LD asks: “My husband and I are wondering what you can tell us about the Hamsa Hand?”
The Hamsa hand is a popular apotropaic amulet that is used to ward off evil. It is said to symbolize the hand of God with the Hebrew version referring to it as the Hand of Miriam (named for Moses and Aaron’s sister). Worn most often as a necklace or other jewelry item or displayed in a house, it is said to bring its owner happiness, good fortune, health and good luck – which means it’s just another good luck charm.
No matter what Biblical names are attached to it, it is still an amulet, the use of which the catechism refers to as “reprehensible” (No. 2117).
A brief review of the history of the Hamsa hand is also troubling because this symbol, which is found in both ancient Judaic and Islamic cultures, seems to have originated with the Phoenicians and was once used as a protective symbol for an ancient Middle Eastern goddess. The name itself means “five” and is said to symbolize the five books of the Torah for Jews and the Five Pillars of Islam for Sunni Muslims.
People like to argue that using an amulet is no different than wearing blessed objects or praying with relics, but they’re wrong. Yes, we wear blessed objects or keep them in our homes to protect us from Satan, but it’s not the object that we believe has the power – it’s the God whose blessing is upon it. An amulet is believed to possess its own power whereas relics or blessed objects are symbols of the intercessory power to be found in a saint, or in God Himself.
As we read in the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Objects dear to Christian piety, such as in the early days the representation of the Good Shepherd, the Lamb, palms, relics of the martyrs, and in later days, pictures of the saints, medals, Agnus Deis, etc., were venerated in a relative sense. They were, in the mind of the Church, in no wise thought to have any latent power or divinity in them, or to be calculated to assure, as of themselves, to their possessors, protection against harm or success in undertakings.”
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