When I lived in Egypt, long ago, on the Nile River, which ran beneath my balcony, every vessel from the tiny fishing boats to the ornate gold floating pleasure cruisers, bore painted eyes on their prows like those on the pharaoh’s tombs to ward off danger. Taxi’s and Lorries and the big people carriers , so prone to accidents they were known locally as flying hearses, held together with dust and rust all had brightly coloured eyes superimposed on a hand shaped design, plastered on them. Even the Zabbaleen, the despised Coptic Christian garbage collectors carts had them and in Upper Egypt, the women place hand prints on their mud walls with ochre pigment. Every shop, every office every handcart selling Coca-Cola had a hand and an eye hanging from it, even the Cairo Hilton had one above the front desk and the horses pulling the caliches on the Corniche wore them on their bridles . In shops everywhere you could buy self adhesive versions of varying degrees of luridness for a few pence. The goldsmiths make them encrusted with gems and sell them to the wealthy for a fortune.
This hand and eye symbol is the خمسة, Khamsa/Hamsa meaning “LIVE” in Arabic, a protective symbol used all over the world. Look and you will find it in Jewish houses sometimes inscribed with prayers; you will see it too amongst the Masonic symbols. Turks and Greeks paint it on their boats. In America and Europe between the wars it was worn by women on charm bracelets and was as common as a horse shoe or a four leafed clover as well known as a a wishbone.
It dates back before Christianity, before Judaism and before Islam so far back that its origins and full symbolism are hazy. Do the 5 fingers represent the 5 books of the Torah or the 5 pillars of Islam, is the eye the eye of Fatima Zahra, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad, or of Miriam the sister of Moses who hid him in the bulrushes to save him from the Pharaohs slaughter of all the Hebrew newborn infants? No one knows but across the world it has become a sing of the protecting hand of God, whoever that God may be, a magical talisman against the envious attentions of the evil eye, an amulet of protection and it crops up in the most unlikely places. Even Hollywood celebs are wearing them now, Nicole Richie for one, mind you with as a best friend Paris Hilton she may need all the protection she can get!
If you need a little protection yourself or just think these would be fun to hang up in your home have then email me.
Ceramic Blue Evil Eye
( 10cm wide handmade and cobalt glazed on a blue beaded leather thong.)
3.00 sterling plus 2.50 sterling postage.
Ceramic Hand of Fatima
(18 cm long handmade and glazed in bright colours on a beaded leather thong)
10.00 sterling plus 2.50 postage.