The Sign of Silence

As children often make noise, an adult will often tell us in a hushed tone ‘shhhhh’, placing their index finger to their mouth. This hand gesture is a sign of silence. But its origins have an obscurity to them. This gesture can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, with this hieroglyph meaning children or child.

Hieroglyphic Symbol for Child

This gesture of the hand raised to the mouth may indicate a hungry child, or the desire for the child to be fed. Either way this sign was incorporated into a symbol of Horus, who as a child was known to the ancient Greeks as Harpocrates, the child Horus. 

Horus was often used to depict time, and is heavenly connected with the sun. In the fifth Egyptian dynasty, Ra the solar deity merged with Horus to create Re-Horakhty, the sun of the two horizons.

 

Horizon, the word can be broken down to mean Horus – eye – sun. Horus loses this eye to his evil uncle set. Horus’s eye is symbol of the Sun. Horus is the god of Upper Egypt were the sun will rise, but Horus loses his eye (the sun) to Set who is ruler of Lower Egypt, were the sun sets. Hence the SET-ting sun. Our word for hour is a direct descendent from the word Horus, in Greek it began as ‘Hora’, and eventually became hour in English. As Horus who is a falcon would fly over the sky, as he is a sky god, like the sun he would cross over the sky from horizon to horizon. 

The index finger which in palmistry is known as the Jupiter finger, which is located between his father Saturn (middle finger) and his symbolic mother Venus (thumb) to represent the son/sun of these two figures. As Horus is the child of Osiris and Isis, and is a symbolic representation of the sun. 

The ancient Greeks saw this hand gesture differently, they interpreted as a gesture of silence and secrecy. The reason for this is uncertain, they may have misinterpreted this hand gesture as a way of stopping our lips from moving, or as a potential plug for the mouth. Either way they adopted a new understanding of the hand sign.

The Greeks invented the god Harpocrates due to their understanding of the Egyptians culture. Harpocrates was still connected with the Sun, this is most likely were the phrase ‘Silence is Golden’. Golden like the sun. And as children are often mischievous like Harpocrates they must remain silent like the sun to appease their parents. 

Harpocrates developed wings and become Harpocratic Eros, which in turn become Cupid. Cupid is linked specifically with being a child, and the connection with wings suggests the influence of Horus’s falcon wings, that spanned the sky. representing the young morning sun. 

 

 

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Christian Hand signs

We often find in iconography and in stained glass windows in churches, of saints and Jesus using certain hand gestures. There is two in particular that are used a lot.

Both of these have a particular meaning within Christianity, The hand gesture on the right is used for benediction, which translates from Latin to mean ‘speak well’. This is used at the end of church service as a prayer and blessing. I am sure you will have this this hand gesture used to make the symbol of the cross in church services. Pointing up – ‘In the name of the father’ – now pointing down – ‘The son’ – the hand now sweeps from left to right – ‘and the holy spirit, amen’. This hand gesture is known as the hand of Benediction. Unfortunately this is also a disability, in which the index finger and the middle finger are unable to move due to damage of the median nerve.

I would like to draw your attention to the the use of the fingers in the hand of Benediction.In Palmistry the hand is mapped out with each finger assigned a particular planet. In order to understand the symbolic references of the fingers used we need to take into account what the fingers mean.

As we can see in this diagram, the thumb is known as Venus, the index finger – Jupiter, The middle finger – Saturn, the ring finger – Apollo, the little finger – mercury. We can use our understanding of the Roman Gods to understand why Christians use this particular hand gesture. I suppose the irony here is that we are using paganism to explain Christianity, this interpretation is correct if this hand map is older than when Christianity started using the sign of Benediction. Notice the fingers used for this hand gesture, and notice the hand that is being used. The right hand, it is always the right hand. Why? I hear you ask. The ancient Greeks were particularly superstitious of the left hand and generally anything that on the left side. This spread throughout the Roman empire, as the Romans borrowed heavily from the Greeks for their culture. The left hand bias came with this. that is why we ‘w-right’, from left to right, when we are correct we are ‘right’. Our sense of liner time is from the left to the right. The right is in the future, it is part of our cultural heritage as a sign of progress. The left is the past, it is backwards and underdeveloped. This is why The right hand is used and why when giving Benediction it is from left to right with the right hand.

