Religious symbols of all types remain some of the most prevalent and frequently done tattoos around the globe. But in addition to tattoos that are singularly identified with very specific beliefs, there is another group of symbols which tend to be claimed by multiple groups and whose meanings are not so much about religion as they are about protection from evil. The Eye of Horus, associated with the ancient Egyptians, is one such symbol and so also is the khamsa, also known as the Hand of Fatima. The word khamsa is literally the number five in Arabic while Fatima is the Prophet Muhammad’s favorite daughter. Known throughout the Mediterranean region and the Islamic world as a sign of good fortune, it is specifically used to avert the evil eye, has also been used to symbolize the support group, and even the blood revenge group–the closest male relatives.
The stylized hand is often shown with ornate designs and, in amulet form, would often be set with a stone in the center of the palm. In our variation, however, the influence of Judaism is at work because the khamsa is also a symbol that has been used as a talisman by Sephardic Jews. The Sephardim are a group who suffered persecution in and finally a mass expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the late 15th century. In fact, the Hebrew word for Spain is Sefarad. Eventually these people were to flee to many parts of Europe and the Mediterranean, including North Africa, France, Holland, England, Italy, and the Balkans, taking the khamsa and its protection from danger, sickness, and all manner of bad luck, with them.