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This is a gesture known as the Christogram, and is considered the original “sign of the cross.” The fingers are positioned to form the Greek letters ICXC, an abbreviation of the Greek name of Christ: IHCOYC XRICTOC. This gesture is ubiquitous in Renaissance images of Christ and the apostles, as well as in portraits of Saints and clergy.

The Christogram is used today as a traditional gesture of blessing by priests in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Curiously, the same gesture is known in Hindu and Buddhist traditions as the prana mudra, a symbol of healing.

Hans Memling, Christ blessing

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The emblem of the Jain religion, symbolizing its main tenet, the doctrine of nonviolence. The hand is in the position of the abhaya or “no fear” mudra, a gesture-symbol shared with Hinduism and Buddhism. The wheel in the center of the palm is the wheel of Samsara (or dharmachakra); the word in the center of the wheel reads ahimsa, “stop.”

Together, they represent the halting of the cycle of reincarnation through the practice of Jain asceticism, the avoidance of harm to any living creature.

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Universal  Jain

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ReikiThis is a fairly well known image, borrowed from Native American solar pictographs. It is used most often today to symbolize the energy-emitting hand of a Reiki or other spiritual healer. Reiki is a New Age healing practice that involves the manipulation of energy by initiates through symbols, which are created by moving the hands in specified patterns over the body. The meaning of the pictographic form, which is found in many places in the southwestern US, is unknown, but with its solar spiral likely represents a Shaman’s powers.

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A grisly magical charm popular with thieves in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the hand of glory was a candle made from the dried hand of a hanged convict through a complicated recipe that also included herbs, horse dung, peppers, and salt. The hand would be carefully mummified, and then joined to or turned into a candle using tallow from a hanged corpse. (whether this is from the same corpse is apparently irrelevant). Set alight, the hand was reputed to have the power to render the occupants of a household insensible, making burglary a simple task.

A hand of glory