When it comes to keeping away the mystical malicious forces of the world, perhaps no charm is more recognized or known than the “evil eye.” Ubiquitous in its use, the striking picture of the cobalt-blue eye emerged not only in the Istanbul bazaars, but from plane sides to comic book pages everywhere.

Evil eye pictures have been most common in the world of fashion over the last decade. On a number of occasions, Kim Kardashian has been taken to photograph sports bracelets and symbolic evil eye beads. Fashion models even launched their own evil eye jewelry lines.

This latest approval by A-list celebrities has led to millions of people protecting themselves with evil eye necklace, bracelet, and earrings. While all of this buzz suggests that the evil eye is witnessing a sudden rise in popularity, the reality is that the symbol has kept its hold on human imagination for thousands of years.

The distinction between the amulet and the evil eye must first be understood to understand the origins of the evil eye. Though often referred to as’ the evil eye,’ the ocular eye really is the charm of the evil eye: a malice that is generally motivated by envy. Though the amulet, often referred to as a Nazar, has been present for thousands of years in various permutations, the curse it repels is much older and harder to trace.

The evil eye’s maliciousness is essentially not a complicated concept; it stems from the conviction that anyone who succeeds will also attract envy. That envy turns out to be a curse that can destroy its good fortune. Heliodorus of Emesa takes this concept well in the Greek romantic ancient Aethiopica, where he writes that “when anyone looks at what is excellent in an enviable eye, he pervades the atmosphere surrounding him and transmits his own envenomed exhalations to everything nearest to him.”

The belief in this curse across cultures and generations; to date Frederick Thomas Elworthy’s The Evil Eye: the Classical Account of Ancient Superstition is among the largest compilations of legends concerning the evileye. Elworthy is exploring symbol instances in several cultures, and virtually any culture has a legend related to the evil eyes, from its petrifying view of Grecian gorgons to Irish folktales of men capable of stabbing horses with a single star. The eye symbol is so profoundly embraced by culture that it even finds a place within religious texts, including the Bible and the Qur’an, in spite of its potentially pagan connotations.

Belief in the evil eye has surpassed mere superstition, with many famous thinkers proving its truthfulness. The Greek philosopher Plutarch, one of the most notable examples in his Symposiums, suggested a science: that the human eye has the power to release invisible power rays that in some cases are as powerful as to kill children or small animals. Moreover, Plutarch claims that some people have a stronger capacity for fascination, citing groups in the south of the Black Sea as unknowingly skilled in the curse.

Although in the lore of the evil eyes, the hypothesis that some have a more powerful glare capable of inflicting damage is quite prevalent, not all correlate the strength with an intrinsic ill will. Some cultures regard the ability to pay the curse as a disgrace, a curse itself. For example, Elworthy refers to an archaic Polish folklore story about a man whose gaze was so powerfully carrier of curse, that he tried not to spread misfortunes to his loved ones but to cut his own eyes.