You might have heard about different amulets and talismans believed to guard against evil eyes and bring good fortune. One such protective talisman is the Hamsa hand – most commonly depicted as a palm with three fingers and a curved pinky finger or thumb on each side.
It is commonly worn as a charm or pendant and even can be found in various wall hangings.
The Origin of The Hamsa Hand Symbol
It is a religious symbol commonly associated with Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, some sects of Islam as well as some other traditions. However, the research suggests it originated much before many of those religions emerged.
Some trace the origin of the Hamsa hand to the ancient Mesopotamia and Carthage regions, while others say it might have originated from Phoenicia (an ancient civilization that existed in the eastern Mediterranean region around 2500 BC).
The engravings of the Hamsa hand symbol were also found in ancient caves, from the Paleolithic era, in various parts of the world, including Australia, Algeria, and some parts of Europe.
There might be some conflict regarding its origin, but it has always been considered a symbol of hope and protection. Moreover, its centuries-long history has earned it various names in different cultures and religions.
The Various Names of Hamsa Hand
The Hamsa hand symbol earned various names through ages. The most commonly known ones include Khamsa and Hamesh, meaning five in Arabic and Hebrew, respectively.
In Jewish culture and religion, it is named after the sister of Moses and Aaron and is called the Hand of Miriam.
Jews characterize the Hamsa hand as an emblem of God’s hand. Christians call it the Hand of the Mother Mary, whereas the followers of Islam have named it the Hand of Fatima, after the daughter of their prophet, Muhammad.
Hamsa Meaning and Symbolism
Apart from being a powerful talisman against evil eyes, it is believed to have different effects depending on how one chooses to wear it.
According to popular belief, wearing the Hamsa hand symbol with fingers facing upwards gives you protection against all kinds of evil forces, ranging from the evil eye to one’s negative feelings, attitudes, and behaviors. The hand symbol with fingers facing downwards is believed to bring good luck to the bearer.
Now that we are aware of its meaning, let’s discuss its significance in different religious traditions to gain a better understanding of its perception in other parts of the world.
The Meaning and Symbolism of Hamsa Hand in Islam
In Islamic cultures, the Hamsa hand symbol is called the Hand of Fatima. The most common meaning attached to the Hamsa hand symbol in Islamic tradition is that it represents the five pillars of the religion – faith, prayer, fasting, alms or tax, and pilgrimage.
However, Shi’ites, a sub-group within Muslims, consider it a symbol that denotes the Five People of the Cloak, including Prophet Muhammad, His daughter Fatima, son-in-law, and two grandsons.
While these two are the prevalent symbolical notions regarding the Hand of Fatima, there is another (less common) story associated with it that some believe to be the reason why the symbol is called the Hand of Fatima.
Legend has it that one day Fatima, the daughter of Muslims’ prophet, was cooking in her home when her husband showed up with a new wife. Seeing that, the ladle in Fatima’s hand dropped, but she didn’t realize and continued to stir the food with her bare hand.
There is another, slightly different, narrative according to which Fatima unintentionally placed her hand on the stove and didn’t even realize that her hand was burning or felt the heat.
Ever since then, Fatima’s hand became a symbol of strength, patience, faithfulness, and resilience and wearing the symbol is believed to bring these characteristics to the wearer.
The Hand of Fatima with an evil eye on the palm is also often used for protection against the evil eye.
The most significant historical appearance of the Hand of Fatima in Islamic culture was found on Puerta Judiciaria, an ancient 14th-century Islamic fortress in Spain also called the Gate of Justice.
The Meaning of Hamsa Hand Symbol in Judaism
The Hamsa hand symbol has a strong connection with Jewish religion and culture. It is believed to be first adopted by the Sephardic Jews who inhabited the Iberian Peninsula during the late 15th century.
They called it Hamesh, meaning five in Hebrew, and considered it a representation of their five religious books, i.e. the five books of the Torah. Sephardic Jews were also the ones to call the Hamsa hand symbol the Hand of Miriam, after the sister of Moses.
According to their belief, she played a vital role in saving him from Pharaoh by convincing Pharaoh’s daughter to adopt Moses when he was a baby. Miriam is known among Jews for her bravery, and wearing the Hand of Miriam is believed to bring the same to them.
According to another prevalent Jewish narrative, the Hamsa hand symbolizes the Hand of God. This comes from the association of the Hamsa symbol with “Hei”, the fifth Hebrew letter that is often used as an abbreviation for God Hashem.
The symbol is also considered by many Jews as a reminder to align all five of their senses while praying. However, some believe that it symbolizes the five ways to praise God while praying.
While the Hamsa hand symbol has a long history in Jewish belief and tradition, it has recently experienced a resurgence due to the renewed interest in Jewish mystical tradition, Kabbalah. The symbol is now widely used in jewelry to fight off all evil forces and negative energies.
Hamsa Hand Meaning in Buddhism and Hinduism
Buddhists and Hindus view the Hamsa hand as a spiritual symbol, with each finger representing a chakra and a natural element. Here’s a brief overview of what Hindus and Buddhists believe the Hamsa symbol represents:
- The Forefinger – It represents the heart chakra and the element of air. It denotes love for both others and one’s own self, self-confidence, and being secure about what and who you are.
- The Middle Finger – Representing the throat chakra and ethereal elements, the middle finger of the Hamsa hand is believed to be a symbol of diplomacy and integrity. It is believed to bring good luck in important ventures and business deals.
- The Ring Finger – It represents innocence and the ability to see good in others, no matter how difficult or bad the conditions are.
- The Pinky Finger – Hindus and Buddhists see the smallest finger as the symbol of the sacral chakra and the water element, denoting forgiveness’s importance. It emphasizes the importance of forgiving others for your own mental peace.
- The Thumb – Symbolizing the solar plexus chakra and the fire element, the thumb in the Hamsa hand represents imagination and creativity.
Buddhists and Hindus also consider the Hamsa hand as a symbol of the five basic mudras and senses.
Hamsa Meaning in Christianity
The symbol is not accepted or believed upon by all Christians. Some believe that it represents the Hand of Mary, her higher honorable position, and her love for all humans as a loving and caring mother. It is also considered a symbol of how God can elevate an ordinary person to a higher position, just like He did to Jesus’ mother.
An art historian Walter Leo Hildburgh also came up with another notion regarding the association or position of the Hamsa symbol in Christianity. According to him, it emerged from the artistic interpretations of Jesus’ mother, as seen in many historical paintings.
For the uninitiated, many historical Christian paintings of Mary showed her hands in the fig pose, which somewhat resembles the Hamsa hand.
While some Christians associate religious meanings to the Hamsa hand symbol and use it as a talisman, others oppose it for two reasons.
Firstly, Christianity generally denounces any other symbol apart from the cross, and secondly, the Hamsa hand symbol is associated with other religions.
The Use of Hamsa Hand Symbol in Modern Times
With a resurgence of interest in symbolism, particularly in the Western world, the Hamsa hand symbol has gained immense popularity lately. It is used in jewelry, wall hangings, keychains, decorative accessories, artwork and tattoos. People even hang the symbol in their homes and cars for protection against the evil eye.
This wraps up our detailed articles on the Hamsa hand symbol, its meaning across cultures and religions and origin. If you liked it, you will probably enjoy reading our piece on protection symbols and their meanings here.
You might also want to check out another ancient symbol of protection the Seal of Solomon here or read all about sacred geometry symbols and their meanings here.
See you in the next post, thanks for reading!