Along with social customs meant to prevent envy within a community, as discussed above, talismans are also worn by many people to protect themselves against the malicious effects of the evil eye. In Judaism, these talismans may be written, or they may consist of an object.
One such talisman is the hamsa, a blue hand with an eye in the palm. This widespread symbol is found in numerous cultures in the Mediterranean and Near East, and the oldest known representations are found in ancient Mesopotamia. Within Judaism, it is known as the Hand of Miriam. This symbol was adopted from neighboring Arabic peoples.
Jewish talismans can be of two types: written talismans, or objects such as herbs, stones, foxes’ tails, and other items of significance. Extensively used during the Talmudic period, talismans– including evil eye talismans– are still widely used to this day.
One common protective talisman against the evil eye is a red string, sometimes worn as a bracelet around the wrist. The Talmud references crimson threads hung on the forehead of a horse for this purpose. The color red in general is strongly associated with evil eye protection.
During the middle ages, many children wore necklaces made from red coral. In more recent times, it is traditional to wrap a red string seven times around the tomb of Rachel in Israel, then cut the string into cords for use as talismans. Red string talismans experienced a resurgence in popularity during the early 2000s, and today, it’s common for people to purchase and wear red string bracelets to protect themselves against envy.
The number 18 is also worn as a talisman. In numerology, the letters in the word chai, “living,” add up to 18, giving the number spiritual and mystical significance. It’s commonly worn as a pendant around the neck.
Written talismans also have a long history of use for many purposes, including protecting oneself against misfortune and the evil eye. These written talismans are carefully prepared by experts, such as rabbis who specialize in Kabbalah. Names are the most important aspect of an amulet, and different names have different meanings and symbolic value.
Written talismans often consist of passages of scripture that contain appropriate names. In some cases, the names of angels are also used, although this is more rare.
Along with the text itself, traditional Jewish written amulets also contain symbols, which are considered to have special power and meaning. One of these is the hexagram, better known to modern-day Jewish people as the Star of David.
Also found in historical written amulets are figures created by joining curved or straight lines with circles at the ends.