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The History and Meaning of the Hamsa Hand

The hamsa is a powerful symbol in the shape of an open right hand, revered in many cultures as a talisman of protection. Many believe that wearing the hamsa encourages strength and power in the wearer. You’ve probably seen this symbol before, often in conjunction with an eye placed in the center of the palm; what can the hamsa do for you?

Learn more about the history of the hamsa hand and its meaning with this guide from Satya Jewelry. Use your newfound knowledge to inspire you to wear this symbol as a protective and empowering charm.

Early History and Uses

The earliest uses of the hamsa as a spiritual symbol date back to ancient Mesopotamia. Devotees of the goddess Inanna, later called Ishtar, used it as an amulet. Inanna was the Mesopotamian patroness of love, beauty, sexuality, and fertility. Archeologists have also found extant examples of hamsa imagery in Carthaginian and Phoenician archeological sites in modern-day North Africa.

Some scholars have theorized that the hamsas found in these areas evolved from an ancient Egyptian symbol called Mano Pantea, or Hand-of-the-All-Goddess. The Mano Pantea is also called the Two Fingers, with the extended pointer and middle fingers representing Isis and Osiris. The extended thumb represents Isis and Osiris’s child, Horus, and the gesture denotes parents’ spiritual protection of their child.

Religious Connotations in Abrahamic Faiths

Because the hamsa has existed as a recognizable symbol for thousands of years, many religious and spiritual traditions have adopted and adapted it to their cultures. The three Abrahamic religions—Islam, Judaism, and Christianity—all place significance on the open right hand.

Islam: The Hand of Fatima

Adherents to the Muslim faith call the hamsa the Hand of Fatima, after the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter. The five fingers of the open right hand evoke different meanings in different Muslim traditions.

For Sunni Muslims, the fingers represent the five pillars of Islam: profession of faith, prayer, alms, fasting, and pilgrimage. To Shiite Muslims, the fingers represent the five people of the cloak: the Prophet Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, his son-in-law Ali, and his grandsons Hasan and Husayn.

Judaism: The Hand of Miriam

While usage of the hamsa has fallen in and out of favor among Jewish individuals over the centuries, its cultural significance remains steadfast. Ever since the time of the Ten Commandments, Jewish communities have utilized hamsa imagery and named the symbol in honor of Moses’s sister Miriam.

The hand of Miriam is a common motif in Jewish symbology, both inside the synagogue and out in the world. It represents the divine hand and outstretched arm that led the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt toward the Promised Land. To this day, members of the Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi branches of Judaism view the Hand of Miriam as a holy symbol of deliverance from struggle.

Christianity: The Hand of Mother Mary

While some Christians balk at the use of any symbology other than the cross or crucifix, others embrace the open hand as a divine symbol. Those that do incorporate the hamsa into their Christian practice associate it with the exaltation of Jesus’s mother, Mary, and the divine protection offered by her son.

The hamsa is ubiquitous across North Africa and the Middle East. However, the spiritual benefits of the hamsa are not exclusive to a single culture or religious tradition.

Hamsa Symbolism in Hindu and Buddhist Traditions

While the three Abrahamic religions place their own meanings on the hamsa hand, Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions have different views. These cultures place emphasis on the individual symbolism of each finger and associate them with corresponding chakras. After all, the word “hamsa” or “khamsah” is the Arabic word for “five”!

  • The thumb represents the solar plexus chakra and is connected with the fire element.
  • The forefinger aligns with the heart chakra and the element of air.
  • The middle finger connects to the throat chakra and is associated with ethereal elements.
  • The ring finger syncs up with the root chakra and the earth element.
  • The pinky finger symbolizes the sacral chakra and the flowing element of water.

In addition, the orientation of the hand can hold different meanings to Buddhists and Hindus.

Facing Down: Varada Mudra

When you wear your hamsa or hang it on your wall with the fingers pointing downwards, you welcome abundance and prosperity into your life. Sculptures and paintings that depict the hamsa facing down symbolize the answers to prayers and the granting of wishes.

Facing Up: Abhaya Mudra

Display or wear your hamsa hand with the fingers facing up, and you’ll enjoy the protective benefits of the hand itself and the eye in the center of the palm. That eye is commonly called the evil eye, but it actually works to ward off the negativity associated with unkind looks or jealous glances. Individuals who wear the hamsa as a protective charm typically wear it with the fingers pointing upwards.

How and Why To Wear the Hamsa

Now that you know more about the history and cultural impact of the hamsa symbol, consider incorporating it into your own life. Some spiritual devotees decorate their homes with hamsa imagery in paintings, sculptures, and wall hangings. Others prefer to bring the hamsa’s benefits with them everywhere they go by wearing symbolic pendants that feature hamsa charms.

No matter which way you prefer to incorporate the hamsa in your life, there are many reasons to do so—not just to protect yourself. Bringing the hamsa into your spiritual practice also protects your home and your family. And because it’s a meaningful symbol in a variety of cultures, wearing or displaying it also promotes intercultural acceptance and unity!

If you are interested in living a more spiritually connected and fulfilling life, consider the many benefits of hamsa symbols. Let the history and significance of the hamsa hand inspire you, and wear this talisman as a protective charm or a symbol that connects you with a diverse array of cultures. Satya Jewelry incorporates hamsa imagery into many pieces of spiritual jewelry that can improve your outlook on life.

The History and Meaning of the Hamsa Hand

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