When I was buying gifts to bring back home during my February pilgrimage trip to Israel, I included five gifts to myself among 20 or so that I purchased. One was a hand carved rosewood rosary from Bethlehem, a beautiful plaque of the sixth station of the cross (Veronica wipes the tears from Jesus's face), a small plaque from Bethlehem's Milk Grotto near the Church of the Nativity, and two metal hamsa hands in cobalt blue.
This a five inch amulet of a hamsa hand.
About: The hamsa is an ancient Middle Eastern amulet symbolizing the Hand of God. In all faiths it is a protective sign. It brings it's owner happiness, luck, health, and good fortune.
The hamsa hand is known by many names—hamsa, hamsa hand, hamesh, hamesh hand, khamsa, and chamsa. It is also called the Hand of Miriam, named for Moses and Aaron’s sister, Hand of Fatima. There are two main styles of a hamsa hand: the most popular is the stylized hamsa hand with two symmetrical thumbs, but there are also hamsa hands that are not symmetrical and shaped like actual hands.
Either hamsa hand can be worn with the fingers pointing up or down, and both are believed to offer its owner happiness, peace, and prosperity, as well as protection from the ayin ha'ra, or the evil eye. The renewed interest in Kabbalah and mystical Judaism has brought the hamsa pendant back into vogue, and many artists are using the image of the hamsa hand in various aspects of their art including hamsa jewelry, paintings, sculptures, wall hamsas, and amulets.
Origin: Although the hamsa hand has been symbolic in Islam and Judaism for centuries, archeological digs in the Middle East provide evidence that the hamsa pre-dates these religions and originated with the Phoenicians and was used as a protective symbol for an ancient Middle Eastern goddess. The hamsa hand has always been associated with a female entity offering protection from evil and misfortune.
When I had traveled in Greece and Turkey three years ago, I don't remember seeing hamsa hands, or maybe they weren't on my radar screen. Evil eye amulets were everywhere in both countries, however, and hamsa hands usually have an eye in the center. I found out that belief in the evil eye is very old. It is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible and references to it appear in cuneiform texts of the Sumerians dated to 3000 BC.(How about that knowledge for Trivial Pursuit?)
I purchased this one from a small gift shop inside the old city of Jerusalem from a small shop right outside the Jaffa Gate. Here I am with the two men working in the shop that day who were joking with all the women tourists about ways they might come to America.
Have you heard of or do you have different variations of hamsa hands? A Google search showed hundreds of pieces of jewelry available as well as stylized wall hangings.