It’s common in the art of North Africa and the Middle East. But if you’ve ever seen a hand holding an eye and wondered what it’s all about, here’s a few things you might not have known.
1. For an ancient symbol of protection, it’s got a little bit of an identity crisis. The Jewish call it the hand of Miriam, while Christians refer to it as the hand of Mary. In Islam, it’s known as the hand of Fatima, commemorating Muhammad’s daughter.
2. Use of the hamsa can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, where it was thought to ward off the evil eye and promote fertility. Considering the culture of the time believed a woman’s greatest duty was to have children, this was kind of a big deal.
3. Although mostly seen in silver jewelry, the hamsa has also been known to be painted (in red) on the walls of houses for protection.
4. There are two versions of the symbol. When the fingers are spread, the hand wards off any evil that may be lurking. If you see a hand with the fingers closed, it is there to bring good luck.
5. A national symbol in Algeria and Egypt, the five fingers of the hamsa are thought by many Muslims to represent the Five Pillars of Islam, the five senses and the five daily prayers.
So the next time you see this symbol somewhere, think of it as a sign. Good luck is just around the corner!