the hand of fatima in morocco
In Istanbul a few years ago, I was exploring the amazing collection of old artwork and calligraphy in a little shop nearby the grand bazaar, and a small well-worn silver talisman caught my eye. It looks and feels like someone has stroked it so many times that the silver has started to slowly melt. The edges of the form of the hand have softened to an organic shape, and the pattern detail is nearly dissolved.
I’ve worn the talisman on a silk cord around my neck since then, and kept my eye out for others like that – but I had not seen any. Today I’m in Marrakech, and there are many of these symbols – everywhere. Mostly they are mass produced tourist trinkets in thin stamped metal with a fake stone mounted in the center, the eye. Nothing in the character of these objects is captivating – except for the idea that they have a powerful symbolic meaning.
In this part of the world the symbol is called The Hand of Fatima, and links back beyond ancient Egypt; its meaning represents both power and protection, on the temporal plane as well as the spiritual. The hand works, it creates, it guides, it protects. The symbol is also known as khamsa and the Eye of Fatima in Islamic tradition. The Hand of Fatima is made in the form of talisman, amulets, jewelry and architectural details. Although predating Islam, the symbol has been widely assimilated into Islamic art and popular culture. There is also a symbolic link to the number 5, five fingers, the five pillars of Islam.