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The hamsa meaning "five" is a palm-shaped amulet popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and commonly used in jewelry and wall hangings. Depicting the open right hand, an image recognized and used as a sign of protection in many societies throughout history, the hamsa is believed to provide defense against the evil eye. The symbol predates Christianity and Islam. In Islam, it is also known as the hand of Fatima, so named to commemorate Muhammad's daughter Fatima Zahra. Levantine Christians call it the hand of Mary, for the Virgin Mary. Jews refer to it as the hand of Miriam in remembrance of the biblical Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron.
Early use of the hamsa has been traced to ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). A universal sign of protection, the image of the open right hand is seen in Mesopotamian artifacts in the amulets of the Qāt Ištar and the Qāt Inana and in the Buddha's gesture (mudrā) of teaching and protection. Other symbols of divine protection based around the hand include the Hand-of-Venus (or Aphrodite) and the Hand-of-Mary that was used to protect women from the evil eye, boost fertility and lactation, promote healthy pregnancies, and strengthen the weak.