you will be cursed. Only look at the ground, throw the paper onto her front porch, and then run away. And don’t look back!”
He told me there was only one solution __ a hand sign to cancel out the power of the “Mal occhio”, the evil eye.
The paper boy took a rolled-up copy of the Times Leader and demonstrated the hand sign. First, extend the index and pinky fingers straight, with the thumb, middle and ring fingers pressed against the palm of your hand. Now insert the hand, with two fingers extended, inside the rolled-up paper.
I did not think much more about the lady with the evil eye. I just made sure I never placed a foot on her property. Until one day, the paper boy got sick, and he asked me to deliver the papers.
That evening, I first considered dropping off the paper at the edge of the road. That was not a solution as the woman would phone my friend and complain. As I tip-toed up the walkway, my pounding heart felt like it was about to explode. I thought I would puke. I stiffened my extended fingers to make sure I warded off the evil eye.
When I reached the steps to the porch, the front door suddenly opened, and the woman glared at me. “Where’s the regular paper-boy?”
I turned away, afraid of what was next. She was holding a small round metal container. I was certain it held ingredients for a witch’s brew.
She smiled ever so slightly and thrust the container toward me. “Well it looks like you get these Italian knot cookies. Hope you enjoy them.”
What! Cookies! I was afraid 0f cookies? In the glow of the porch light, her eye no longer looked evil, just slightly off-kilter. I felt like I was duped by my friend.
Today as an adult, there are still times we face fear and its consequences. But I no longer rely on old-folk tales to ward off evil spirits. I get my strength from the Word of God. It never fails, and it always has the last say.
Isaiah 54:17 - No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD.