The meaning of the Hamsa symbol, also called the hand of God, the hand of Fatima, the hand of Mary, and the hand of Miriam in different contexts, goes back nearly 2,000 years, and is a symbol of protection in many different cultures. The ancient symbol, which looks like the fingers of the hand, is important in the Jewish faith and Jewish culture, as well as in Islamic faith and other religions as a symbol of good fortune, good health, and protection from evil forces.
The Hamsa symbol is becoming popular among modern audiences, even among western cultures with no ties to the various religions it comes from, as a way to attract good luck and repel negative energy.
However, knowing its origins, its spiritual importance in reference to the books of the Torah and other important religious texts, as well as its meaning as an Arabic word or Hebrew word, only increases the importance of this symbol.
Here is everything you need to know about the Hamsa symbol meaning.
What is the Hamsa Symbol?
The Hamsa symbol is a symbol in the shape of a right palm with five fingers of the hand (although the hand will often have two thumbs). In the center of the palm, there is an eye.
Geographically, the Hamsa symbol is popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where you commonly see it on jewelry, wall hangings, and more.
Archeologists trace the open palm as protection back to Mesopotamia, and it was subsequently adopted by followers of all the major religions in the MENA region.
The Hamsa symbol has many names. You will also see it referred to as the hand of God, the hand of Fatima (the daughter of the prophet Mohammed in Islam), the hand of Mary (the mother of Jesus Christ, an important figure in Islam as well as Christianity) or the hand of Miriam (the sister of Moses). Across different cultures, it is associated with divinity and often female symbols of protection.
What Does the Hamsa Hand Symbolize?
The Hamsa hand symbolizes many different things. Due to its divine connotations, it is an important symbol of protection against evil (more on the protective element later). When the hand faces downwards, it is a symbol of prosperity, abundance, and good fortune.
Since the symbol is so widespread geographically and culturally, there are often slightly different interpretations of the symbol’s meaning depending on the context.
For example, in Islamic culture, some people connect the five fingers to the five pillars of Islam, while in Judaism, some connect the five fingers to the five books of the Torah.
In Hinduism and Buddhism, some people interpret the hand as referring to the five chakras.
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How Do You Pronounce Hamsa?
Hamsa derives from the Arabic word khamsa, meaning five. The Hebrew word for five is hamesh, which is similar. In Hebrew and Arabic, the “h” sound at the beginning of the word Hamsa is pronounced with a more guttural sound than in English, so the real pronunciation would be “CH-amsa” or “KH-amsa.”
However, since this pronunciation is sometimes hard for non-native speakers of Hebrew or Arabic, then pronouncing it “HAM-sa” with a regular “h” sound English speakers are used to is fine.
Should the Hamsa be up or down?
When the Hamsa hand symbol is facing up, it is for protection from evil or negative forces. When it is facing down, it is used for prosperity, abundance, and good luck.
What Does the Hamsa Protect You From?
The Hamsa is a symbol of protection. However, you might be wondering what exactly the Hamsa is protecting you from. Most people interpret the Hamsa as a symbol of protection from the evil eye. In the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa, people of different cultures believe in the evil eye, which is a curse that someone can transmit to you by means of a malicious glare if they are overpowered by envy or malice toward you.
The best way to ward off the evil forces that power the evil eye is with an eye of protection that counteracts the bad ocular energy.
That is why many Hamsa symbols that are meant to ward off the evil eye have an eye embedded in the palm.
The other common amulet for warding off the evil eye is the nazar, or a bright blue amulet meant to represent a blue eye.
Negative energy manifested in the form of an eye is present in some religious scriptures, including the Talmud and Torah.
As such, the divine connotations of the Hamsa, which is sometimes called the hand of God, after all, serve to help protect from evil thoughts.
In modern spirituality, the Hamsa is used as a general protection symbol against bad thoughts and bad luck.
Origin of the Hamsa Hand Symbol
Untangling the origins of the Hamsa hand symbol is murky because evidence of a hand symbol as protection used in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa goes back centuries.
Various archeological remains of hands used as symbols of protection were found in ancient Mesopotamia, Carthage (in modern-day Tunisia), and even the Iberian Peninsula.
In ancient symbolism, the Hamsa was tied to female goddesses such as Inanna in Mesopotamia and the Hand-of-the-All-Goddess in Egypt and was primarily worn by women to ward off bad luck and attract fertility.
The feminine origins of the Hamsa are visible today as many of the modern names for the symbol, such as the hand of Fatima, Miriam, or Mary, reference important female religious figures.
Over time, as the monotheistic religions that originated in the Levant supplanted earlier pagan beliefs, they adapted many symbols used in those old spiritual systems and gave them new meaning. One such amulet is the Hamsa hand symbol.
What Religion Does the Hamsa Hand Belong To?
No one religion can claim the Hamsa hand.
It is certainly an important symbol in the Jewish faith. In Jewish tradition, protection against the evil eye is very important, with references to this curse in important texts such as the Talmud.
The Hamsa hand is particularly important within the mystical kabbalah tradition, where priests used the symbol directly in the text when writing the name of God.
However, Judaism cannot claim exclusivity over the Hamsa symbol, and many Jewish people acknowledge that the Hamsa became so prominent thanks to interactions between the Sephardic Jewish community and Islam.
