The symbolism of the hand is rich and varied. According to Jobes the hand represents amity, authority, benediction, construction, divine grace, divine presence, faith, force, greeting, honor, labors, mastery, oath, pledge, usefulness, vigor, and work. The fingers, the thumb, and the palm all have their individual symbolism. Hands made of gold, studded with jewels, or of glass or base metals, have been revered as talismans against evil influences (Jobes). Cirlot writes, "two hands joined signifies mystic marriage-the Jungian individuation" and "In Jung's opinion, the hand is endowed with a generative significance". In alchemical images, the king’s left hand grasping the queen’s left hand "may refer to the unconscious character of their union but that it may also be indicative either of affection or superstition" (pg. 137).
Walker writes, "The hand with an eye in the palm was shown in the Oriental fear-dispelling gesture by certain Tibetan bodhisattvas, and also, half a world away, in the symbols of the Native American mound builders. The entire field of palmistry is summed up in this symbol implying that insight is to be found in the palm of the hand. Walker goes on to state that the oriental "eye of mercy" can be linked to the pierced hands of crucified saviors. Following is a list of hand symbolism.
American Indian – denotes supplication to the master of life or Great Spirit; the use of universal hand gestures and sign language helped unite the linguistically divided Indian nations and allowed for communication
Buddhist – Buddha’s hand symbolizes protection; "with the palm upward it represents unlimited giving; in Buddhist iconography the right hand of Buddha touches the earth, depicting his lordship over it, calling the earth to witness; it is the active pole. His left hand, holding the alms bowl, or turning upwards, is receptivity and surrender; the passive pole" (Cooper, pg. 78)
Celtic – the "long hand" of Lugh represents the rays of the sun
China – symbol of longevity, called shou
Christian – the hand of blessing represents God, the Father, and the Divine Logos; rising from a cloud denotes the power of the Father; "Christian authorities claim that witches transferred the ‘hand of blessing’ to the left, though this was perhaps the pagan custom from the beginning. Christian Europe also demonstrated great fear of the witches’ so-called Hand of Glory, said to be the severed hand of an executed criminal, steeped in beeswax and made into a candle with a flame at the tip of each finger. Such an article would have been difficult to manufacture, to say the least, so it was probably just one more of the witch-hunters’ macabre fantasies" (Walker, pg. 315); in art, the hand represents "descent from heaven to earth or reascent to heaven or descent to the grave and then ascent to heaven" (Jobes, pg. 721); when three fingers are extended, symbol of the three hypostases, the three-fold benediction
Egypt – symbol of fortitude and handicraft; in the "Egyptian tongue, the term designating the hand was related to that for pillar (or a support, or strength) and for the palm. In esoteric doctrine, the position of the hand in relation to the body, and the arrangement of the fingers, convey certain precise symbolic notions" (Cirlot); represents manifestation, action, donating and husbandry; in Egyptian hieroglyphics the open hand represents magnetic force
Greek – "the votive Hand of Sabazios, has the thumb and first finger extended, with the third and fourth fingers crooked (the Cornuto), and has on it the cone, snake, cross, crescent, caduceus, lizard, insects" (Cooper); represents the helping hand of the god, protection, healing, blessing
Continued in Hand Symbolism Part 2