Obj. ID: 36981
Sacred and Ritual Objects Amulet, Morocco, circa 1925
The following description was prepared by William Gross:
From earliest times, man has tried to protect himself from misfortune by the use of objects which he considered holy or otherwise (e.g., magically) potent. Amulets and talismans are items generally worn around the neck or wrist, carried in a pocket or purse or hung on a wall. They are meant to protect or aid those who carried or wore them. The Hebrew word for amulet, kame‘a, has the root meaning "to bind". Jewish amulets are usually comprised of texts (either letters or graphic symbols) that are inscribed on some sort of material; some may also contain plant matter or precious stones. The texts of amulets usually include holy names that are believed to have the ability to affect reality, along with incantations summoning angels or other magical powers. For the most part, an amulet has a specific purpose: to ease childbirth, facilitate recovery from illness, improve one’s livelihood, and so on, but in the modern world many are also made for general protection.
This elaborate gold pendant is for the forehead, fashioned in urban gold work, set with jewels and containing a number of hamsa representations. This piece is called the "Tabaa". This is a piece of jewelry especially made in Fez by the Jewish goldsmiths whose specialty was this sort of open work gold set with precious and semi-precious stones. The piece is framed by a crescent with sharp points whose symbolic purpose is to catch, deflect and disperse in multiple directions the power of the evil eye directed against the wearer.
The hamsa (five, as in five fingers) is an amulet shaped like a hand. The hamsa is arguably the most popular form of amulet against the Evil Eye and is used in a large number of countries. Probably originating in Moslem Spain of the 12th or 13th century, it crossed the sea to Morocco and spread across North Africa to the Middle and Far East.