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What is the Eye in Hand Amulet?

The Eye in Hand Amulet, also known as the Hamsa, is a revered symbol spanning multiple cultures, believed to offer protection and ward off the evil eye. Its eye-centered palm design represents defense against harm, fostering a sense of peace for those who carry it. How might this ancient talisman fit into your life's tapestry?
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Today if you see the eye in hand amulet, you may be looking at the Jewish or Arabic symbol called the hamsa. The symbol is actually much older than Judaism, and you’ll find representations of it in numerous cultures, often as a piece of jewelry worn for protection. Instead of an amulet, the symbol could be woven into decorative art in murals or plaques.

The first use of the eye in hand is tied to various groups of people. Some say the symbol was worn by the Phoenicians and was a symbol of the goddess Tanit. Others suggest that the symbol may have originated in India, in honor of one of the Hindu religion’s gods or goddesses.

Many Jews connect the eye in hand amulet to the five books of the Torah.
Many Jews connect the eye in hand amulet to the five books of the Torah.

There are several different types of the eye in hand amulet designs. In some, the eye sits in the center of a clearly defined hand with four fingers and the thumb to the side. In others, only the fingers are represented. A common symmetrical presentation is a three-fingered hand with thumbs on both sides. The amulet can be jeweled, made of various metals, and very artsy depending upon where you purchase it. The fingers may point up or down.

Some Catholics wear the eye in hand amulet to ward off people who can give the “evil eye” with a glance.
Some Catholics wear the eye in hand amulet to ward off people who can give the “evil eye” with a glance.

In Judaism, the hamsa is a symbol that protects the wearer from the evil eye. It can be called the Hand of Miriam, after the sister of Moses, or be a symbol representing the five books of the Torah. The amulet may be worn, used on keychains, or make up a decorative wall plaque, and larger ones may feature special prayers.

Islamic people tend not to wear the eye in hand amulet, since most sects of Islam strictly forbid the wearing of any type of protective jewelry. The name, hamsa, though, is Islamic. Instead, the symbol may be depicted on a wall plaque, and can feature prayers in Arabic. Islamic people can call the hamsa the Eye of Fatima, who was a daughter of Muhammad. In Sunni Islam, the five fingers of the hand may represent the Five Pillars of Islam.

To some Sunnis, the five fingers of the hamsa represent the Five Pillars of Islam.
To some Sunnis, the five fingers of the hamsa represent the Five Pillars of Islam.

You might also see the eye in hand amulet worn as a specifically protective symbol by people with pagan beliefs. Again, the idea of repelling evil or an evil glance may be the predominant symbolic connection. In Sicily, Catholics may also wear the amulet, since folk legend in that area has created the belief in some that people really can give the “evil eye” with a glance.

You might see both Jewish and Arabic people wearing the hamsa not as good luck, but as a hope for peace. Since the symbol is present in both belief systems, some younger Arabs and Jews have taken to wearing it as a peace sign between these two religious groups. It may thus be not so much a charm, but a means of expressing the desire that warring between Islam and Judaism will come to an end.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Eye in Hand amulet and what does it represent?

The Eye in Hand amulet, also known as Hamsa or Hand of Fatima, is a palm-shaped symbol with an eye depicted in the center. It represents protection, power, and strength, and is believed to ward off the evil eye—a curse cast by a malevolent glare, often given to a person when they are unaware. Cultures across the Middle East and North Africa value this amulet for its supposed ability to offer defense against negative energies.

Can the Eye in Hand amulet be used by anyone, regardless of their cultural or religious background?

Yes, the Eye in Hand amulet is embraced by various cultures and religions, including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and is also popular in New Age and secular contexts. Its universal appeal lies in its protective qualities and the common human desire for safety and well-being. People from all walks of life can use the amulet as a symbol of peace and protection.

Are there different styles or variations of the Eye in Hand amulet?

Indeed, the Eye in Hand amulet comes in numerous styles and variations, reflecting the diverse cultures that have adopted it. Some variations include the Hamsa, which can be depicted with the fingers spread apart to ward off evil, or closed together to bring good luck. The design might also vary with additional symbols like fish or Hebrew prayers, depending on regional and religious influences.

How is the Eye in Hand amulet typically used or displayed?

The Eye in Hand amulet is commonly used as jewelry, such as necklaces, bracelets, or earrings. It's also displayed in homes or vehicles, often near the entrance, to protect the inhabitants and their space from harm. The amulet can be made from various materials, including metal, glass, ceramic, or fabric, and is sometimes incorporated into wall hangings or keychains.

Is there any historical evidence or research supporting the efficacy of the Eye in Hand amulet?

While there is no scientific evidence to support the efficacy of the Eye in Hand amulet in a literal sense, its psychological and cultural significance is well-documented. The belief in its protective powers can provide a sense of comfort and confidence to its bearers. Historical artifacts and texts reference the symbol, indicating its long-standing presence and importance in human societies.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent CulturalWorld contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent CulturalWorld contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

burcinc

@simrin-- The fingers are supposed to face down because it is believed that the eye in the center captures any evil energies and sends them down through the fingers and into the earth.

I have seen hamsas which face up, but it's not too common. I actually have a theory that these ones originate from India because it reminds me very much of the blessing hand of some Hindu deities.

As for where you can put it up, practically anywhere. Most people I know like to put it in the entrance of their homes so that it's one of the first things people see when they enter. It's said to protect the house from any jealous glances of visitors. Small hamsas are also placed in cars, it's usually hanging from the rearview mirror.

SteamLouis

Is the hand with eye amulet supposed to face down or up?

My friend recently brought this wall ornament for me from Israel, but I don't know where to hang it up and which direction the fingers are supposed to look?

I'm taking some classes on Kabbala and I learned that images like human eye, birds and fish are especially lucky and bring blessings to the home or the person. I requested the hand with eye amulet especially for this reason. But is there a particular place in the house where I should put it up to get the most benefit?

candyquilt

I always find it interesting to learn about different cultures and the objects that they feel have magical and protective powers. I think this must say something about that culture's belief system, their spirituality and worldview.

The eye in hand amulet is also interesting because it is found in both Jewish and Muslim culture. These peoples must have interacted with each other in a positive way at some point in history to have adopted the hamsa, don't you think?

Maybe it was pre-Judaism or pre-Islam, but it's a great idea to use this amulet to point out the two cultures' similarities and common history.

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    • Many Jews connect the eye in hand amulet to the five books of the Torah.
      By: Abba Richman
      Many Jews connect the eye in hand amulet to the five books of the Torah.
    • Some Catholics wear the eye in hand amulet to ward off people who can give the “evil eye” with a glance.
      By: dundanim
      Some Catholics wear the eye in hand amulet to ward off people who can give the “evil eye” with a glance.
    • To some Sunnis, the five fingers of the hamsa represent the Five Pillars of Islam.
      By: Eray
      To some Sunnis, the five fingers of the hamsa represent the Five Pillars of Islam.