If we look at the hand of benediction we find that three digits are pointing up. They are pointing towards heaven, to God and symbolise the divine trinity. The tallest of the three fingers is the middle one – Saturn. If we understand the Roman Mythology is based on Greek mythology, we know that Chronos (Saturn) is the creator of the Titian’s, the old Greek Gods, who is the father of the second generation of Greek gods. Chronos and Gaia gave birth to Zeus (Jupiter), who is the son of Saturn. Aphrodite, (Venus) symbolises the divine feminine, as she is represented by the thumb. Which is lower down on the hand, and is unlike the other four fingers of the hand. By placing all the clues together we understand the hand of benediction like this; The father Saturn (Middle finger) represent the father, his son Jupiter (Index finger) represents the son. and the holy spirit is Venus, which is the divine female. As two becomes three. And the Child the index finger is in between the Father, the tallest/highest finger, and the mother, the lowest finger of the hand. The Father being father sky and the mother (Venus) being mother earth. And in between them both is their son. Jesus, in this case of the hand of benediction.

This hand represents the name of Jesus Christ. In Greek it is spelt ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, written using the English alphabet we get “ΙΗϹΟΥϹ ΧΡΙϹΤΟϹ”. The first letter and the last letter of each word, from left to right is written as ICXC. This known as a christogram, and is the abbreviated form of Jesus Christ. In the picture above we get each letter symbolised by the each finger. Jupiter (index finger) is pointing up, representing I. The middle finger curved to represent C, Apollo and Venus, (the thumb and ring finger) join together to form an X. This could represent the joining of heaven and earth, the meeting of father sky and mother earth. The little finger, mercury, represents another C. In iconography and in numerous paintings, sculptures and windows, Jesus will use this hand gesture, and basically it means his name, Jesus Christ.

X Marks the Spot

It is often reported that ‘e’ is the most commonly used letter in the English alphabet. This is true when used for writing, but it is far from being popular as a symbol. ‘X’ or the ‘X mark’ is by far the most used letter in our language, and with it comes several different meanings. To refresh your mind let us consider when it is used. As a child your work would have been ‘marked’ by a teacher sometimes with an x when you got an answer wrong. Large clothes have the sign XL, XXL for the larger person. Pornography uses the letters X in their titles to symbolise that their films are ‘X rated’. In times gone by when illiteracy was common, people who couldn’t write would sign X on a document. According to popular lore, pirates would mark their treasure with an X, hence X marks the spot. In recent time, pop culture has delivered us such terms as Xmas, eX, with eXits. We have the X-men, with X-rays. x means multiplication, a rotated cross, a kiss in a text message. Death or danger is marked with an X. WE have been marked by generation -x. In the past alcohol was marked by its strength by X’s, XXX being the most strongest of beverages. In algebra it means unknown quantity. In Roman numerals it means ten. X has also meant something unknown, a missing person for example. We have eXtraterrestrials,  XX chromosomes for females, XY for males. We have eXopolitics, eXorcisms and exodus.

I think I have made my point, we live in an Xtra-ordinary world. Let us look at some of the numerical uses of the mark X. In Hebrew it is the alphabet, having a numerical value of 1. It is lily the Romans used this to signify 10. Our pronunciation of X -‘ex’. Is linked with the Greek ‘hex’ or ‘hexa’. this means six, in Greek the letters had a numerical value, X (chi) is 600.  X was also written as ‘xi’. Which in Roman numerals means six.

In Latin ‘ex’ is used to mean in or of something. In English the prefix – ex, means the former, out of or from. In my previous blogs I have linked the number six with the word sex, through the use of triangles. If we look at two chevrons, incomplete triangles, one V with an inverted V on the bottom, with both their points touching each other we get a whole new meaning to X. X can mean the female (V) meeting the male (inverted V). The meeting of two humans, face to face. They meet at the X-spot. This is even more symbolic if have a circle with an X inside. X or the cross has been used to denote matter, (masculinity) while the circle means spirit (femininity). X can also be used to interpret the four elements, which are often depicted as triangles. They have combined together, and in the centre we have the spot. The exact point which has the most power. This point would be a place where the fifth element would be located, in-between the four other elements. The quinta essentia, is the element that hermetic philosophers and alchemists would search for, and was often hinted at in symbols throughout alchemical texts. 

In the tarot the tenth card (X) is the wheel of fortune, rota  fortuna. Deals with the changing rhythm of fortune. Often depicted as lady luck, it can also symbolise the wheel of karma, or the solar cross of Norse mythology.

Perhaps this is the best way to described at present what X means, 10 can be read to symbolise 1 (matter, phallus) and 0 (absence/spirit, vulva). The duality of the two combined to create a divine number. The meeting of the male and the female.

The interpretations I have offer here are only scratching the surface of the meaning of X. Its use in culture has increased in recent times, one of the few methods we have to understand its prevalence is to look at its origins and its transformative use throughout time.