Protective Symbols: Hamsa, Evil Eye & More

Written by Mimosa
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The “evil eye” is an interesting concept. It can be a way of resisting and reversing negative energy we may feel as a result of encounters with certain people, without the need for confrontation. This isn’t the same as when someone intentionally harms you or others; in those cases, confrontation may be unavoidable since the person’s wrong actions must be stopped. But sometimes we feel “bad vibes” from someone who’s not doing anything overtly wrong, and the idea of the evil eye can help us get a handle on those situations and put a stop to negativity.

Here’s an example: Imagine you build a swimming pool, and notice your neighbor looking over the fence, admiring it. He compliments you on how nice it came out and says things like “I wish I could afford something like that.” So one day, being neighborly, you invite him over to hang out by the pool. But even though everything seems pleasant enough on the surface, something feels a little “off” about the whole situation. After the neighbor goes home, you may feel a strong need to smudge the area, a sense of foreboding, or even notice a headache coming on.

Even though your neighbor’s not a bad guy, the negative energy attached to his feelings of envy have left their mark on you and your environment. Smudging and protective devices are ways to take back control of the situation. You don’t, of course, want to fall into the trap of blaming others for every bad thing that happens in life. But once you’ve taken responsibility for the things you truly can control, protective devices can help you make peace with other things and people that are otherwise hard to understand and elusive to handle.

Traditional amulets of protection go back to the stone age. The earliest ones we know of are arrowheads, and one of these (especially made of obsidian) still makes an excellent protective amulet. Over time, every culture came to use protective symbols of one kind or another. Many of these symbols use eyes, hands, and/or horns.

Hamsa: The hamsa is an ancient protective amulet that originated Northern Africa. Hamsa means five in Arabic, referring to the five fingers of the human hand. The amulet is also known as the Hand of Fatima, named for the daughter of the prophet Muhammad. A folk story about the origin of this name says that Fatima was cooking soup one day when her husband came home with a new wife. She was so startled, she dropped her spoon, but continued stirring the hot soup with her bare hand without getting burned. Since God protected her hand, that hand took on the power to protect others from harm.

The hamsa is part of Jewish tradition as well, where it may be known also as the Hand of Miriam. It has also been associated with Venus, and with Mary the mother of Jesus. The symbol has always offered special protection and luck to women, used by brides, those hoping to conceive, and as a charm mothers use to protect their children.

The eye part of the symbol represents the divine watching over us. This watchfulness protects us not only from external forces, but also from our own fears and self-sabotaging thoughts and actions. Some say when the hand is shown with fingers up, it is to ward off the evil eye, whereas fingers pointing downward indicate calling in luck and success. Since a mixture of religious significance are attached to the hamsa, it has recently become a symbol of what middle eastern cultures have in common, and therefore of peace, hope, and of mutual understanding, for the Middle East and for the world.

Nazar, or evil eye charm: One traditional Turkish talisman, the nazar, has come into wide use for protecting against the evil eye. This talisman, which itself looks like a wide, blue eye, can be worn or hung in a house or vehicle. Babies are considered especially vulnerable to the evil eye, so they may be wrapped from head to foot and protected with charms in their bedding, their clothes, or even braided into their hair. Other cultures, including Latin American ones, use similar charms.


Eggs: Another Latin American tradition is to use an egg to remove negative effects of the evil eye (mal de ojo). There, if the mal de ojo makes a person sick, a traditional doctor (curandero or curandera) may pass an egg over their body to remove the curse and restore health. It’s said that the negative energy passes from the patient into the egg. There’s some resemblance between an egg and a human eye, which is probably how this practice got started.
Wadjet eye, Eye of Horus, Eye of Ra: These ancient Egyptian symbols ward off evil and offer many kinds of protection. The Egyptians painted it on boats, carved it into pharaohs’ tombs, incorporated it into carvings, and wore it as a pendant, bracelet, or other piece of jewelry. The six parts of the drawing also represent the six senses, as defined by the Egyptians: taste, smell, touch, sight, hearing, and thought. Offering protection by way of the senses, the wadjet helps control the ability of outside things to affect us internally.
Abhaya mudra: This “gesture of fearlessness” is one of the most basic mudras, the hand symbols used in Hinduism, Buddhism & Jainism. It’s simple to perform: raise your right hand with the palm facing outward, at about shoulder height. It can be interpreted as one’s own hand raised in a “stop” gesture, or the hand of God offering reassurance and safety.


Italian horn, also called the cornetto or unicorn’s horn, is a single curved horn usually worn as a pendant. The symbol is associated with pre-Christian goddesses, which is why they’re often made of either silver representing a lunar goddess or blood coral sacred to Venus. You sometimes also see them of gold, bone or amber (like the one in the image.) An alternative version is a pendant made of an uncarved piece of branching coral, especially one shaped like the horn of a stag.
Algiz rune: Among the runes, Algiz the elk rune is the one most generally associated with protection. People of northern Europe also also raise their hand in the shape of this rune for warding and protection. It’s also associated with Heimdall, the watchman of the gods who guards the rainbow bridge between the realms of gods and men. This rune and bindrunes created from it are powerful protective symbols.


There are of course many crystals associated with protection against the evil eye, including tiger iron, malachite, and obsidian. Basic protective stones like tourmaline and jaspers are always helpful, and you can even create a protection grid around your home using black tourmaline and selenite.


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