Saturday 1 March 2008


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


Lady Em said...

How neat, you always post the coolest stuff. I am in love with all your drawings and paintings to!! When I get around to it, I plan on buying some prints from your store. My favorite so far is "Hark". I feel like I visit a world of magic and mystery when I look at your blog and all your art work. Thanks for sharing it, I love it!!

Kris McCracken said...

That really is cool. I have to agree with the above poster. I've only just stumbled across your site and want to say keep up the good work. I'll get to go over some of the olderr posts now and have a whole world of intersting stuff to look at/think about!

Anonymous said...

What beautiful drawings - you inspire me to draw from my own hands now! You must have an amazing collection of books. I notice how similar the Islamic art on the left hand picture is to our own celtic tradition.

Tess Kincaid said...

Yes, I will have to admit, you do have the most fascinating blogs!! I really, really enjoy them! I did a lot of work with sign language for the deaf back in my college days. Hands, like faces are very interesting to me.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and your artwork, always the coolest stories
I am giving you the 'You make my day award' Its a blog award for fun. You pass it onto seven more blogs that inspire you or just make you laugh.
If you like you can share seven random odd facts about yourself also. Thats a different tag but I am rolling the two together! you can check out my post about it if you like.
love and light, xx

mushroommeadows said...

I've always been fascinated by hands. Really. They're just so amazing...they way they look.

Your hands look very artistic. :) Seriously; such long fingers.

Jo James said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely.
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, surely the hands must be the door.
I find whenever I'm having a bit of an artist's block I go back to hand studies, and a trusty #2 pencil. Never fails to remind me who I am.
Hugs- Joee

Ted Marshall said...

Your drawings, pictures and descriptions are wonderful. The hand is indeed a wonderful instrument.
It so happens that I have very strange thumbs - short and squat, more like toes, but very strong. In palmistry they are called "murderers' thumbs" and are supposed to denote a brutish nature. Well I'm not sure about that...
I was very self-concious about them growing up but now I'm kinda proud of them!

Anonymous said...

I just found your site Rima, and it's a salve to my imagination, which feels a little dried out today. Where do you find your wonder I wonder? You create a sense of magic which is so welcome.

gleaner said...

I've just found your beautiful blog- it does feel a little familar as I think we probably share a love of many of the same things...
In true wonkiness (I think I read you using this word) I leave my reply here and not at your most recent post!
By the way, I wonder if you have seen any of the films by Tony Gatlif (Gadjo Dilo, Vengo, Latcho Drom) about the Roma gypsies. I think you would love them!

I'll be back to read some more.