The symbol called a Hamsa is a timeless symbol that has endured from the peoples of ancient Mesopotamia and Carthage to A-list celebrities of today. The Eye is a simple but striking image of just that, an eye. But, a hamsa is a stylized right hand with fingers spread (to ward off evil) or closed (to bring luck). Many times you can see an eye placed inside of the palm of the hamsa-hand. Commonly cast out of gold or silver, these two lucky symbols are really one of the most eye-catching pieces of jewelry you can find, no pun intended.
Over the years the striking design has remained relatively unchanged, but its spirit has meant many things.
To the ancient Mesopotamians the Hand of Fatima (or Khamsa) was a symbol to ward off the evil spirits of malice, jealousy and envy. The hand became common for those seeking protection, especially for pregnant women and new mothers. The hand was also a symbol of divine providence; it was carved out of jet or cast in silver and hung to bring luck to families.
The eye is a potent symbol of protection in Jewish culture as well. The five fingers of the hand is said to remind oneself to praise G-d with your five senses. It is known as the Hand of Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron. In Christianity, the Eye is called the eye of Mary and was said to have the power to protect pregnant women. An open palm is also seen in Buddha’s gesture of protection. The symbol truly has worldwide appeal.
With its widespread appeal some will ask what the true meaning behind this captivating ornament is.
Is it a symbol to ward off jealousy? An amulet to protect nursing mothers? Perhaps a talisman to bring the wearer luck and happiness. Maybe it’s a reminder to praise god with your entirety. Truthfully, the answers to these questions is simply: yes. It is all these things simultaneously, and it is the wearer that finds the meaning in this evocative piece through the lens of their own personal spirituality. The true power of this symbol is, in the end, intimacy: the intimacy one feels when holding it, and the connection to your own spirituality. The knowledge that you are connected to a rich history behind this symbol, while also making it your own- that’s a powerful feeling!
The push for more spirituality in the things we wear is strong, especially in America. Americans have always had a fascination with the personal over the group. We value independence, and resourcefulness. This has extended into our belief system as well, as more and more people gravitate to a spiritual movement, not one necessarily based in one religion. The Eye of Hamsa is a perfect companion for this journey, because at its heart it isn’t a religious symbol but a spiritual one. Wearing one is an affirmation of your own spirituality and the commitment to something more, whatever that may be to you.
The most common form of the Eye of Hamsa is a necklace, perfect for wearing every day. Even though in the past it was carved from jet or cast in silver, today you can find a Hamsa or an eye in almost any material you desire. It can be richly adorned with jewels or kept quite simple. It can be placed your cell phone case, worn as an evening bag, used on your couch as a pillow and even decorated on your t-shirt. Indeed, just as its inner meaning can match your inner spirituality, its outward appearance can match any sense of style.
Today you can find Hamsas on almost anything. You can find mugs, t-shirts, posters, hats, leggings, tattoos, even underwear. With all this availability, it is still relatively fringe in the west, but not for long. While the Hamsa has been wildly popular in the Middle East and North Africa- it’s on Algeria’s national emblem- it has begun to trickle into America. That trickle will become a flood, it has already begun as more and more young people gravitate to this timeless icon. Some great choices are Alef Bet Jewelry by Paula’s hamsa or evil eye earrings, bracelets or necklaces.