Last Friday, it was amusing to see, weaving his way in and around the startling traffic at an intersection, an old man who seemed close to three hundred years old (hereafter ‘Methuselah’). Methuselah was waving a smoking canister over the windshield of cars, in return for a small amount of money from the drivers.
Presuming this was a ritual based on superstition, I checked it out and found the following very nice blog summarising this Iranian body of superstition that underlies Methuselah waving smoke at drivers in Tehran’s insane traffic.
He was was, apparently, burning Espand, or the seeds of the Syrian rue flower, to get rid of the evil eye. On approaching each car, Methuselah would throw a couple of seeds from his pocket into the canister (a little like the Roman Catholic silver ball and chain, used to wave smoke in Church).
As the little seeds start to pop, Iranians say betereke cheshme hasood, may jealous eyes explode, or cheshme hasood koor, may jealous eyes be blind. According to Pontia Fallahi’s blog, it is a sort of cleansing ritual to rid the house (car, in this case) of negative energy and protect the home (car). One can only think much of this is needed for improving the everyday survival odds in Tehran traffic.
So, there it is, in case you were also wondering about the duties of Methuselah at the intersection.
More on Espand: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peganum_harmala
More on the whole Espand superstition: http://mypersiancorner.blogspot.se/2013/09/iranian-superstitions-part-2.html