Have you seen a Hamsa tattoo? You probably have. The design is very popular for tattoos, jewelry and other items. Colorful Hamsa tattoos can be stunning pieces of art. A black and gray tattoo can also be very striking though. The design itself evokes a sense of mystery and touches something deep inside people when they see it. Is it recognition? Very possibly. The Hamsa is an ancient symbol that has been used in many different cultures and in many different faiths. While small parts of the story of the Hamsa change according to the cultural group that is doing the storytelling the meaning of the symbol is always the same. The Hamsa means protection from the Evil Eye, protection from harm, and blessings for women. Especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women or mothers. Throughout the Ancient world women’s only role was to give birth to healthy children, so many amulets and superstitions arose to protect women and help them have healthy children.
The symbol of the Hamsa can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, an area that is now Iraq. The Hamsa symbol was sacred to the goddess Inana. Inana was one of the first female deities and was the goddess of all feminine things. Though many other faiths and cultures would go on to claim the Hamsa symbol the earliest traces of the symbol in writing or sculpture go back to ancient Mesopotamia.
To the Romans the Hamsa was considered the hand of Venus. Venus was the goddess of love and fertility, so the Hamsa was once again associated with femininity, motherhood, love, and protection. It is interesting that no matter what culture adopted the symbol it has always been associated with the facets of life that are uniquely feminine like motherhood and giving birth as well as protection for those wear it.
The Hand of Fatima
In the Muslim faith the symbol is often called the Hand of Fatima in reference to the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Fatima was a very powerful woman in the early years of the Islamic faith because she was very loved and doted on by her father. She was a healer and someone who looked after women and babies as well as healing warriors. After his death she exerted her influence to see her husband become the leader of the Islamic faith. It was Fatima and her struggle to have her husband declared the leader after Mohammed that led to the Shia and Sunni split in the Islamic faith. In the esoteric branch of Islam, Sufisim, the hand of Fatima is often inscribed on wands and other religious items.
The Hamsa is often portrayed in Islamic art as the Hand of Fatima. Many buildings and homes in Islamic countries have the Hand of Fatima painted on them as a form of protection. Amulets and other jewelry with the Hamsa design are often worn by women and children. Pregnant women and those in childbirth may have the Hamsa painted on them with henna to protect the mother and child.
The Hamsa in Judaism and Christianity
Because the Hamsa was so prevalent in Islamic art when the Islamic Golden Age came to an end the art from that era in pottery and other forms influenced the art of Judaism and Christianity. Tales of the protective powers of the Hamsa were adapted to fit the Jewish and Christian faiths. The Jews called the talisman simply The Hand and it was thought that the five fingers were reminders to worship God with all five senses. The eye was to remind everyone that God sees everything. To the Christians the Hamsa became the Hand of Mary and was a symbol of Mary’s protection of women and children.
The Hamsa has a long history of being associated with women and it’s mostly women now who get the Hamsa tattoo. Because there is such a rich mix of cultural influences surround the Hamsa there are many different styles of Hamsa tattoos. Islamic style Hamsa designs with Mehndi scrollwork and linework are quite striking and very beautiful. Spanish style Hamsa designs have elements of Islamic art but also have Christian art influences.
Hamsa tattoos can be brightly colored or simple black and gray. The brightly colored tattoos give the symbol a joyous and feminine feel that many women love. Mothers may get their children’s names tattooed under the Hamsa in order to evoke the protection of the hand for their kids. Black and gray Hamsa tattoos may not be as bright but often they have more intricate designs that show off fine linework better than brightly colored tattoos.
Since the Hamsa symbol crosses many different cultural and religious lines it’s a beautiful tattoo for women of any faith to get if they want to have a special tattoo that will make them feel protected and in touch with their femininity. Hamsa tattoos are usually placed on the shoulder, the back, or the back of neck as if the symbol is protecting the person’s back.