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What the heck is a Hamsa anyway?

This week I posted on FB a short prayer which could also be used as a meditation. It is often associated with the Hamsa hand. The Hamsa hand is a very old Middle Eastern talisman. It can be seen in many cultures and religions and is used as a protective symbol. People believe the Hamsa will protect them from harm, especially against the evil eye* (see below) and it acts as a good luck talisman bringing them abundance, goodness, fertility, luck and good health.

The word “Hamsa” can be spelled many different ways including: hamesh, hamsa, chamsa, and khamsa. This ancient symbol’s history is difficult to define since scholars of various faiths are unable to agree on the interpretation of the word Hamsa. It may have started as a Pagan symbol and then been adopted by other cultures. It is believed that the word, "Hamsa," comes from the Hebrew number five being "hamesh". In the Arabic language, it is called "khamesh" and in the Sunni culture, the Hamsa is associated with the Five Pillars of Islam. With all this information, you can see how an accurate historical lineage is difficult to obtain!

What is the Hamsa hand? It is a hand with 5 defined fingers – often with an eye in the centre of the palm of the hand. While it is often worn as jewelry, it can also be found in all kinds of home décor items from cushions to door knockers. People use this higher power or energy source to keep themselves protected from various forms of negativity that are outside their control. Often times the Hamsa hand or Hand of Fatima can be seen by guests as soon as they enter the home and there is a strong belief that this symbol will protect the home from fire.

Depending on who you ask, the Hamsa have very different symbolisms. The Hamsa hand is also known as the Hand of Fatima (Mohammed’s daughter) and the Hand of Merriam (Moses’ sister) so this symbol is significant to those in both the Jewish and Muslim faiths. It is also sometimes referred to as the Hand of Mary representing Mary, mother of Jesus. For Hindus and Buddhists, the Hamsa is less about protection from negativity and more about energy flow in the body, the five senses, and the mudras that affect them. In this case it is often believed that each digit has its own energy element and is associated with a chakra:

  • Thumb- Fire element, solar plexus chakra.

  • Forefinger- Air element, the heart chakra.

  • Middle Finger- Ethereal elements, throat chakra.

  • Ring Finger- Earth element, root chakra.

  • Pinkie Finger- Water element, sacral chakra.

These energies can be combined to change the flow of energy in the body and heal psychological and physical ailments.

A bracelet or necklace pendant with the Hamsa hand is often worn by people who have faith in a "Supreme Power" and find themselves at a cross-road in life. This is not so much a “religious” symbol as it carries across many religions because people who wear a Hamsa all have faith in a higher power.

Early on, many cultures adopted the eye as an icon for their protection, others used Hamsa and so over time the most popular universal symbol was the two of these meshed together becoming an eye placed in the palm of a hand. This is the common Hamsa that we see today. The eye is there as “all seeing” and it warns the owner of the hand of any negativity.

*There is superstitious belief that certain people possess the supernatural ability to cause disaster, illness, calamity and even death simply though the look or stare they are giving someone – this is what is widely known as the evil eye.

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