THE ALL-SEEING EYE OF BUDDHA
Here is an unusual apotropaic charm designed to ward off the evil eye. It is from Nepal and represents the All-Seeing Eye of Buddha surrounded by the Snail Martyrs.
As in many regions to which evil eye belief spread from its ancient Middle Eastern birthplace, this amulet combines elements of a local religion with talismanic protection magic against the drying effects of the eye of envy.
In this case the simplest explanation of the amulet is that it utilizes the watchful eye of Gautama Buddha to reflect back the bad effect of "overlooking." In this aspect it resembles the well known Turkish blue glass all-seeing eye charm.
The fact that the eye is that of Buddha seems on the surface to be nothing more than an attempt to identify the source of magical protection with a locally popular figure, much in the way that Arabs call the hamsa hand the "Hand of Fatima" and Jews call the identical hamesh hand the "Hand of Miriam".
But who are the "Snail Martyrs" -- and what are they doing on this charm?
Well, in a tale that once again reinforces Professor Alan Dundes' theory that all apotropaic evil eye charms prevent the "drying up" of fluids (in humans, animals, and plants), it seems that one summer day the revered teacher Gautama Buddha entered into a deep state of meditation while sitting in the hot sun. As the hours wore on, his bare head became more and more heated, but in his deep meditative state, he did not realize that he was in danger of succumbing to sunstroke. Luckily for him, a group of 108 passing snails saw his predicament, and in a gesture of selfless martyrdom, they crawled out into the blazing sun, climbed slowly to the top of his head and gave up their life-mucus to cool his fevered brow. By making the supreme sacrifice, the Snail Martyrs were granted vastly improved births in their subsequent incarnations and earned the admiration of Buddhists wherever their story was told.
The image of "snail-headed Buddha" -- that is, Buddha crowned with the 108 Snail Martyrs -- is not uncommon in Asian statuary, paintings, and prints. Look for a seated Buddha with what appears to be a hairdo comprised of numerous tight spiral curls. Those are not curls -- the Buddha shaved his head, after all -- those are the 108 Snail Martyrs giving their lives to moisten his holy head.
It is their association with the provision of moisture that recommends the Snail Martyrs as appropriate for an apotropaic evil eye amulet that features Buddha. Only 16 of them are shown, but those who know the story recall that there were 108 of them, just as there are 108 Buddha on a Walnut on another famous charm, for 108 is a sacred number in Buddhism, as it is in many other religions.
This amulet is made of silver-washed "white metal" hammered into a dome shape and then built up by the hand-applique of individually coiled snails and decorative balls, and finished with an inset eye of brown and white glass. It is about 1 1/2" in diameter and suitable to wear as a necklace pendant.
Now, for those of you who have looked at the picture of this charm and thought, "Haven't i seen this somewhere else before?" -- the answer is, "Yes, you have!"
In 1963 the comic book artist Steve Ditko, working in association with a writer called Stan Lee, created a superheroic magical sorcerer character called Dr. Strange, whose adventures were published by Marvel Comics in serial form in "Strange Tales." Ditko obviously had done at least some casual curio-shop research into the lore and legends of the Himalayas, where Dr. Strange was said to have studied the Mystic Arts, because in addition to a recognizable Tibetan dorje (thunderbolt) -- called the "Wand of Watoomb" by the scripter Stan Lee -- he also prominently depicted a completely recognizable version of the Eye of Buddha charm.
Stan Lee, who tended to ignore Ditko's visual sources, originally called this item "the Enchanted Amulet," then renamed it the "All-Seeing Eye," in reference to conventional European images of the god Jehovah, who is often depicted as a single eye looking down from the skies. Eventually, as it became obvious that Ditko intended to keep the amulet front-and-center in the series, Lee changed the name again, to the "Mystic Eye"; shortly thereafter it was identified with another Ditko creation, a crystal ball called the Orb of Agamotto, and thus it finally became known as the "Amulet of Agamotto," although comic book fans usually call it the "Eye of Agamotto."
From the very first, the Amulet of Agamotto was a major resource in Dr. Strange's mystical arsenal. It was depicted by Ditko as remaining closed while at rest and opening wide when used for magical work such as scrying, forcing opponents to reveal their hidden secrets, or creating a protective shield in battle.
After Steve Ditko left "Strange Tales" (and Marvel Comics) in 1965, other artists and writers took over the work of scripting and illustrating the adventures of Dr. Strange, in "Strange Tales," "Dr. Strange" comics, "Marvel Premiere," "The Defenders," a second "Dr. Strange" series, and "Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme," as well as several graphic albums and many guest appearances in other superhero titles published by Marvel Comics. Through it all, for more than four decades, Dr. Strange has gone into battle wearing the Eye of Agamotto -- or, more properly, an apotropaic Nepali charm against the evil eye called the All-Seeing Eye of Buddha.
For more information on the fictional magical system portrayed in "Dr. Strange" comic books, see The Lesser Book of the Vishanti: Dr. Strange Comics as a Magical System, by cat yronwode. More information on the various amulets and charms that appear in the series can be found in the section on The Ritual Artifacts and Power Objects of the Art. Thanks to Denis McFarling for the drawing of the Amulet of Agamotto.
Order from Lucky Mojo Curio Co. Spiritual and Occult Shop:
EYE OF BUDDHA / AGAMOTTO AMULET, WHITE METAL
1 1/2" x 1 1/2" White metal disk pendant with glass eye inset, depicting the protective Eye of Buddha surrounded by the Snail Martyrs; used to ward off the evil eye; also known to readers and fans of Dr. Strange comics as the mystical "Eye of Agamotto"Satanity: Real Satanism: Religious Satanism, History of Satanism, Satanist Sociology, and Satanist Philosophy amulet.
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