Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Hamsa: Symbology, Roots & My Personal Views



Nearly 30 years ago, as a little girl visiting Epcot and going around to the varying countries within the park, I gained a love of the Hamsa instantly upon seeing it. Thirty years later I still can't explain exactly where the draw comes from, but it draws me in. It always has, and very well, may always draw me in. The intricacies of this symbol are lovely to behold. I have seen varying designs over the years, and I find them fascinating. They still hand out a plastic Hamsa there at Morocco inside Epcot. Every time I have visited, I have always collected one. They usually end up in my personal items and such. Up until I decided to leave my job of 11 years, I had one up at my desk within the confines of the area that I had other sacred items. I would venture to say it is one of my favorite symbols. 

So where did the Hamsa come from, who (as in religion) does it belong to, and what does it mean exactly? Off I went to go find that out for myself. Why? Because I love history, culture and research. In addition, I wanted to know why I love this symbol so much so that anytime I see it somewhere I pause and gaze, taking in all of the details. The Hamsa, or Hamsa hand as some call it, has a few spellings - Hamsa, Hamesh, Chamsa & Khamsa. It is a Middle Eastern amulet that can be seen upward or downward facing. It symbolizes the Hand of God, and, regardless of the faith that uses it, is considered a protective sign bringing it's owner happiness, luck, health, and good fortune. For me personally, looking at the Hamsa brings about a conscious level of the ever-present Divine. What each person calls the Divine is up to them, as well as, the confines of the religion utilizing it. It is said to be protective and ward off the evil eye. With the powerful nature of this symbol, I can see that interpretation. While I have only seen the one rendition of it, there are two shape variations of Hamsa; one being the hand with two symmetrical thumbs pointing outwards (that's the one I am familiar with), and the other being shaped like an actual hand and not at all symmetrical.

Looking a bit deeper into the Hamsa, beyond knowing that it is an ancient Middle Eastern symbol, you find that it is utilized mainly in Islam and Judaism and has been for centuries. So what, as a Pagan, does this mean for me? Or, why would a Pagan be so drawn to a symbol used in Islam and Judaism? For me, personally, just because there is a symbol primarily used in another faith or faiths, it does not deter me, nor do I allow it to be the deciding factor from utilizing it within my own spiritual practices. I am of the mindset that if a symbol draws you in, there is a reason. As it turns out, it has been found that the Hamsa pre-dates those 2 religions and goes back even further to the Phoenicians where it was used as a protective symbol for an ancient Middle Eastern Goddess. That one simple fact speaks to me in volumes and resounds within me. I often talk of interconnectedness amongst religions, that while our paths may differ, there is much that is the same or of equal magnitude. The Hamsa is proof of exactly that!

It has been said that it has always been associated with a female energy or entity. In Islam this can be seen as The Hand of Fatima who is the daughter of Mohammed the Prophet. In Judaism, it is the same, but symbolizes the Hand of Miriam who is the sister of Moses and of Aaron. Ancient Pagan Goddess, Miriam & Fatima from three distinctly different religions, and yet, here the religions are connected together within the framework of this symbol. 

Now, it can't just be that simple to me. It never is. So I looked further. My favorite number, my lucky number, has always been the number 5. I was born of the 5th of the tenth month. In numerology, my husband's number equals out to be a 5, and the son we have together was born on the 10th day of the 5th month. Also, of my six children, I have given physical birth to five of them. The number 5 has cropped up a bunch over my 37 years. I come to find out that Hamsa means five. That makes sense to me as there are five digits, or fingers, on the Hamsa. The Hebrew word for five is Hamesh, which, as I stated above, is another name for the Hamsa. There are further references to the number five regarding the Hamsa. Five is significant of the 5 books of the Torah. In Judaism, one of God's holy names is Heh, which also happens to be the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Within Islam, the symbology is representative of the Five Pillars of Islam and also the Five People of the Cloak for Shi'ites. I found that the connections regarding the number five in my own personal life and how Islam and Judaism connect in with the number five to be interesting ones. 

The more I research into the Hamsa, the deeper I can connect in with myself. While some of the answers in my research so far have been answered, for me I feel that Is just a topical connection. I look forward to continuing to explore the Hamsa, its meanings, and the direct effect this symbol and its meanings play in my life. I am very well rooted in my religion. I love my path and I love where it leads it. That being said, I am still a Seeker of sorts. I seek knowledge and understanding. I have a natural craving to learn and gain as much knowledge as I can. While it is true that I am a language aficionado, I love to learn about other religions. With the information I have uncovered thus far regarding the Hamsa, its roots, its meaning, and the fact that I am drawn to it in such a deeply spiritual way, I have no doubt that I will be exploring further by delving into Judaism and Islam; not as a means of converting to with religion, but more as a means to better understanding religious interconnectedness. I truly believe that if we are to grow and carry forward as a people, we need to learn to better understand one another, not only as human beings with distinct cultural differences, but also on a spiritual level. We need to find within each other our spiritual interconnectedness so that we may have greater respect and understanding for each other. Is it possible that this is one of the truths that the Hamsa holds for me to be able to unfold? It is possible and only time will tell. There is an immense soul-stirring feeling of the Divine and intense calm whenever I see the Hamsa. It is a feeling that will not fade, is not a fad. Being that some within Islam and Judaism wear the Hamsa as a symbol of hope and of peace in Israel and other areas of the Middle East, it is then understandable how those feelings can be stirred within my own self when I see this symbol. So I will continue to seek, research and gain new insight into the Hamsa. I don't know where it will lead me, but I know I'll enjoy the journey.


~Bridget DiLuzio, HPs

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