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The eye-in-hand is an old and still popular apotropaic amulet for magical protection from the evil eye. Combining the imagery of Greek and Turkish blue all-seeing eye charms with the downward-facing Arab and Israeli hamsa hand, the eye-in-hand is a frequently encountered protective talisman in India and the southern Mediterranean region.

The three modern eye-in-hand amulets shown here are meant to be worn as jewelry. They are 3/4 of an inch to one inch in length. From left to right they are:

  • A sterling silver eye-in-hand amulet from Israel in which the eye is represented by a domed piece of burgundy-coloured glass; it was bought at a head shop in Berkeley, California, in 1995.
  • A carved bone eye-in-hand amulet from India, bought from Indian immigrants at a flea market in Oakland, California, in 1996. When asked what it was used for, the seller said, "To protect."
  • A sterling silver amulet in which a blue eye of lapis lazuli has been displaced above the hand and the hand itself reaches down to touch a five-petaled flower (perhaps a potentilla species) and what may be ocean waves or mountain peaks. The country of origin is unknown; it was bought at a new age cosmetics shop in Sebastopol, California, in 1995.

The most popular form of eye-in-hand amulet is probably the blue glass charm from Turkey. In the region of the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean, the evil eye is generally conceived as blue in colour. Thus a blue eye-charm is considered most efficacious in warding off the influence of envious gazing.

The blue glass eye-in-hand charm shown here is from Turkey. It is 3 3/4 inches in length and is equipped with a hanging chain and decorative blue ribbon. The Turks are prolific designers and manufacturers of this type of apotropaic charm. Being so large and fragile, these glass objects are not made to be worn as jewelry, but rather hung on the wall for magical protection, probably over the door or near the bed of a baby. Other blue glass wall-hanging amulets from Turkey include a dark blue all-seeing eye, a pale blue horseshoe covered all over wth small eyes, and a large circular blue eye from which is suspended a gold-toned horseshoe and a bunch of plastic grapes. In addition, the Turks make a smaller, jewelry-like blue glass amulet i call eyes-all-over.

To order a Turkish blue glass charm from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.

The eye-in-hand also appears with ambiguous symbolic content among the small artifacts associated with ancient cultures which may or may not have had the evil eye belief, such as the Mississippian tribes of North America. Some archaeologists have theorized that the presence of the eye-in-hand motif in North America is evidence of pre-Columbian exploration or settlement by Middle Eastern sailors; others have termed it an "intriguing coincidence" and left it at that.

The item shown here is a copy of a 3" terra cotta gorget from Moundville, Alabama, excavated from a pre-Columbian mound. It is by no means unique; similar eye-in-hand jewelry has been found throughout the range of the archaic Mound-Builder culture. This gorget was reproduced in cast concrete for use as a decorative architectural element at the Moundville museum -- and the illustration shown here is of the enlarged concrete copy, which was easier to photograph than the original. The circled cross at the top is usually interpreted as a solar symbol. The whole image is strikingly reminiscent of protective amulets from Israel and India, such as those shown above.

A symbolically similar object, also found at Moundville, is a pre-Columbian stone plate about 15" in diameter, engraved to show two rattlesnakes tied together, encircling the same eye-in-hand motif.

Thanks to Paul Rydeen for both the Moundville photo and the drawing.

For other hand charms, see:

hand of Power, Roman
hamsa hand, Jewish and Moslem
hamsa hand and cresecent amulet, Arabic
Helping Hand (of God), hoodoo
Helping Hand on hoodoo votive candle
Helping Hand on Lucky Mon-Gol Curio Number XI
eye-in-hand amulets
Lucky Hand root
Lucky Hand Alleged Indian Grandma formula in Sonny Boy Products
mano cornuto (horned hand)
mano fico (fig hand)
mano fico hand on a South American package amulet
mano fico (called mano poderosa) in South American charm vial
Mano Poderosa, the Powerful Hand (of God), Catholic
Mano Poderosa, the Powerful Hand (of God), on Catholic votive candles
Mano Poderosa, the Powerful Hand (of God), in a Peruvian package amulet
milagro hand in Mexican snow-globe pyramid of luck
"mojo hand" as alternative name for conjure bag


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