Hamsa is a palm shaped amulet, known to give blessings and protection to the house and its residents.
It’s a symbol of luck, spirituality, peace of mind and trust, that there is a power that protects and guides you.
The most known use of hamsa is protection against the evil eye.
The evil eye is a term used that means a sort of curse that a person casts on someone else, without the victim’s awareness, out of jealousy and envy.
In ancient cultures, it is believed that the evil eye can be cast on someone with the glare of the caster. That’s the origin of the name, to look upon someone’s good fortune with an evil inclination. Though there are a lot of people that believe that one don’t have to actually look at his/her victim in order to cast it, and that the evil eye just a metaphor and having bad intentions is enough.
This is where the hamsa comes in.
The right hand, especially a woman’s, is believed to be a protective symbol that can stop the evil eye.
In Judaism, the hamsa is known as the hand of Miriam (a biblical prophet and Moses’ sister). In Islam it’s the hand of Fatima (Muhammad’s daughter), whilst in Christianity it’s known as the hand of Mary and in ancient pagan culture it was known as the hand of the goddess.
The Shape of Hamsa
While most hamsas are palm simple shaped, there are more characteristics to it with an interesting stories and meaning, each one of them gives different meaning and purpose to the hamsa.
Most of the hamsas have an image of an eye in the middle of the palm. It’s very common since one of the major purposes of the hamsa is to defend against the evil eye.
It’s traditionally believed that one can protect her/himself and his/her loved ones by carrying a mirror that reflects the evil eye back to the caster.
The same thing applies to the eye on the hamsa, it doesn’t just stops the evil eye, but also reflects it back.
Most of the eyes on hamsa, and the hamsa itself, are often colored in shades of blue and white, since it’s believed the blue gives divine protection (the color of the sky) and it also calms the mind.
But, in some traditions it was also common to paint the hamsa in red.
The way the hamsa hung has several meanings.
When the fingers are up, it has more defensive nature, and while they’re down, it gives blessings, power and calms down fights in the house.
It’s very common to hang hamsa on or by the door/entrance of the house, and/or on or by the rest of the doors/entrances in the house, because it’s believed that when evil comes, it will enter the house or room through the door/entrance.
Having said that, it is also common to hang hamsas in a central place, usually on a wall. In this case, aside the protection, it gives strength and security to the house and its occupants.
Often times, hamsas are hung in the room of a mother to be or in a newborn baby’s room, to protect them when they’re most vulnerable.
Most of the times, the fingers are pressed together, a shape that believed to bring luck. When the fingers are spread, it’s used to ward off evil.
The fingers are usually symmetric; the thumb and the little finger are at the same size and height, and the other 3 fingers are higher and also at the same size and height. This gives the feelings of harmony and divine protection.
Most of the hamsas appear in the shape of a palm, and there are some that don’t resemble it at all. Instead, there are other symbols that replace the palm and the fingers.
It’s also very common to draw hamsas and create them in other forms of arts as well.
Aside from that, there’s a tradition to paint the hands (usually with red, sometimes even with blood of a sacrificed animal) and then print them on the walls of the house. These palm prints also used in a similar way to hamsa, to protect the house.
Another aspect of hamsa is joy and celebration. Hamsas are used to decorate the house and give more color and life to the gathering of the family, and to also encourage people to be happy and feel the joy of life.