(also known as Khamsa
) is a hand shaped amulet used for protection
by both Jewish and Muslim people. Its name comes from a Semitic root and literally
means "five". The Hamsa is usually shaped in the form of a symmetrical hand,
with thumbs on both side, and not in the anatomically correct way. Though it
is widely used by both Jewish and Muslim people, its origins pre-dates both
religions and is attributed to the goddess Tanit who was a Phoenician lunar
goddess, worshiped as the patron goddess at Carthage.
In Islam, the Hamsa is also known as "The hand
", after the Prophet Mohammad's only daughter, who's also related
to many miracles such as rain making. The story tells that one day Fatima was
busy stirring a pot when her husband Ali came into the house with a new wife
he had just married (Muslim men are allowed to marry 4 wives). Struck by grief
and sorrow, Fatima let the ladle slip from her hand and continued stirring with
her own hand, not noticing the pain. Her hand has since become a symbol for
patience and faith. The Hamsa is also said to symbolize the five pillars or
tenets of Islam.
In Judaism, The Hamsa is also known as "YAD HA'CHAMESH" (The hand of five) or
"The hand of Miriam
" after the sister
of Moses and Aaron. It is also connected to five books of the Torah.
Hamsa for protection
The Hamsa is used to ward of the evil eye and can be found on the entrances
of homes, in cars, on charm bracelets and chains and more. It is also common
to place other symbols in the middle of the Hamsa that are believed to help
against the evil eye such as fish, eyes and the Star of David. The color blue,
or more specifically light blue, is also considered protective against the evil
eye and we could see many Hamsas in that color or with embedded gemstones in
different shades of blue. In Jewish use, Hamsas are often decorated with
prayers of a protective fashion such as the Sh'ma Prayer, the Birkat HaBayit
(Blessing for the Home), or the Tefilat HaDerech (Traveler's Prayer).