In many cultures, it is considered bad luck to compliment a baby or to remark about a child’s beauty as bad fairies might take notice. Flattery and envy attracts the evil eye, so wise mothers and crones will speak in reverse, ironically commenting: “How ugly that child is!” Or: “I’m sorry, Mrs. Duffy. Your baby is hideous!”

If a stranger has the bad manners to offer a compliment, or a fixed adoring gaze on a babe, the mother can deflect it by asking the person to spit on the child. Returning home, mothers can also perform a simple charm to protect her family by spitting on the children upon entering the house. If she forgets, the grandmother can do it.

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