7 December 2010

Hand of Fatima a palm-shaped amulet

"The khamsa (Arabic: خمسة ‎, Hebrew: חמסה‎, khamsa lit. five, also romanized hamsa and chamsa) is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The khamsa is often incorporated in jewelry and wall hangings, as a superstitious defense against the evil eye.  It is believed to originate in ancient practices associated with the Sabaeans and Nabataeans.

Another Arabic name for the hamsa (or khamsa) is the hand of Fatima, commemorating Fatima Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed.  Hamsa hands often contain an eye symbol. Depictions of the hand, the eye, or the number five in Arabic (and Berber) tradition is related to warding off the evil eye, as exemplified in the saying khamsa fi ainek ("five [fingers] in your eye").  Another formula uttered against the evil eye in Arabic is khamsa wa-khamis.   Due to its significance in both Arabic and Berber culture, it is one of the national symbols of Algeria, and appears in its emblem.

The khamsa is the most popular of the different amulets to ward off the evil eye in Egypt — others being the Eye, and the Hirz (a silver box containing verses of the Koran).  The Hand (Khamsa) has long represented blessings, power and strength and is thus seen as potent in deflecting the evil eye.  It's one of the most common components of jewelry in the region."

This is referred to as Fatima's hand or Khamsa in Tunisia.  It is a symbol which is used very widely in jewellery design and is worn as part of a necklace or a bracelet to protect the owner and it is also used inside and outside houses to protect the house.  It can be said to be a palm shaped amulet/talisman used in Tunisia, North Africa and the Middle East which is either worn on the person or used in a house or car or any other property or item which is precious to the person, to ward off against the evil eye.  According to Dorling Kindersley's Eyewitness Travel Guide to Tunisia, "the five fingers symbolize not only the five pillars of Islam, but also the Muslim prayer that is repeated five times a day."  If you recall, I had done an earlier blog post on the 18th June 2010 entitled, superstition and I had mentioned the "nazar boncuk" which resembles an eye and is used in Turkey to protect and bestow blessings rather like the hand of Fatima.

Figure 1: Hand of Fatima or Khamsa as part of a necklace.

Figure 2:  Hand of Fatima or Khamsa framed in an ornate wooden frame.

Figure 3: Hand of Fatima or Khamsa used on the gates of a private villa.
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