It’s getting close to “Thriller” night and my family loves Halloween. Monsters and ghouls just really intrigue my sons. I think it’s the “good vs evil” thing. If only life were so clear cut.
When you become a parent, you start to notice the suggestive nature of every little detail in movies, songs, and media. In the last couple of years, I’ve paid more attention to “heroes” and “villains” than I ever did watching movies as a kid. My sons noticed right away that the bad guys and gals so often have red eyes. It made me feel… well, kind of bad. It’s not uncommon for me to have red eyes (and I don’t even have anterior uveitis, which is characterized by inflammation in the visible part of the eye). Does it make me a villain? I decided to attempt to research the history of these malicious red eyes.
One source, “Wiki Evil,” which is all about characters and tropes, claimed the following: “Those with glowing red eyes are almost without exception thoroughly evil or, at least, very dangerous. The “almost” section goes to those whose red eyes serve as a marker for their Elemental Powers, typically fire” (Red Eyes, Take Warning).
This idea of fire piqued my interest, particularly because in January my naturopath recommended that I try acupuncture as a practice for my general well-being and my eye condition. I thought, if nothing else, it would be relaxing; I’d gone a few times, years ago. I received three treatments before the pandemic started. The acupuncturist whom I saw said that she had treated uveitis patients. I was skeptical going in, and not surprisingly, those she treated had anterior uveitis and the nature of their recurrence was of course unknown to me. I told her that I had posterior uveitis, was on medication and rarely knew when I was having a flare, so there would be literally no way of knowing if acupuncture helped. Nonetheless, I was interested to learn what Eastern medicine had to say about the eyes. And, I did enjoy the sessions.
She told me the eyes were connected to the liver. The internet agrees. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, all diseases involving the eye are closely related to the liver (Healthy Eyes with Chinese Medicine).
The liver is the largest solid organ in the body and holds roughly 13% of your blood at any given time (What Does the Liver Do?, Liver: Anatomy and Function). Among its more than 500 vital functions, the liver receives the blood, cleans it, and clears toxins; it sorts the nutrients and proteins in the blood, processing them into usable forms for the body and excreting the waste into bile or blood. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver is responsible for the flow of Qi (“vital life force”) in the body. “Illness or disease is seen to be a blockage of the flow.. [in addition] If the Qi is disrupted, there can be anger, frustration, depression…”(Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine).
Liver fire, which according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, can manifest as red eyes, and may be caused by “difficulty in managing stress and anger appropriately” (Liver Fire In Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2020).
Are you picturing an angry villain from your favorite Disney movie yet?
In this line of thought, because the liver “opens into the eyes,. It is responsible for the ability of the eyes to see clearly, literally and figuratively, causing not only blurred vision and other eye issues, but the inability to recognize what is happening, to plan into the future and literally focus on your life (Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine).
Fear not, Traditional Chinese Medicine has recommendations, including acupuncture, beneficial foods and herbs, and lifestyle changes (healthy expression of feelings) to help restore the liver and thus kill off the evil villian (note: evil villain comment is NOT part of Chinese medicine). One of the articles I’ve cited, written by Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP for Chinesemedicineliving.com (Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine) has many suggestions.
Acupuncturists use the needles to open up blockages along streams of energy in the which connect different parts of the body to specific organs. In addition to other points, I know my acupuncturist used the following two points (Healthy Eyes with Chinese Medicine):
- Jingming (UB-1) Urinary Bladder Channel, lies where the inner corner of the eye meets the nose. Bladder 1 and 2 are perhaps the best two points for eye problems of all kinds from early-stage cataracts or glaucoma to hysteria with vision loss. They are also used for problems with conjunctivitis due to Wind-Heat and Liver Heat, to blurred vision in the elderly due to Deficient Jing and Blood
- Zanzhu (UB-2) Urinary Bladder Channel, lies in the depressions at the inner ends of the eyebrows. Bladder 1 and 2 are perhaps the best two points for eye problems of all kinds from early-stage cataracts or glaucoma to hysteria with vision loss. They are also used for problems with conjunctivitis due to Wind-Heat and Liver Heat, to blurred vision in the elderly due to Deficient Jing and Blood
Still, I feel that the “angry, confused” persona doesn’t really fit me. I’m not the most easy going individual, but I usually don’t rage without some decent provocation (at least pre-pandemic…). And, I know I was even LESS angry before I had all these medications to take to avoid going blind. I also have always been pretty healthy. Am I just in denial?
Interestingly enough, the original “evil eye” was blue (which still doesn’t help me). Many ancient cultures believed that folks could curse one another just by giving them a dirty look. This would often occur when someone reached great success and others looked upon them with jealousy.
“The power of the evil eye was so prevalent that much was written about it. For example, around 100 AD, Plutarch, the Greek philosopher, explained in his Symposiacs, that the human eye was a powerful organ that could emit invisible energy rays. These rays, he added, were strong enough to kill young children and small animals,” according to Historydaily.org (The Evil Eye).
“[Plutarch] mentioned that the tribes of people living south of the Black Sea were especially good as casting curses, as were people with blue eyes. For people living around the Mediterranean Sea at that time, blue eyes were rare. In fact, blue eyes seemed so unnatural that they had to be bewitched” (The Evil Eye).
Thus, the eye-shaped amulet (nazar), which protects one against this malevolent glare (especially if you don’t see one being passed your way), is cobalt blue.
The superstition of the “evil eye” and the use of the amulet are still in full force today. Depictions of the amulet are on everything from jewelry to home decor; it’s a common practice for many to bring an amulet in one representation or another to a new baby.
Whether you believe the eyes are the windows to the soul* or not, it’s still fun to read about the ideas of various cultures and remind yourself to take a deep breath so as not to be mistaken for Cruella De Vil, with or without the red eyes.
*Here’s a fun article, which is slightly irrelevant to those who have pupil irregularities due to uveitis complications: Your Eyes Really Are the Window to Your Soul: pupils never lie].