APOTROPAIA, apotropaic

The erection, representation, display and use of often grotesque figures and objects to protect against or ward off misfortune, thieves, enemies, sorcery, witchcraft, evil spirits, bad luck or the Evil Eye.

The simplest examples in Nature are protective false eyes, whose forerunners in evolution were the eye spots developed by some hexapods to encourage predators to think they were being watched by their quarry.

By far the oldest (universal) human behaviour patterns and displays are the protective hand, beard display, breast presentation, pulling a face or mouth-pulling, genital and pubic display, arse-display, presentation of a grotesque mask, milk-squirting, erection of 'sentinel' or guardian figures, and sticking out the tongue.