Mazel and Good Luck: My Middle Eastern Hamsa and Native American Hand Symbol Collection

26 Jan

I have always been a bit superstitious. Perhaps it is because my grandparents had little things they did to keep evil away and bring good luck. Their Eastern European/Jewish roots had me putting red ribbons or thread on my children’s cribs; saying Yiddish phrases that warded off the evil eye whenever someone said something nice about my children; and learning about the power of a name.

When I went to Israel as a college sophomore, I came in contact for the first time with the hamsa, the palm-shaped, Middle Eastern sign to keep evil away. Specifically, a hamsa usually has the symbol an eye in the middle of the palm to ward off the evil eye, the “ayin hora.”

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The first hamsa I purchased.  It is not totally traditional because it depicts a true hand, not the three finger/two thumb usual hamsa.

On the “My Jewish Learning” website it states that the hamsa has been seen by different groups as a Jewish, Christian and Islamic amulet, and even a pagan fertility symbol. But in now it is recognized as a “kabbalistic amulet and is an important symbol in Jewish art.”

I became intrigued by the hamsa and its ‘magical’ powers to bring “mazel,” good luck, and keep evil away when I was a college student. The first hamsa I purchased was for my parents. This wall plaque adorned the wall near the entrance to their home for over 35 years.   When they passed away, I brought it to my home, where it now hangs near my front door.

I wish I could say that is the only hamsa I have purchased. But it is not. For years, it was very difficult to find one. Occasionally an artist would draw or design a hamsa. Then, about 10 -12 years ago, hamsa art went crazy. I started seeing them in stores and catalogues that had a Jewish base. But I even found them in regular gift stores.

I purchased hamsas to bless new babies and homes. They are made of so many different materials: metals, ceramics, glass, pottery, clay, fabric. Each artist has his or her own vision. They can be wall hangings, picture frames, designs on tzedakah boxes, trivets, jewelry. I even have a hamsa mezuzah! That must have double positive energy!

I have seen necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pins made in the shape of a hamsa. I admit I own some.

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Left: The Middle Eastern Hamsa; Right: the Native American Hand Symbol

About six years ago I found out that the hand symbol for protection was not just a middle eastern amulet.   I was in Arizona on vacation, in a ‘western’ store, when I came upon a hand with a circular spiral design in the center. This hand symbol, I found out “represents spiritual power, strength, domination and protection” for Native American warriors, according to the Warpaths2Peacepipes website.

So, of course, I purchased some of these hand symbols as well. They are different. The Native American hands actually look like hands, whereas the hamsa usually has a large center palm and three normal fingers, but what looks like two thumbs one on each side.

For me, their similar designs which provides the same message of protection for those who wear them makes sense. How many times to we hold up our hand to say, Stop!” And so with the hand we ask people to back off, calm down and stay away.

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Top two designs are hamsa, the bottom one is a hand symbol.

Thus cultures in two distant parts of the world created similar symbols for protection. I love it. My hamsa/hand symbol collection is intertwined with art from both displayed together.

But I must add that one type of Native American hand symbols is actually called the Hand Eye symbol. This symbol looks remarkably like the hamsa. This symbol was used by a group of Native American called the “Mississippian culture of the Mound Builders.” It was an important symbol for them but there is a belief that it related to entry to heaven and a solar deity. (According to the Warpaths2Peacepipes web site.)

Although it is not a protection amulet to me it seems to still send out positive energy with its relationship to heaven.

Perhaps my collection cannot truly do anything for me. But in my mind, it cannot hurt to have these symbols of protection and love and strength scattered throughout my house.

 

 

 

 

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/hamsa/

http://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-symbols/hand-symbol.htm

 

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One Response to “Mazel and Good Luck: My Middle Eastern Hamsa and Native American Hand Symbol Collection”

  1. Roseann Copeland February 10, 2016 at 9:43 am #

    Your collection is beautiful! I treasure the one on my key chain, that you gave me when I was having health problems. It has a Hebrew prayer engraved on it. I love it and treasure our gift of friendship every time I hold it which is everyday since it is attached to my car keys.

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