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The Evil Eye

Turkmens use a wide range of talismans in an attempt to ward off the evil eye, and the misfortunes that this will bestow upon a family. Above the front door of Turkmen houses it is common to see one or more of a range of these: small phials of salt; dried chilli peppers; ram's horns; and, especially, a few twigs of the shrub yuzaerlik, fashioned into the shape of a small broom. Turkmens suffering from a cold or the flu will sometimes 'disinfect' their homes with the smoke from a burning yuzaerlik shrub, carried from room to room in a suitable container, such as an old tin can. Another plant which is considered particularly good at keeping the evil eye at bay is the dagdan tree, which grows at high altitudes where the air is clean. Many Turkmens carry in their pockets a small piece of dagdan wood, a few centimetres long, which they will touch in times of stress.

In the responses of Turkmens to the evil eye, the mixing of pre-lslamic superstitions with the Islamic faith is clearly shown. Some Turkmen families display verses from the Koran in the porches of their homes as further protection against the eye. Koranic texts are also placed inside some items of female silver jewellery, such as the triangular tumar, worn over the breast. Three is considered a particularly sacred number, and the triangular shape is thus prominent in the fight against the forces of evil. Embroidered triangles are often worn around the neck or placed over doorways. One practice adopted by some Turkmens, though highly criticised by others, is the use of a pig's tooth as a talisman against evil; the principle being that an item taken from an unclean animal is itself effective at warding away all else that is bad.

The camel is considered to be a powerful ally in the fight against the evil eye. Bracelets of camel hair intertwined with black, white, red and orange wool are worn by many Turkmens. Longer pieces are often wrapped around car steering wheels, to protect the driver.