THE HAND is a wonderful instrument, linked to the mind as if hand and intellect were two halves of a hinged tool, one edified by the other. This has been a belief long held by philosophers and indeed the Latin based word apprehension meaning to grasp applies both to the physical ~ taking hold of something ~ and the mental ~ becoming cognizant of new ideas. I find endlessly fascinating the idea that somehow what you do with your hands changes what happens in your mind and vice versa.
The hand has also been a powerful symbol in cultures worldwide, as an indicator of many things.
The image above is a rare and anonymous hand coloured Netherlandish woodcut from 1466 showing the hand as a 'Mirror of Salvation' ~ using the five fingers as a kind of mnemonic for the stages of spiritual meditation.
Below are silver amulets from two religions ~ on the left the well known Hand of Fatima of the Islamic tradition and on the right a Jewish hand with a bent thumb very similar to the Muslim symbol.
In Europe the 'Hand of Glory' rendered assailants motionless. It was a hand cut from a man hung from the gibbet. It was soaked in tallow, and a wick placed in each finger, while the moon was waxing and not waning. Thieves were known to acquire such a hand and place it on the kitchen table of the house they intended to rob. It would ensure the inhabitants would be still as if dead, and unable to stir a finger against them.
On the left above is 'The Hand of the Philosophers' a representation of the alchemical secrets that old sages would swear to keep hidden by oath. On the right is an early manual alphabet from 1579. These manual representations of letters had by the seventeenth century become a vehicle for teaching the deaf to communicate.
My name Rima actually means 'a hand' or the number 'five' in Maori.
And finally some sketches of my left hand that I did today with my right hand.
Click on the images to enlarge them
Images and research from:
Writing on Hands: Memory and Knowledge in Early Modern Europe by Claire Richter Sherman
Amulets: A World of Secret Powers, Charms & Magic by Sheila Paine