Nazarlik as a Pre-Islamic Residue
Saul said (and this is likely true for much of the Middle East generally) that the belief in the "evil eye" and in "nazarlik" likely belongs to pre-Islamic eras when shamanistic beliefs were predominant.
Conversion to Islam has not, seemingly, led to the shedding of some pre-Islamic beliefs. Islam is experienced as a kind of firm overlay, but previous beliefs still operate strongly without any experience of contradiction.
He said that in Konya, a highly religious and conservative area of central Anatolia, the locals find no apparent contraction between their formal Islam and their usage of a symbol from pre-Islamic, shamanistic times for example — the Sha Miram, the Queen Goddess of the Snake.
If locals are queried about this seeming contradiction, they merely state, "She is a nazarlik."
Saul had two pieces with a "Sha Miran" field design (Pic. 1)
Saul sketched beliefs and behavior he has observed regarding nazarliks in Turkey and Central Asia.
He said that while we might smile at examples of such belief in traditional societies, we need also to remember that even in the “modern and rational America of 2010, we have a continuing unease with the number 13 in hotels, office buildings and airplane seating. In addition, we avoid black cats, carry a rabbit's foot, knock on wood, wear religious symbols as jewelry, and hang an upside down horseshoe on a barn or home to protect the inhabitants from evil."
The similar superstitions actively practiced in our own society could be multiplied.
Saul began with the general observation that "within Turkic society colors, symbols, pattern and design are used to ward away malefic intent, and call forth beneficent interactions. Other societies within modern Turkey (like the Kurds (Pic. 2), the Alawites and the Yezdis) view colors and patterns in the same way. Even non-Islamic Turks (the Jews and Christians) conform to the social usage of nazarlik.
Next Saul showed a piece of a cradle cover(pic.2A).
Fashioned from four narrow strips sewn together (pic.2B).
Saul described this piece as "Byzant" from Western Anatolia - a baby
cradle cover from the converted peoples, who use the cross design as a
form of protection. The small cross at the bottom is difficult to see.
Right below Saul's hand (pic. 2C).