The hamsa is a Middle Eastern symbol dating back to prehistoric times designed to give protection from the evil eye, bad luck that results from the attention or jealousy of others. Today it shows up in both Jewish and Muslim culture. The hamsa consists of a hand, usually pointing fingers down with an eye in the middle. The hand usually, but not always, appears to have two thumbs. The eye is generally blue; a color which is also associated with protection from the evil eye. The entire symbol is often made of or covered with a material that is somewhat reflective to reflect back the evil.
An Anglo-Saxon treatise on the medical art, from the beginning of the tenth century, the original manuscript of which was owned by an Anglo-Saxon leech named Bald, as testified to by an entry on the title-leaf, gives the agate a prominent place as a talismanic and curative agent. More especially is its power over the demon-world emphasized.
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The larger part of the talismans used in ancient Egypt represented some living creature. The most usual type is the bull’s head, which was cut from carnelian, hematite, amazon stone, lapis lazuli, or quartz. Prehistoric Egyptian talismans representing the fly have been found; these were of slate, lapis lazuli and serpentine. In historic times gold was employed as the material. Other types occurring in pre-historic times are the hawk, of quartz or limestone; the serpent, of lapis lazuli or limestone; the crocodile and the frog.
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In southern Russia amulets enjoy high power both among Jews and Christians. Especially are they valued for the protection of children and for the cure of their diseases. An imitation wolf’s-tooth, made of bone, set in a ring, is one of these amulets; however, while such imitation teeth are used, the natural teeth are greatly preferred. As an amulet against the Evil Eye the wing-bones of a cock will be used. This malign influence is held in such awe by the common people that they do not even dare to use the word “evil” of it and call it “the good eye.”
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