In Islam, the symbol is a reference to the five pillars of Islam, and wearers of the amulet are called upon to remember their faith as protection against evil.
In Islam, the amulet is commonly called the hand of Fatima, in reference to Muhammad’s very faithful daughter.
According to legend, Fatima’s husband Ali brought home a concubine he wanted to marry as an additional wife.
Fatima was so despondent over this, she dropped her cooking spoon and continued stirring with her hand, not noticing the pain, moving Ali to abandon his plans.
As such, Fatima became a symbol of faith and devotion, particularly for women.
Although the Hamsa symbol is most prominent in Judaism and Islam, it comes up in other religions as well. Some Christians see the hand as a reference to the Virgin Mary, as she is commonly painted holding her hand in this way.
It spread eastward and was adapted by practitioners of Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism.
What Cultures Use Hamsa?
The Hamsa is important in many different cultures.
It is very important in Jewish culture, particularly in the Sephardi community. Sephardi Jews are members of the Jewish community who lived in Spain and Iberia during the Moorish conquest.
After the Inquisition, members of this community fled across the world, mostly to North Africa and the lands of the Ottoman Empire, leading to close contact with Islam.
Today, Sephardi women incorporate Hamsa symbols when doing their henna.
Cultures across the Middle East and North Africa, regardless of religion and other divisions, see the Hamsa as an important amulet.
It is important to Arabs and Amazigh people (indigenous people of North Africa) and is even considered one of Algeria’s national symbols.
Levantine Christians, or Christians from the Middle East, also consider the Hamsa an important symbol for their community.
Can Anyone Use a Hamsa?
Although historical context firmly locates the Hamsa in the Middle East and North Africa (with some spread eastward into Central Asia and India), today, modern followers of New Age spirituality wear the Hamsa regardless of their cultural origins.
Is this allowed, or is it seen as disrespectful?
Since the Hamsa is used by so many different cultures, it’s hard to find a definitive answer. Most people agree that since the Hamsa is so widespread already, it makes no sense to gatekeep it.
However, people who choose to wear it should be aware of its symbolism and importance and not just wear it to look cool or seem exotic.
Some cultures and religions place restrictions on whether or not their members can wear a Hamsa. Some branches of Christianity consider it a Jewish or Muslim symbol and ban followers from wearing it.
Even some devout Jews and Muslims don’t wear the Hamsa because they see it as an amulet with pagan influences, going against proscriptions in the holy books.
Ultimately, wearing the Hamsa or not comes down to personal choice as the Hamsa is often a religious symbol, but doesn’t have to be.
What Is the Difference Between the Hamsa and the Evil Eye Symbol?
The Hamsa is often confused with another amulet called the nazar, or the evil eye. The evil eye amulet is popular in the Middle East as well as the Balkans. Both the Hamsa and the evil eye are symbols of protection, and there is some overlap as the Hamsa often contains an eye engraved into the palm and is also a symbol of protection against the evil eye. However, there are a few differences between them.
The primary one is meaning. The evil eye has an exclusively protective meaning as a symbol of repelling malicious curses. However, the Hamsa also has a positive connotation of attracting good luck and prosperity.
It is commonly in the form of a bright blue or green eye (Those eye colors are uncommon in the region, so they symbolize the unusual strength of an evil eye.).
Like the Hamsa, the evil eye is often found on jewelry as well as pendants for the home.
Another difference is the geographic and cultural distribution. While the Hamsa is more popular in North Africa and parts of the Middle East, the evil eye is popular in the Balkans, especially in Greece and Turkey, as well as the Middle East.
Can You Wear the Hamsa Hand and Evil Eye Together?
Let’s say you’re extra nervous about a curse and looking for additional protection, or you just want an eclectic collection of jewelry that combines many different symbols—you may be wondering if you can wear the Hamsa and evil eye together. Answers about the practice contradict. Some people believe that the two amulets cancel each other out.
Others say that they enhance each other, especially since the meaning of the Hamsa is not purely about repelling the evil eye but also about invoking divine connection. Wearing the two together might bring you extra protection.
If you’re in doubt and the meaning is important to you, consult a faith leader or community historian.
Hamsa Hand Benefits
There are many benefits of wearing the Hamsa hand or hanging up the amulet on your wall.
One is a feeling of protection. The amulet has protective meanings dating back thousands of years and can ward off bad luck or potential curses (if the latter is something you believe in).
In addition to repelling negative energy, it can help you bring in positive energy.
Wearing the Hamsa hand can help you feel closer to your spirituality, whatever your beliefs. If you are Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, you can use the Hamsa as an opportunity to learn more about aspects of your culture you didn’t know about.
If you are interested in New Age spirituality, the Hamsa and other amulets are a great starting point for learning more.
Finally, a benefit of the Hamsa hand is that it is a genuinely beautiful symbol that will add elegance to any context.
Meaning of the Hamsa Symbol: Synopsis
Following its decades old religious meaning, the Hamsa hand symbol means protection from evil spirits (or negative energies), and attraction of good luck, prosperity, and even as a Pagan fertility symbol.
It represents a connection to the divine in many faiths, as seen by its other names that reference important religious figures such as Fatima, Miriam, Mary, and even God Himself.
Although it originated in the Middle East and North Africa, the Hamsa is popular worldwide today.