Happy Valentine’s Day! Hopefully all of us who are lucky enough to have loved ones, let them know all year round that we care about them. But I still think it’s nice to have a day that is singled out for love. There’s so much hate in the world, let’s take some time to celebrate love of all kinds.
Another reason I love Valentine’s Day is that I love hearts. I love the shape, the red color, everything about it. I have a pretty big collection of all things heart shaped.
Jeff has given me tons of heart-shaped things: pillows, a rug to wipe your feet on when you come in the front door, earrings and necklaces. I’ve also bought a lot of heart-shaped stuff myself over the years.
But today I want to talk about another symbol, the hamsa. The hamsa (pronounced with a guttural “ch” or “kh” sound) is a symbol from the Middle East and North Africa that is believed to have had its first appearances in cultures based in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Carthage (Tunisia).
The hamsa is the shape of an open right hand, a universal symbol primarily of protection: protection from the evil eye, protection from enemies, protection in general. It is used primarily by Muslims (the Hand of Fatimah, the daughter of the prophet Mohammed) and Jews (the Hand of Miriam, the sister of Moses), and by Christians as well (the Hand of Mary). It also refers to the outstretched hand of God leading the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt as well as other mentions of God reaching down from the heavens in the Five Books of Moses. It is related to the idea that God exists in everything. And it is related to the Egyptian sky god, Horus, and some hamsas include the eye of Horus in the middle of the palm.
The hand has also been described as a fertility symbol to boost pregnancy and lactation and as a symbol of marriage as a bond that together protects both the man and woman. It is also a symbol of good luck.
The word “hamsa” is related to the number 5 (referring to the 5 fingers); khamsah in Arabic and hamesh in Hebrew.
Recently, I was given two new pieces of jewelry with the hamsa.
The sterling silver necklace with the filigree hamsa amulet was a gift from my good friends Sybille and Sahnoune who bought it for me in Algeria this past fall when they went back to visit Sahnoune’s family in Algiers. The hamsa is an important symbol in Algeria, and it even appears in the Seal of Algeria, the first one below from the 1970s and the second one with a more stylized and symbolic hand adopted in late 1976.
I love the delicate craftsmanship of the hamsa itself as well as the pretty necklace.
Last week, I received a gift from Nancy Davis, the jewelry designer of the Peace & Love collection that is sold on Evine, the shopping network. It is a charming silver tone bracelet with faux diamonds, a slide closure, and the outline of the hand. I was so surprised to receive the gift to thank me for developing a few posts and giveaways via our Fashion Flash group to spread the word about Nancy Davis’ jewelry that helps support her philanthropic work in Los Angeles. I was also surprised to see the hamsa as the centerpiece of the bracelet. Perfect choice for me!
Were you familiar with the hamsa? Do you own any hamsa jewelry yourself?