The hamsa is a hand-shaped amulet found throughout the Middle East, sometimes used for protection by Jewish and Muslim people. Hamsas are used in jewelry and wall-hangings, and also can be found on the entrances in homes or hanging in cars because of the superstition that they ward off the evil eye and protect people around them. Before making a decorative hamsa, your children can learn about this cultural object, its history and uses.
The Middle East is a group of countries in western Asia and northern Africa that is the culturally rich home to numerous ethnic groups (such as Jews, Kurds, Somalis, Arabs), and the birthplace of many religions (such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). The word hamsa comes from the Arabic word for the number 5, for the 5 fingers of the hand: خمسة khamsah. In Islam, the hamsa represents the hand of Fatima, Mohammed’s daughter. The five fingers also symbolize the five pillars of Islam. In Jewish tradition, the hamsa is called YAD HA’CHAMESH or the hand of Miriam, the sister of Moses. The five fingers also represent the five books of the Torah. Christians refer to the hamsa as the hand of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Thus, the open image of the right hand is a symbol of protection, blessings, and strength for the 3 major religions of the region. The light blue eye wards of evil spirits, and the silver metal it is frequently made of is believed to have magical powers. If you travel in the Middle East, or visit someone who is originally from the area, you are bound to see this symbol- and now you will understand the historical and cultural significance!
To make this stunning, but relatively easy craft, you first need to fold your paper in half, and draw a half hamsa, or half-hand. Click here to see thousands of examples of hamsas. Next, have the children trace it onto their cardboard.
For younger children, you can make the hamsa template and have them trace it onto their cardboard. Once you have the cardboard cut out, use aluminum foil to wrap the hand. Ages 7 and up and do this by themselves, but the younger children will need a little help. Aluminum foil has 2 sides- make sure to leave the shinier side facing out.
Now comes the fun part! Using either a toothpick or a pen tip (without the ink clicked on), have the children carve little designs into the foil. They should draw a very large eye in the palm of the hand, that they will later paint. We talked about symmetry, balance, and dominance (of the eye in the middle, standing out in relation to the rest of the project). We also talked about cultural symbols, and that every culture has symbols that represent good and evil. In the past, these symbols were relied on to keep people healthy and safe.