Origin of the Hamsa Hand
Although the hamsa hand has been symbolic in Islam and Judaism for centuries, archeological digs in the Middle East provide evidence that the hamsa pre-dates these religions and originated with the Phoenicians and was used as a protective symbol for an ancient Middle Eastern goddess. The hamsa hand has always been associated with a female entity offering protection from evil and misfortune.
The word “hamsa” or “hamesh” means five. There are five digits on the hamsa hand, but the number five has additional symbolic meaning in the Jewish and Islamic traditions. Five (hamesh in Hebrew) represents the five books of the Torah for Jews. It also symbolizes the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “Heh”, which represents one of God’s holy names. It symbolizes the Five Pillars of Islam for Sunnis, and the Five People of the Cloak for Shi’ites.
In the Jewish religion, the Jewish hamsa hand also symbolizes the Hand of God. Many Jews believe the hamsa pendant symbolizes the Hand of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. In the Islamic faith, the hamsa hand symbolizes The Hand of Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed.
Many Jews believe that the five fingers of the hamsa hand remind its wearer to use their five senses to praise God. Hamsa hands often contain an eye symbol, which is a powerful talisman against the evil eye. It is most often worn as a hamsa necklace, but can be found as a decorative element in houses, on key chains, on other jewelry items, and is quickly gaining popularity as an amulet in baby carriages. In addition to averting the gaze of the evil eye, it brings its wearer or owner happiness, luck, health, and good fortune.
Making the hamsas:
While visiting my sister in California last September, I copied her design for making hamsas. I made three while we sat around at her table and talked. Back in New York, I still had more hamsas tickling my fingers, wanting to be made. I searched through my fabric scraps, bought an Indian bedspread, and lots more beads.
My daughter suggested including a prayer of protection, so I put one inside the layers of fabric of each hamsa:
Let no sadness come to this heart
Let no trouble come to these arms
Let no conflict come to these eyes
Let my soul be filled with the
Blessing of joy and peace.
Each hamsa is different. That’s why I’ve enjoyed making them. They will be for sale at the POP-UP CRAFT FAIR. It was supposed to be this Saturday, November 13, 10:00-5:00, at 52 Dusinberre Rd., Gardiner, NY., but the weather looks too rainy, so we’ll likely be moving the FAIR to SUNDAY, same time and place.