Quebranto and Evil Eye

Lúcia Gaspar
Librarian at Joaquim Nabuco Foundation
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According to the Portuguese dictionary Houaiss, quebranto is a state of torpor, fatigue, weakness, weariness; supposed evil influence of a spell, by remote enchantment; evil effect, according to popular beliefs, that the attitude, the look, etc. of some people can cause in others.
In the old Portuguese dictionaries, it was registered only as weakness, weariness, body exhaustion.

Universally known, the mau-olhado is called mal de ojo, in Spain; mal-occhio, for the Italian; evil eye in English and mati for the Greek. Greece actually has the famous Greek eye, an amulet against envy and the evil eye, that also works as a symbol of luck and is a powerful instrument against negative energy. It is usually made of glass, it’s blue, and it is used as a pendant in bracelets, necklaces and tattoos.

In Brazil, quebranto is always related to spells and evil influences, and it’s considered a disease caused by evil eye, also known as quebrante.

It is known that people transmit positive and negative energy. The ones that have positive or beneficial irradiation are the people with the “good eyes” and the ones that do the opposite, casting negative or evil energy, are the ones responsible for causing evil eye or quebranto.

In some places, there is a distinction: it is considered quebranto when it affects humans and evil eye when it affects plants and animals.

There are several symptoms for people who are victim of quebranto: teary eyes, weariness of the body, sadness, constant yawning, repeated sneezing, lack of appetite. In the case of animals, they get sad, don’t move much and are reserved. The plants that are victim of evil eye wilt quickly and for no reason, sometimes overnight or over a day, depending on when they were affected by the evil casting.

According to the popular belief, the quebranto doesn’t always come from someone who’s envious. Actually, the quebranto that is the hardest to break doesn’t come from people that are jealous. You need to bless and smoke yourself with garlic straw on ember with a bit of ashes on top; nine days in a row is the religious duration of novenas. (ARAÚJO, 1979, p. 189).

People that cast the evil eye can cause several bad effects such as ruin the making of sugar, soap, cakes or putting too much sugar on a sweet that’s being stirred.

There are some objects that, still according to popular belief, act as defense against quebranto, evil eye and spells, such as figas, rabbit feet, mojos, Greek eyes, red peppers and horse shoes.

There is a superstition ritual to avoid them since childhood: to cross the newborn child under the legs of the father three times.

To know if a child has been affected by a quebranto, put your tongue on their forehead and taste it: if it is salted, that means it’s quebranto.

To cure quebranto or the evil eye, people use prayers, blessings and superstition rituals. In the case of animals, when you can’t capture them, you should bless their tracks.

For those who believe they were victims of quebranto and evil eye, there are some prayers to repel their evil effects:

Put your right hand on the “sick” person’s heart and say the following words:

Jesus (fazer o sinal da Cruz)! O nome de Jesus me ajude (repetir o sinal da Cruz)! Onde eu puser a mão, ponha Deus a sua santa virtude!
Cristo vive, Cristo reina, Cristo te ilumine, Cristo te defenda de todo o mau ar. Se esta criatura tiver coisas ruins, às areias do rio irão parar, porque eu tiro-lhe pela cabeça. Santa Tereza, eu tiro-lhe pelo lado. Senhora Santa Ana, eu tiro-lhe pela frente. São Vicente, tiro-lhe por trás. São Brás, tiro-lhe pelo fundo. E Nosso Senhor, por todo o mundo. Rezar um Pai-Nosso e uma Ave-Maria. (REZAS, 19--? p. 19).

(Jesus (make the sign of the cross)! May the name of Jesus help me (repeat the sign of the cross)! Wherever I put my hands, may God put his saint virtue!
Christ lives, Christ reigns; may Christ enlighten you, may Christ defend you from all bad winds. If this creature has bad things, the river’s sand will stop, because I’ll remove them through your head. Saint Teresa, I remove it through the sides. Lady Saint Anne, I remove it through the front. Saint Vincent, I remove it through the back. Saint Blaise, I remove it through the bottom. And Our Lord, for everybody else. Pray the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary once.)

Rezar três vezes:
Com dois puseram
Com três eu tiro.
Com o nome do Pai,
Do Filho e do Espírito Santo,
Sai quebranto! (ORTENCIO, 1997, p. 229).

(Pray three times:
They cast it with two
I remove it with three.
In the name of the Father,
The Son and the Holy Spirit,
Out, quebranto!)

With a small branch of any plant, doing the sign of the cross in the child’s chest, say:

Jesus quando andou no mundo pra tudo ele rezou. Rezou para olhares de quebranto, que desta criança vão saindo, varridas com galho de oliveira. Amém.
Rezar em seguida um Credo, um Pai-Nosso, uma Ave-Maria, uma Salve-Rainha e acender um incenso para anular o mau-olhado. (REZAS, 19--? p. 15).

(When Jesus walked the Earth, he prayed for everything. He prayed for evil eyes, that are leaving this child, swept with an olive tree branch. Amen.
After that, say the Credo, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, a Hail Holy Queen and light an incense to void the evil eye.)

Recife, April 30, 2013.


ARAÚJO, Alceu Maynard. Quebranto. In: ______. Medicina rústica. 3. ed. São Paulo: Comp. Ed. Nacional, 1979. p. 189-190. (Brasiliana, 300).

CASCUDO, Luís da Câmara. Dicionário do folclore brasileiro. 11. ed. rev. e atual. São Paulo: Global, 2002.

OLHO Gordo, Mau Olhado e Quebranto, o que é e quais são os sintomas.Available at: <http://bomfeiticeiro.com/simpatias-feiticos-medalhas-cruzes-talismas-amuletos-de-protecao-magia-contra-feiticos/olho-gordo-mau-olhado-inveja-quebranto/>. Accessed: 17 abr. 2013.
ORTENCIO, Bariani. Medicina popular do Centro-Oeste. 2. ed. rev. e atual. Brasília, DF: Thesaurus, 1997.

REZAS, benzeduras, simpatias: soluções para todos os seus males. São Paulo: Editora Três [19--?]. 314 p. 


Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Quebranto e mau-olhado. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, Recife.Available at: <
http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar_en/>. Accessed: day month year. Example: 6 August 2009.

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