|Mudras & Hand Symbolism: Hand Symbolism & Beliefs Part 2 - 2|
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Like the Arabs, the ancient Egyptians used a symbol called "the Great Hand" for various protective purposes, one of which is to ward off evil magnetism. Most hand amulets appear with a single eye on the palm. There are instances of this in various cultures.
Amulets were not of value only to the living, but to the "dead" as well. In ancient Egypt, an amulet called dejebaui, or "two-fingers" were often placed among a mummy's swathings to help the deceased one to ascend and ride on the boat of Ra to the afterlife. This amulet depicted the index and middle fingers and was usually made out of black basalt, green stone, or obsidian.
During the enunciation of a pledge the right hand is often raised in the air. This originated in ancient customs where the raising of the hands were used to invoke the presence of the gods. Raising the right hand while making a pledge is therefore, tantamount to saying, "In the name of God . . ." Another version is to place the right hand on a holy book while uttering an oath. The significance is similar to the above.
In the West, many hand-signs have been made popular with its constant use throughout the centuries. For instance we have the V-sign with the index and middle finger raised while the others flexed and clasped by the thumb. This signified victory and triumph. Similar to this is the Mano Cornuto, where only the index and little finger are raised, and the rest folded onto the palms. This represents horns, the devil, and the powers of evil. In the Orient, though, this sign is said to have the power to ward off demons. Kuan Yin is often depicted with this mudra. The Hung Society of China uses it as a sign of membership and also to signify "Man," who embodies both Heaven and Earth. In Italian witchcraft, the Mano Cornuto represents the crescent moon of the goddess Diana.
Another prominent hand sign is the Mano Fica, or figa, the sign of coitus where the thumb protrudes between the first and second fingers of the closed hand. It is of ancient origin The Romans and Etruscans were well familiar with this sign having made images of it. Lika Mano Cornuto, the latter sign is a popular amulet against negative forces. Crossing the index finger with the middle finger also has a sexual significance. It symbolizes the generation of life and by association a good outcome in one's hopeful expectations, in one's enterprise possessing an ambiguous upshot. Another sexual gesture much more explicit is the repeated insertion and withdrawal of the forefinger of the right hand (the phallus) into a circle formed by the thumb and index finger of the left hand (the vulva). The pose of the left hand in the above gesture is also an "O.K." sign.
One of the old superstitions states that the sexual act brings good luck, good fortune, and prosperity. Perhaps because of its connection to fertility rites where the energy aroused and released during sexual ceremonies in open fields is believed to empower crops to grow abundantly. This belief is also one of the reasons why phallic and coital amulets were carried on one's person. Such charms were thought to bring about fortunate circumstances to the wearer. Sexual amulets made out of metal, bone, and wood were very popular in the classical worlds of Greece and the Roman Empire.
A hand sign that is mainly used by the sacerdotal priesthood of the Christian Churches, is the Mano Pantea. This is the sign of benediction posed by extending the thumb and first two fingers. The ring and little fingers are folded onto the palms. This mudra can be seen in the various paintings and murals of Jesus, the Saints, and priests. In Latin countries, the Mano Pantea is also often used as an amulet against the "Evil Eye," when thus employed it is normally covered with other protective symbols as reinforcements.
An upraised thumb represents the erect phallus and is a sign for life, success, prosperity, and acceptability. In contrast, the downward pointing thumb denotes defeat and is the veto sign of condemnation or the death sentence. The middle finger solitarily extended is one of the obscene gestures vulgarly referred to as, "up yours." It signifies the command to perform an unnatural or perverse sexual act.