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The hamsa hand symbol is one of the oldest symbols used across multiple religions. It predates Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. It originated in Carthage, present-day Tunisia, and in Mesopotamia, current day Iraq, making the hamsa over 1,800 years old. Its universal message and symbolism provide meaning to many people and, at the same time, allows a person to give the hamsa a personal interpretation.
When you read this article, you can learn:
- The History and Symbolism of the Hamsa Hand
- How the Hamsa Unites People
- Many Uses of the Hamsa in the Home
- The Hamsa Prayer
- Hamsa Symbols Found in Pop Culture
The History and Symbolism of the Hamsa Hand
The hamsa, or hamesh in Hebrew, has been worn as a protective sign in every faith. This sign has evolved into two different forms. The first of which is a hand with two symmetrical thumbs and three fingers in the middle. The second form takes the shape of an actual hand with one thumb and four fingers. Some hands have an eye in the center of the palm used as a way to ward off the evil eye.
In the Jewish faith, the hamsa represents several different aspects of the faith. Each digit of the hamesh represents the five books of the Torah; they also represent heh, the fifth letter in the Hebrew Alphabet, heh, which is also one of God’s holy names. It symbolizes the hand of God as well as the hand of Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron. And finally, Jews believe that the five fingers of the hand remind the wearer to use their five senses to praise God.
In Islam, the five fingers of the hamsa represent the five pillars of Islam: belief, worship, fasting, almsgiving, and pilgrimage. The hamsa also represents the 5 People of the Cloak in Islam: the Prophet Muhammed, his daughter Fatima, his cousin Ali, and his grandsons Hassan and Husayn.
How the Hamsa Unites People
Because the hamsa hand predates modern religion, it has become the symbol for Middle East peace activists. It is worn to show the similarities between Judaism and Isam and the similarities of their origins. Some wear the hamsa as a gesture of hope, peace, and prosperity in Israel and other areas of the Middle East.
Many Uses of the Hamsa in the Home and Jewelry
The versatility of the hamsa makes it applicable to many uses in the home. It can be incorporated into home decor as a talisman to bring good fortune, happiness, luck, health, and to ward off the evil eye or an ill intent stare, causing death, illness, and bad luck. At one time, the symbol was painted with red ink onto the walls of the house for protection. In ancient cultures, the blood of a sacrificed animal was used for the red dye.
It can also be used as an amulet in baby carriages to bring health and happiness to the newborn child.
The hamsa is such an important and holy symbol to the Jewish people; it can be found both in and out of the synagogue. It is a universal symbol used on marriage agreements and on items that adorn the Torah, such as pointers.
The most common use of the symbol is as a pendant or on other types of jewelry. Historically, the jewelry was made with both gold and silver, silver being the most widely used due to the belief it not only represented purity but also contained magical elements.
It can be worn with the fingers pointing down or up. When the fingers are facing down, the wearer is receptive to gifts of abundance and the benevolence of the Universe. Wearing the fingers facing down brings fertility, good fortune, and fulfilled desires. If the fingers are spread open, it is said to ward off evil. If the pendant has closed fingers, it is said that the gesture welcomes good luck. Whenever wearing a symbol such as a hamsa, consider the symbol’s origin, meaning, and place in culture.
The Hamsa Prayer
The prayer reads:
“Let no sadness come through this gate.
Let no trouble come to this dwelling.
Let no fear come through this door.
Let no conflict be in this place.
Let this home be filled with the blessing of joy and peace.”
The hamsa prayer, Birkat HaBeyitin in Hebrew, is a traditional blessing from on wall plaques placed at the entrance of Jewish homes or in or near windows. These plaques can be simple or very ornate and are often given as a housewarming gift.
Hamsa Symbols Found in Pop Culture
While posing for pictures, Megan Markle was spotted wearing a hamsa hand shaped ring as she cradled her unborn child. The delicate gold ring traced the outline of the hamsa with a small stone placed in the palm as the eye. The ring was most likely worn to bring her good fortune.
The hamsa is a popular image for many celebrity tattoos. Actress, Génesis Rodríguez, has a hamsa tattooed on the top of her right foot augmented with the Star of David and the Hebrew word chai, meaning life. The inspiration for the tattoo came from a trip to Israel.
Other tattooed celebrities include Charisma Carpenter with a hamsa tattooed on the right side of her back, Zoe Kravity with a hamsa hand tattoo on her right forearm, and Jessica Shears with her left heel tattooed.
It is a symbol of peace, a sign of protection, and a representation of one’s faith. Its universal theme unites people in the strive for peace across all cultures. The hamsa hand is one of the few symbols that can be universal and uniquely personal at the same time.
Meta: Are you curious about the mysterious hand symbol worn by Jews, Christians, Muslins, and celebrities? Read on to find out about the hamsa hand meaning and how it permeates cultures around the globe.