This posting has aroused a lot of interest around the world and now gets about 500 hits every day. Perhaps it is the magic of the iconography involved, or the idea that the male principle of the Hamesh Hand, has a feminine equal in the Hand of Fatima?
Here is the text from my original posting. I have updated the links and images which disappeared for some reason:
“I’ve also seen one in an Orthodox Jewish Home, with a “Chai” this symbol, commonly seen on necklaces and other jewelry and ornaments, is simply the Hebrew word Chai (living), with the two Hebrew letters Chet and Yod attached to each other. Some say it refers to the Living G-d. Judaism as a religion is very focused on life, and the word chai has great significance. The typical Jewish toast is l’chayim (to life). Gifts to charity are routinely given in multiples of 18 (the numeric value of the word Chai).
According to a Wikipedia entry, “the hamesh hand or hamsa hand is a popular motif in Jewish jewelry. Go into any Jewish gift shop and you will find necklaces and bracelets bearing this inverted hand with thumb and pinky pointing outward. The design commonly has an eye in the center of the hand or various Jewish letters in the middle.”
“There is nothing exclusively Jewish about the hamesh hand. Arab cultures often refer to it as the Hand of Fatima, which represents the Hand of G-d. Similar designs are common in many cultures. Why it has become such a popular symbol among Jews? I haven’t been able to find an adequate explanation anywhere. My best guess: in many cultures, this hand pattern represents a protection against the evil eye, and the evil eye has historically been a popular superstition among Jews.
Hand of Fatima exhibition by Farideh Zariv
In June 2006 Iranian artist Farideh Zariv held an exhibition in Cape Town’s Bo Kaap, a predominantly Muslim district of Cape Town.
This is taken from one of the leaflets of the show: “The Hand of Fatima, an ancient motif in northern Africa and Middle Eastern art and architecture, is rich in meaning. The symbol is also known as khamsa and the Eye of Fatima in Islamic tradition. The Hand of Fatima symbolises divine protection, freedom and peaceful co-existence with others and is used, for example, as amulets, jewelery and architectural features. Although predating Islam, the symbol has been widely assimilated into Islamic art and popular culture.
The Iranian-Australian artist, Farideh Zariv bought her first piece of Hand of Fatima in 1990. Her collection have grown to more than eighty pieces and have been collected from Iran, all over the Arabian world and India. Selected pieces will be on display. On display will also be multi-media artworks by Zariv that were inspired by the Hand of Fatima. According to Zariv, ‘-each hand has a message for humankind. The hand of Fatima is a symbol of that message, carrying spiritual and mystical meanings. This hand could be a hand of light, showing humankind the way to brightness and peace. It could also be a hand, which directs human attention to inner spirituality. In my art I try to convey this message including the essence of the hand in the title of each work.’