In this article, we will talk about this symbol, what it comes from, and what it means to millions of people. Although the origins of the hamsa hand are in what we now refer to as the Middle East, it is well known around the world.
What Is the Hamsa Hand Symbol?
The hamsa or khamsa symbol is a popular amulet that is often used as a wall hanging or as jewelry.
Its distinctive design at its most basic is a right hand with a big eye placed on the palm.
This symbol is believed to protect against the evil eye by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike.
The hamsa hand is also known by different names depending on the religious tradition, including the Hand of Mary, the Hand of Miriam, the Hand of Fatima, or the Hand of the Goddess.
The oldest evidence of hamsa is in ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), and some people also believe in ancient Carthage (present-day Tunisia in North Africa). Since then, some people have used this symbol for protection. The Hamsa Hand is not the only Mesopotamian artifact to have the shape of a hand. Other similar amulets from ancient Mesopotamian culture include those of Inanna or the goddess Ishtar.
It is said that this signs and others like it represent maternity or, more specifically, childbearing. Related to childbearing in many cultures is the concept of marriage; in those cultures, the hand of Hamsa is also believed to protect both members of a couple.
Usually, the hand of hamsa is associated with the number five because the hand has five fingers. This is particularly true of Jewish culture.
What Is The Hamsa Hand Used For?
The main use for the hand of Hamsa is as an amulet. People who believe in its power think that the amulet represents strength, blessings, and, mostly, protection against the evil eye.
That is why many people in the Middle East and Northern Africa use it as a component of the jewelry that they wear. But you can also see it used as a decorative element in more traditional homes, usually hanging from walls, and sometimes painted in red. The red coloring was traditionally achieved from the blood of purposefully sacrificed animals and it is still sometimes done that way.
When there is either an expectant mother or a newborn baby in the household, the Hamsa hand may also be hung on the doorways to their rooms for protection.
The hand is seen as guarding people against evil. For protection against evil, it is more common to see the hand depicted with all the five fingers spread out. But because the symbol is also used for good luck, sometimes the hand is depicted with all the five fingers closed together.
Sometimes, these amulets are so stylized that it may be hard to recognize them as hands. Mostly, it can be hard to identify the fingers, which may be merely represented by five circles.
Why is the protection against the evil eye so important? In many cultures that originate from the Middle East, there is the belief that the evil eye is an extremely powerful force that can cause anything from general misfortune (or bad luck) to sickness or even death. Very young children are more susceptible to being affected by the evil, hence the emphasis on protecting them against it. That is the explanation as to why the Hamsa hand often has an eye symbol. The eye is supposed to watch out for the presence of evil, while the hand itself will ward it off.
What Is the Significance of the Hand of Hamsa?
This symbol has a strong connection with Arab culture and, in parts of Northern Africa, also with Berber culture. Because of this strong connection, the hand has become one of the main national symbols of Algeria, a country where both cultures co-exist.
Ethnically, Tuareg describe themselves as white. And they don’t look Arab or black. Many Tuareg have light skin, light eyes and sharp angular noses and cheekbones. They are cousins of the Berbers of North Africa. Some legends say the Tuaregs are the decendents of an ancient Roman legion that disappeared into the desert two millennia ago. – Richard Engel
The hand of Hamsa is also a hugely popular amulet in Egypt, where is mostly used to guard people against the evil eye alongside other amulets such as the Hirz (a box that contains Quran verses) or the Eye. In Egypt, these amulets are mostly used by women and children.
The significance of this symbol in Jewish culture is linked to the Ten Commandments. The hand is meant to symbolize the hand in the biblical statement: “Lord took Israel of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.” Therefore, the significance of the hand is God’s will at helping the Jewish people, which is a powerful religious symbol in Jewish tradition.
The hand is also used as a symbol in Jewish marriage contracts (or Ketubah), and also in other rituals.
In present days Israel, the hand of Hamsa is a strong symbol in everyday life and some people may even go as far as to consider it a symbol of the state as well. The symbol is so ubiquitous there that it has also become secularized and regarded as a cool talisman by many people who may not be particularly religious. As such the hand of Hamsa can be seen in many contexts in Israel, including commercials, lottery tickets, keychains, postcards, jewelry (mostly necklaces), etc.
More traditional, the hand of Hamsa has been used mostly by Mizrahi Jews and for a while, particularly, by Ashkenazi Jews. This is especially the case in the early days following the establishment of the State of Israel.
The Hamsa hand is one of the most beloved and used amulets in the world.*NOTE: New DOI's are registered weekly Friday and may not function until then.