The Hamsa is a very interesting symbol used in both Islamic and Jewish culture. Most commonly, the Hamsa is made in the shape of a hand with five fingers outstretched. There is, however, the uniԛue Cohanim Hamsa. In this position, the forefinger and third finger are joined from one side, and the ring finger and the little finger are joined from the other side. This forms the Hebrew letter “shin” and is the position of a Cohen’s fingers when he blesses the congregation.
The name “Hamsa” (“Hansa” in Sanskrit, or “Al Khamsa” in Arabic) is from the Semitic root word for five and is a very ancient symbol in the Middle East. Although it is an ancient symbol, the Hamsa is still popular today and is believed to possess magical powers of protection, happiness, and prosperity.
Some say that the Jews were the first to adopt the use of the Hamsa, as a protective amulet against the evil eye. Jewish lore sometimes calls the Hamsa the Hand of Miriam, referring to Miriam, the sister of Moses, or it is more generally called the Hand of God.
The Hamsa hand is also a popular talisman with Muslims, who call it the Hand of Fatima, referring to the daughter of Mohammed. To the Muslims, the Hamsa sometimes refers to the five pillars of Islam.
The Hamsa (also spelled “Chamsa” or “Khamsa”) is a very versatile symbol and can be worn as a pendant, can be used as a wall hanging or is sometimes even placed in a car for good luck and protection from evil.
When trying to decide where to hang a Hamsa you may find a lot of answers, but the truth is that it is according to your feelings. Hang the Hamsa where you need its powers of success or where you desire its powers of defense. As well as being worn as jewelry on your body, the Hamsa can be used as wall decor in your bedroom or living room, or you could hang it in your kitchen where everyone would be blessed, or under the mirror of your car, to bring good fortune and prosperity.
As to whether it is appropriate to use the Hamsa with the fingers pointing up or down, it depends upon whether you wish for protection against the evil eye, or for luck and success. With the fingers pointed up, the Hamsa symbolizes a “stop sign” to the adversary, in other words, for protection. With the fingers pointed down, the Hamsa symbolizes God’s goodness and blessings coming down to the wearer or to the room where it is hung. The interpretation of the Hamsa is for the individual who owns it.
For those interested in numerology, the word “Hamsa” means five, which is a prime number. The number five is a powerful number symbolizing protection, power and good fortune. The fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is “hey,” which means “Adonai” (God). The word “yad” (Hebrew for “hand,” the shape of the Hamsa) has the number 14. If you take the number 14 and view it as 1 plus 4, it equals 5, the number for Adonai.
In Chinese philosophy, the number five symbolizes the five senses, five basic colors and five elemental activities — Earth, Fire, Metal, Water, and Wood, and it is linked to the “sefira” Geburah, on the tree of life (Kabbalah).
The number five is also represented in the Pentagram (five-pointed star) and is an emblem for defense (The Pentagon).