Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Avoiding the Evil Eye

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.

13 comments:

Elizabethd said...

You started early this morning. Have you been up all night creating new designs?

Inthemud said...

That was really interesting, didn't know about the Evil eye before.
Your design looks good.

ChrisH said...

Cor! What a wise one you are! Let's have some more details of those exotic days by the Nile, please.

Frances said...

Un Peu, you have reminded me of a little glass amulet bearing The Eye that I had years and years ago ... perhaps in the 60's? I do remember that it was from Greece.

Your newest creations are terrific. Keep that kiln warm!

xo

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Again, lovely designs. What an interesting life you have led, UPL. I'm with Chrish, would love to hear more about your travels.

CJ xx

Exmoorjane said...

Too too weird. Was just sitting here about an hour ago thinking about the eyes in Egypt and Greece....and whatever happened to the one I had that I used to wear on a necklace?
Bizarre. Lovely designs as always....

lampworkbeader said...

Ah yes but does it work?
More lovely designs UPL

Cait O'Connor said...

M wears one of these eye things, someone brought it back from Turkey for him.
I love your creation.

Milla said...

that was interesting, although there's something a bit creepy about an unseeing eye. We have a weird pottery thing which is two heads L and R facing out and in between is a third face which looks in so from one side you see two faces and the other one. We have it in a high window with the 2 looking out on the drive below. I think of it as our burglar alarm as am sure it gives the uneasy sense to people of being watched. I like the layout of your design, nicely confident.

Cowgirl said...

What an interesting blog, UPL. Would love to hear more about your time there - lucky old you living there! Do tell more!

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

Milla that will be Janus then! See PC common room! Thanks for commetns all, perhasp I'll write about Egypt in "where I met my other half" when its my turn.

Faith said...

Fascinating UPL and I, like Muddie, had never heard of it before. Liked the previous blog - I pick up little bits of pottery too and don't know what to do with them. My sister collected all the ones she found in her farm garden over 30 odd years in a big tin and intended to make something with them, but prob never did.

Pipany said...

This is great stuff UPL. Love the story behind the works, if you know what I mean. More please! xx