Hamsa

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An original painting of a Hamsa, or Hand of Fatima. Acrylic paint on canvas. varnished. Nine inches by 12 inches. For protection.

From Wiki: The Hamsa (Arabic: خمسة‎‎ Khamsah, Hebrew: חַמְסָה‎‎, also romanized khamsa), is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and commonly used in jewellery and wall hangings. Depicting the open right hand, an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many times throughout history, the hamsa is believed to provide defense against the evil eye. The symbol originated in Punic Carthage, modern-day Tunisia, and was associated with the Goddess Tanit.

Khamsah is an Arabic word that means “five”, but also “the five fingers of the hand”. It may also be taken as a reference to the primary number itself.

History

Examples in Israel
Early use of the hamsa has been traced to ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) as well as ancient Carthage. A universal sign of protection, the image of the open right hand is seen in Mesopotamian artifacts in the amulets of the Qāt Ištar/Inana. Other symbols of divine protection based around the hand include the Hand-of-Venus (or Aphrodite), the Hand-of-Mary, that was used to protect women from the evil eye, boost fertility and lactation, promote healthy pregnancies and strengthen the weak, and in the Buddha’s gesture (mudrā) of teaching and protection. In that time, women were under immense pressure and expectation to become mothers. The women’s upbringing was centered on becoming a mother as an exclusive role, and it indicated child bearing as necessary. In addition, it was also thought marriage was a sense of protection for both the man and woman.

One theory postulates a connection between the khamsa and the Mano Pantea (or Hand-of-the-All-Goddess), an amulet known to ancient Egyptians as the Two Fingers. In this amulet, the Two Fingers represent Isis and Osiris and the thumb, their child Horus and it was used to invoke the protective spirits of parents over their child. Another theory traces the origins of the hamsa to Carthage (Phoenicia) where the hand (or in some cases vulva) of the supreme deity Tanit was used to ward off the evil eye. According to Bruno Barbatti, at that time this motive was the most important sign of Apotropaic magic in the Islamic world though many modern representations continue to show obviously an origin from sex symbolism.

This relates to the belief that God exists in everything. Another meaning of this symbol relates to the sky god, Horus. It refers to the eye of Horus, which means humans cannot escape from the eye of conscience. It says that the sun and moon are the eyes of Horus. The Hand of Fatima also represents femininity, and is referred as the woman’s holy hand. It is believed to have extraordinary characteristics that can protect people from evil and other dangers.

The hamsa’s path into Jewish culture, and its popularity particularly in Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish communities, can be traced through its use in Islam. Many Jews believe that the five fingers of the hamsa hand remind its wearer to use their five senses to praise God. This “favourite Muslim talisman” became a part of Jewish tradition in North African and Middle Eastern Muslim countries. The symbol of the hand appears in Kabbalistic manuscripts and amulets, doubling as the Hebrew letter “Shin”, the first letter of “Shaddai”, one of the names referring to God.

The khamsa holds recognition as a bearer of good fortune among Christians in the region as well. Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary (Arabic: Kef Miryam, or the “Virgin Mary’s Hand”). Well after the end of Islamic rule in Spain, its use was significant enough to prompt an episcopal committee convened by Emperor Charles V to decree a ban on the Hand of Fatima and all open right hand amulets in 1526.

The Hamsa is a sign of protection that also represents blessings, power and strength, and is seen as potent in deflecting the evil eye.

About alicemason1

I am an artist, illustrator and mother and live by the sea in the south east of England. I paint every day and am inspired by nature, mysticism and consciousness.. I hold art retreats in southern Spain. These retreats are for lovers of nature, art, walking, mountains, creativity, dance, music, yoga and meditation. I work alongside other artists to bring about these retreats. www.art-retreat-spain.com My Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AliceMasonArtist
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