Hamsa - your protection from the evil

Hamsa (Chamsa, Khamsa) or Hamesh hand is a palm-shaped protective amulet. It is used by Muslims and Jews. The word “hamsa” has the Semitic root which means “five”. Muslim people traditionally call it the Hand of Fatima. Fatima Zahra was the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed. Hamsa is one of the national symbols of Algeria.

Hamsa made by the Berbers in Morocco
Hamsa made by the Berbers in Morocco

Among Jews the hamsa is sometimes called the Hand of Miriam. Miriam was the sister of Biblical Moses and Aaron. Five (in Hebrew “hamesh”) represents the five books of the Torah (Pentateuch). The Torah is the basic religious document of Judaism. Number five also symbolizes the “Heh” which is the fifth letter of the Jewish alphabet. This letter represents one of God's holy names. According to Jewish belief the five fingers on hamsa are also symbols of five human senses used to praise God.

Hamsa amulets at the market in Tel Aviv, Israel
Hamsa amulets at the market in Tel Aviv, Israel

The hamsa often includes an eye symbol. Arabs and Berbers believe that this symbol or the number five in general are related to warding off the evil eye. There are two basic forms of hamsa. One has stylized hand with two symmetrical thumbs. Other variety is more similar to the actual human hand. When worn fingers on hamsa can point up or down. Hamsa is usually worn as part of a necklace. But it also exists in the form of a decorative object, key chain or some other jewellery. There are situations where you can see hamsa as part of painting or sculpture. Hamsa can also be seen as part of a business ad.