The Hamsa is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout North Africa, and commonly used in jewelry and wall hangings.Depicting the open right hand, an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many societies throughout history, the hamsa is believed to provide defense against the evil eye. It is also known as the hand of Fatima, so named to commemorate Muhammad’s daughter Fatima Zahra. Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary, for the mother of Jesus. Following its incorporation into Jewish tradition via its widespread use in the Islamic world, it was also renamed the hand of Miriam for Miriam, sister of Moses.
Its exact origins are unknown. A universal sign of protection, the image of the open right hand is seen in Mesopotamian artifacts in the amulets of the Qāt Ištar and the Qāt Inana and in the Buddha’s gesture of teaching and protection. Other symbols of divine protection based around the hand include the Hand-of-Venus (or Aphrodite) and the Hand-of-Mary that was used to protect women from the evil eye, boost fertility and lactation, promote healthy pregnancies, and strengthen the weak.