Hamsa

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Hamsa Guide

The Hamsa symbol is one recognized by a wide variety of peoples across the world. Over time it has come to be recognized and used as a Jewish symbol explaining its wide use in Judaica items such as amulets or simple designs on a bigger piece. The image itself is one of an open hand and its five fingers. This shape is often formed abstractly, and designed in many different ways, but throughout history the Hamsa has only had one meaning: protection and safety.

The Hamsa Throughout History

The birthplace of the Hamsa is still considered somewhat of a mystery, though several fact-based theories do exist. While some are convinced that this symbol derives from the Carthaginians or Ancient Egyptians, others have noted that similar images were found in Mesopotamia connected to teachings of the Buddha.

The word “Hamsa” literally means five in Arabic and was originally used by the Arabs referring to the symbol as the five fingered hand of Fatima Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. As the symbol worked its way into Jewish communities in Africa and the Middle East it became known as the hand of Miriam and the Christians later named it the hand of Mary.

One thing that all cultures seemed to have agreed upon is the protection the Hamsa provided for the Evil Eye: a look given that was believed to cause luck to its receiver. The Hamsa was also considered a blessing that would help bring about positive events in life.

Modern Day Hamsa

Today, the Hamsa is found predominantly in the state of Israel where the symbol has caught on as style more than a superstition. In fact, the Hamsa has only recently experience a revival in Judaism and Israel. When the nation was first formed the symbol almost disappeared among Jews because the Ashkenazi population disapproved of its Eastern origins.

Now the Hamsa is wide spread in Israel and for many represents Israeli culture and the statehood of the Jewish nation.

Common Designs

The Hamsa has a meaning in and of itself, but it is often designed with additional artwork in Judaica products for additional or even personal intent.

One of the most well-known decorations for the Hamsa is a depiction (sometimes very abstract) of an eye representing the ancient superstition of the Evil Eye. Many Judaica items choose to add additional meaning to the symbol with other decorations of Judaism. Pomegranates or the Hebrew word “Chai” or “Living” are two favorites.

Besides this they can also be personalized with a name or family photo. Together with the different materials used to create artistic Hamsa, it’s the perfect item for any Jewish home.

For More Information

For more information about Hamsa or other Judaica items, feel free to contact our Judaica experts with any questions or concerns.

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