Higa, Figa and Ásabache Amulets
Spanish seamen, being very superstitious, thought it brought bad luck to pass by some of the “cursed islands”. To deflect this bad luck some thought that by passing a cursed islands on the north side would bring better luck while others thought that passing by on the south side was better.
It was the perception that the devil brought storms and that many places were cursed. This is why the crew had to use something to protect themselves against this evil. Especially the evil eye.
The higa or figa, it is thought, was first used as a good luck charm, worn around the neck for protection. It seems that some were also quite large and they were also used to protect the animals such as horses or dogs. There have been many found in shipwrecks and along the beaches many of which are on display the Museo de las Cases Reales de Santo Domingo.
Ásabache or Figa
are small hand shaped luck amulets. The hand is clenched into a fist with the thumb sticking up between the index and second fingers.
These amulets have can be made from many different substances including coral, wood, ivory, natural crystal, jet and gold. They can be made from any material that could be formed into this fist shape.
There have been other items found, such as spoons and boxes, that are embellished with the figa.
In some countries the figa is considered to be obscene because of the hand gesture it represents.