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What’s Behind the Hand

Khamsa Jewelry w book.jpg

The “Khamsa hand” motif was an apt element to feature in Curse Me Not, my novel about a woman who can see people’s auras and clean revenge curses from those auras. After all, the motif has been a sign of protection against curses and The Evil Eye for a very long time. My publisher even used an illustration of a Khamsa hand on the cover of the book.

By the way, Khamsa mean “five” as in the five fingers of the hand. Other spellings for it include Hamsa, Chamsa and Hamesh, or you might have seen the motif referred to as the Hand of Miriam for Moses’ sister or the Hand of Fatima to commemorate Muhammad's daughter Fatima Zahra in the 7th century. Archeological digs in the Middle East indicate the motif may pre-date both Judaic and Islamic cultures, originating with the Phoenicians as early as 1550 B.C.E. My guess is, it goes back even further, possibly to ancient cave drawings found in Europe.

On a recent trip to Portugal I was surprised to see the number of jewelry with Khamsa hand charms being sold in the street markets. Naturally, I had to buy a few pieces in honor of my novel. However, it begs the question: What is The Evil Eye and why are we still afraid of it?

Apparently, the belief survives that certain people have the power to cause us harm, to curse us or to turn our luck bad, just by giving us a malevolent and mesmerizing glare. Perhaps this fear is part of our genetic make-up. So what can we do about it?

Personally, I get chills if someone glares at me for whatever reason but these days, that’s about my only reaction. On the other hand (no pun intended), since I have my own hodgepodge of superstitions to deal with—never booking a flight on a date with a 7 in it, for instance—I can’t very well make fun of those who believe in the power of The Evil Eye.

In the end, I feel better wearing my Khamsa jewelry. I compare it to chicken soup as a remedy for a cold. It couldn’t hurt.

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