Saturday, April 7, 2012
Hamsa, also romanized khamsa, is an Arabic word that literally means "five", but also "the five fingers of the hand“.
Its exact origins are unknown but it is an almost universal sign of protection which was used to ward off the evil eye.
With the advent of Islam, the khamsa came to be known as the hand of Fatima to commemorate Fatima Zharsa, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.
The hamsa's path into Jewish culture, and its popularity particularly in Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish communities, can be traced through its use in Islam. This "favorite Muslim talisman" became a part of Jewish tradition in North African and Middle Eastern Jewish communities.
The khamsa holds recognition as a bearer of good fortune among Christians in the region as well. Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary.
Used to protect against evil eye, a malicious stare believed to be able to cause illness, death, or just general unluckiness, hamsas often contain an eye symbol.
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