As humans, we use our hands everyday but little do we actually think about how special they really are. For instance, unlike most other animals, human thumbs are opposable which means that we can grasp objects by pressing them against the rest of the hand or finger(s).
The freeing of our primitive ancestors hands from walking, much like apes do today, is probably the most important factor that lead to the opposable thumb. Scientist believe that this also later lead our evolutionary ancestors to walk upright and the development of larger brains.
The Latin word for hand is manus, which shares the same root with several words in English including manufacture (to make), manifest (to create), manage (to direct). In Germany, the word hand is thought to be related to frahinthan (to seize, or pursue), Swedish hinna (to reach) and English hunt (to seek). Taken together these associations give us several clues as to the nature and function of our most expressive of body parts.
Legerdemain, the magic performed by illusionist, is often described as sleight-of-hand and depends on the magician’s manual dexterity to accomplish. By contrast, in occult magick, hand gestures are used for several purposes. They include:
- To communicate secret messages.
- As symbols of power.
- To direct and channel magickal energies.
To Communicate Secret Messages
In everyday life, we often use our hands to communicate feeling and ideas to others. While some gestures are considered universal such as the Okay Sign, others such as the mano fico mean different things to different cultures. In magickal circles, hand gestures often act as a short hand to communicate secret messages which are understood only by the initiated. An example of such a gesture may include a secret handshake identifying one’s self as a member of a certain tradition or order. In his writings, Scott Cunningham shares a story in which he met one of his first magickal teachers after flashing a hand-gesture to her which he had seen in a book on the Supernatural.
In other instances, hand gestures are used to communicate with deity or spirits. For example, when most people pray they adopt the common practice of bringing their palms together before them near the chest or lips. In ritual magic, sacred symbols are drawn in the air, in part, to communicate our desires with the spiritual world.
The meanings of such gestures are usually considered to be a part of that traditions sacred teaching and are not generally reveal to outsiders. However, they are occasionally revealed to the un-initiated either by accident or design. In fact the Vulcan Salute, one of the most famous hand gestures in science fiction, came about because Lenoard Nimoy’s grandfather took him to an Orthodox Synagogue. In his biography, I Am Not Spock, Nimoy reveals that during the period in which the Rabbi gives a priestly blessing while the congregation bows their heads he peeked and later recalled the Rabbi’s gesture when he created the salute we are familiar with today.
Symbols of Power
Various parts of the human body, such as the heart, eyes, or genitals have developed symbolic associations with concepts like love, or protection. The hand itself symbolizes power and protection as evidenced in the Hamsa, or Hand of Fatima, popular in the Middle East and North Africa.
Over time different beliefs about the left and right hands have developed. In the Jewish mystical Kabbalah, God’s right hand is thought to represent mercy while his left hand signified justice. Generally speaking, the right hand is associated with cleanliness and benevolence, whereas the left hand is associated with filth and evil. For example:
- In some parts of the world it is considered an insult to offer someone something with the left hand.
- The Left-Hand Path is a term used in magickal circles associated with black-magick.
- The word left, comes from the Latin word sinistra which means evil.
- Spiritual blessing are given with the right hand.
- In court, we raise our right hand to swear an oath to speak the truth.
- The pledge of allegiance is often recited with one’s right hand over one’s heart.
In addition, the hands can be used to make certain symbolic hands gestures in order to channel magickal energies. In these cases, positive energy is generated with the right hand, while negative energy is generated with the left hand. Below are a few of the most popular magickal hand gestures, what they symbolize, and how they are used.
- Benediction- This gesture, formed by raising the right hand with the ring and pinky touching the palm and the middle and index finger raised is taken from ancient Roman iconography for speaking (similar to raising one’s hand to speak today). It is used by Christian clergy to perform blessings. It is often used to make the sign of the cross and, with the thumb out, the three raised fingers are said to represent the Holy Trinity.
- Mano Fico (Fig-Hand) - A gesture made by clenching the fist with the thumb protruding between the first and middle fingers. While its origins are unknown, it is though to resemble symbolic the female genitalia or a fig (which itself symbolizes virginity). In some parts of the world it is considered a lucky sign used to ward off evil, while in other parts it is obscene.
- Mano Cornuto (Horn Hand) - A hand gesture with a variety of meanings and uses. It is formed by extending the index and little fingers while holding the middle and ring fingers down with the thumb. This gesture is widely used to prevent bad luck or avert evil. In Peru is it usually shown while saying contra (against). In Chocolat, a fictional novel by Joanne Harris, the lead character often gives the mano cornuto while saying avert. In some parts of the world it is considered a vulgar sign. The mano cornuto has also developed associated with the devil in the heavy metal subculture where it is known by many names though it is commonly referred to as the devil horns.
- Finger Point- A gesture formed by extending the forefinger while the middle, ring, and little fingers touch the palm and the thumb covers the middle finger. This gesture is often used in magick to direct energy or to draw magickal symbols such as the Invoking or Banishing pentagram or certain Runes in the air, over people, or objects.
- Triangle of Manifestation- This gesture is accomplished by forming a triangle with the forefingers and thumbs of both hands. The three points of the triangle are said to represent the three things necessary to manifest our desires, time, space, and energy. It is often made over an object while the magician raises energy and visualizes his desire within the triangle.
Directing and Channeling Magickal Energies
|Traci 13 casts a spell|
We often see fictional characters on television shows, cartoons, and in comic books make hand gestures to cast their spells. As I stated in a previous blog entry, magick as portrayed in these works of fiction often have a basis in reality. We have seen how the hands are used to convey messages and symbolize power for various purposes. These gestures often act as psychological triggers which put us in the frame of mind to perform successful magick.
These magickal gestures have acquired power over time by the sheer number of people who have used them down through the ages and the people who believe in them today. When invoked either in ritual or spontaneously to cast their spells, the magician taps into that pool of power adding it to his or her own.
Gestures need not be limited to magickal ones to work. There are many gestures used all over the world that often carry a universal meaning. For example, you can cast a money spell by chanting an incantation and making the money-sign which entails rubbing the tips of your thumb, middle and forefingers together. Casting a spell for safe-travel? Invoke the hitchhiking sign. Throwing a minor spell of bad luck on an enemy? Throw the loser sign by forming a reversed capital L with your right hand and place it over your forehead. facing out. Are you trying to get someone to call you? Use the Call Me gesture by placing your thumb to ear and little finger to your mouth as though they were a telephone receiver.
These are just a few ways in which you can use universal hand gestures in magickal ways. By using these gestures in our spells and rituals, we are tapping into the world’s shared belief in and understanding of them.
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