We are all aware of evil eye lousy luck. The concept is nearly universal, and almost everyone is aware that some stares seem to be harbingers of bad luck and other unfortunate events. And then there is jewelry in the form of talismans, amulets, necklaces, and even more beautiful jewelry like earrings that all show the same thing: the Hamsa Hand.
Is it safe to wear jewelry like this, even if you aren’t part of the original culture? What does the Hamsa Hand mean, anyway? To understand the relationship between the Hamsa Hand and the evil eye, we need to delve further into the evil eye’s myth.
What is the Evil Eye?
In most understandable terms, the evil eye is a malevolent or evil look or stare supposed to cast a curse on a successful or fortunate person. We have to underscore life states like fortunate, successful, and bountiful because the evil eye is particularly tied to these events.
A person can cast an evil eye on another person if, in his heart, he is envious of his neighbor. Envy, according to various legends, can cause a person to release pure venom that can cause other people harm. This is aligned with the ancient Greek belief that an envious person with an equally envious stare can poison the air around him.
Naturally, people were terrified of the possibility of suffering from an evil eye or evil stare. They began devising protective wards or defenses against the evil eye. Because the evil eye can be given at any moment, and even in secret, people created wards that would deflect or cancel out the effects of the evil eye. The simplest talismans against this magic are shaped like eyes. In Turkish mysticism and elsewhere, this technique uses the logic of “similar objects will cancel each other out.” Mostly, if you want to reflect or neutralize an evil stare, you have to do that with a talisman that looks like an evil eye.
Are evil eye images unlucky or evil?
This is where a lot of folks are confused– having an evil eye talisman or ward doesn’t bring bad luck. The evil eye talisman may look terrifying to some people, and it may look evil (we already explained why), but it was made to combat the bad luck and not bring it to you. Think of it this way: the evil eye is looking away from you and is looking at something else – the curse, or the bad luck that is coming your way. It is a shield, one of the oldest ways to create a defensive warding tool, and should not be feared.
In Turkey, the evil eye is often represented by the image of a single, large blue eye. It is estimated that references to the evil eye motif stretch back to five thousand years ago. That is five millennia of human civilization, believing in the evil power of envy.
The Hamsa Hand
Hamsa Hand jewelry and accessories are ordinary in Jewish stores and other places where Judaica motifs are present. The Hamsa Hand is as common and well-known as the evil eye and the Star of David. But what does it mean? What is it for?
The Hamsa Hand has many other names, too. It is sometimes called the Hand of Fatima, or the Hand of Mariam (or Mary, in Jewish or Christian religious texts). It is comprised of a figure of a hand with the image of an eye at the center of the palm. What’s interesting about the hand is the apparent defect, which is often ignored because the figure looks somewhat abstract: the little finger is often removed and replaced with a thicker finger – the thumb.
The meaning of this symbol has had many reinterpretations over the years. The exact origin is still unknown because religious icons are often carried over from previous religious systems, so there’s a lot of borrowing and imitation involved. It is believed that early in its existence, the Hamsa Hand was a symbol of female fertility. Back in antiquity, goddesses that represented life and fertility abounded. They were worshipped correctly, as people worship monotheistic deities now.
Eventually, the Jewish religion took it on and assigned it as a kabbalistic tool or amulet. It is also considered part of the Jewish artistic tradition, which is both aesthetic and spiritual at the same time. The origins of the name of the figure can be traced to Fatima, the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, or Mariam, the mother of Jesus Christ. One of the most memorable and historically-important uses of this symbol was found in the fourteenth century in Alhambra, at what was called the Gate of Judgement. A gigantic figure of the Hamsa Hand was placed there.
In Alhambra lore, it is believed that the Hamsa Hand was derived from the social world “khamsa,” which simply meant “five.” It was believed that five fingers or the number itself deflected the evil eye and the curses that it brought with it. Judging by the magnitude of the fourteenth-century version of the Hamsa Hand in Alhambra, it would appear that people were not just terrified of the evil eye but probably believed it could bring severe such pestilence to people that they had to form a significant barrier against it.
There are many “crossovers” of symbols, icons, and lore between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism because these three religions developed and coexisted for some time. The mingling of culture, folklore, and knowledge was inevitable, and that is wholly reflected in how the sacred texts were recorded and preserved.
Academic researchers say that the Hamsa Hand predates religion, and it probably arose outside of religion. Like we said before, it was adapted and assigned roles and meanings within the organized religions.
Take note that the Hamsa Hand should not be reduced to merely a protection against the evil eye. In Jewish practice, it is linked with God and the Divine, and it is also viewed as a bridge that connects Divinity with humanity.