THE HAMSA HAND
The hamsa hand (Arabic) or hamesh hand (Hebrew) is an old and
still popular apotropaic amulet for
magical protection from the envious or evil
eye. The words hamsa and hamesh mean "five" and refer to the
digits on the hand. An alternative Islamic name for this charm is
the Hand of Fatima, in reference to the daughter of Mohammed. An
alternative Jewish name for it is the Hand of Miriam, in reference to the sister of Moses and Aaron.
hand appears both in a two-thumbed, bilaterally symmetrical form,
as shown, and in a more natural form in which there is only one
thumb. There is good archaeological evidence to suggest that the
downward-pointing protective hamesh / hamsa hand predates both
Judaism and Islam and that it refers to an ancient Middle Eastern
goddess whose hand (or vulva, in other images) wards off the evil
The hamsa hand at the top left of this page is a 2 inch long modern
reproduction of an older piece, manufactured in pewter; the original was silver and of Arabic
origin. For another example of an Arabic hamsa hand amulet, see
Wills's Cigarette Card #17,
The Crescent and Hand. For an early 20th century French
hamsa hand, see the good luck
postcard featuring a European charm bracelet.
At the top right of this page is a vintage Jewish hamesh hand, or Hand of Miriam,
contained within a Star of David and surrounded by six
eyes. This pendant is of unknown age and was bought used in 2001 at a "car boot sale" (an open car-trunk sale) by a man named
Marc Beaumont (firstname.lastname@example.org), who then posted its image to the internet.
Embossed on the wrist of the hand are the rather blurry English
letters MIRY or MARY; either spelling is equivalent to the
Hebrew name Miriam.
The protective hamsa hand pendant charm at right is from Egypt. A diminutive
1" x 1 1/2" in size, this stamped tin Hand of Fatima features translucent
bright blue enamel overlay and
design for protection. It is
double-sided, yet light-weight enough to wear as an earring.
Although most hamsa hands are amulets, modern Israeli hamesh
hands are sometimes made in the form of ceramic wall plaques in
which a hand-lettered Hebrew prayer occupies the center of the
palm. These include variants that
seek to prevent earthquakes as well as forestall
overlooking by the evil eye.
Hamsa hand plaques, usually made of turquoise-glazed pottery,
are also found in modern Egypt. I don't have one to show you here,
but they resemble other anti-evil-eye plaques from Egypt, such
as one in my collection with a
blue horseshoe for luck and blue beads for
magical protection from the evil
Because the hamsa or hamesh hand protects against the evil
eye, the design in some examples merges into another design called
the eye-in-hand motif. In those instances,
a realistic or stylized eye appears in the center of the palm of the hand.
From modern Egypt comes the filigree-style metal hamsa hand key
ring at left. It is set with a glass "eye" in the palm and has little metal
danglers on each of the fingers.
The blue glass eye in its palm means
that the key ring does
double-duty as both a hamsa hand and as an eye-in-hand. It is not a "jewelry quality" piece of work, just an
ordinary trinket, but it is useful in warding off the envious gaze of those who might
be paying attention to one's car.
At left is a Hamsa Hand wall hanger from Egypt.
About 3" x 3 1/2" in size, it is made of stamped silvery-coloured metal covered with a transparent
wash of bright blue enamel paint that gives it a lovely "dimensional" effect. It
is fitted with a central blue glass eye-applique, which makes it an
eye-in-hand design, and it
also has a bunch of little "danglers" for added protection. It comes with a
silvery-coloured metal chain, and can be
hung in a car from the rear-view mirror or on a wall at home, either near the door or over a
baby's bed, where it will ward off the evil eye.
The back is unpainted; if it is to be hung where it can be seen from both sides, glue two together
back-to-back; they fit together perfectly. The maker of these hamsa hands
also makes a similar stamped metal
all-seeing eye wall hanger.
Order an Egyptian Hamsa Hand Amulet from the Lucky Mojo Curio Co.
For other hand charms, see:
hand of Power, Roman
hamsa hand, Jewish and Moslem
hamsa hand and crescent amulet, Arabic
Helping Hand (of God), hoodoo
Helping Hand on hoodoo votive candle
Helping Hand on Lucky Mon-Gol Curio Number XI
Lucky Hand root
Lucky Hand Alleged Indian Grandma formula
mano cornuto (horned hand)
mano fico (fig hand)
mano fico hand on a South American package amulet
Mano Poderosa, the Powerful Hand (of God), Catholic
Mano Poderosa on Catholic votive candles
"weaver's hand" in South American charm vial
"weaver's hand" 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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