The belief in an droch-shùil, the evil eye, and the charms protecting against it are perhaps the most enduring examples of Scottish folk magic, existing long after the once widespread beliefs in other aspects of magic and witchcraft had faded. Its roots lie in one of the most basic human emotions that is just as pervasive in today’s social media-driven world as it was in the simpler lives of farming folk hundreds of years ago: envy.
Long, long ago, in the lands to the north, a mither and her son sat together in front of the hearth as the gloaming fell and the hoar frost paled the land outside. The steam from mugs of buttered brose rose and mingled with the steam from the pulley above the fire, heavy with socks and mitts and ganseys, the air so thick with damp and stoor you could chew it.
Mither took up her spindle and her basket of wool fluff like a dun cloud and began to twist the fibres between her fingers. As she teased out and spun her yarn longer and longer, she spun a story along with it, as she so often did.