The Symbolism of Hands.


The hand is the most frequently symbolized part of the human body. It gives blessing, it is expressive. According to Aristotle, the hand is the “tool of tools.” In general it is strength, power and protection. However, it can just as easily mean generosity, hospitality and stability; “lend a hand”. It is used in gestures of greeting and friendship (shake hands).

The right and left have different symbols related to each: right – the rational, conscious and logical, as well as aggressive and axious, left – opposite of the right, weakness, decay, death. However, the two can be juxtaposed to symbolize balance and the middle (The Left Hand of Darkness, LeGuin, its reference to the Tao, See YINANDYANG).

Hand gestures vary in symbol: laying hands on something – blessing, consecration, transference of guilt, healing; raising one’s hand – to swear, honesty; hand on heart – love, adoration, salutation; two hands clasped – peace, alliance, friendship; hands at side – negligence, arrogance (on hips); with water – purification, cleanliness, innocence.

According to Cooper, Quintilian says, “The hands may almost be said to speak. Do we not u se them to demand, promise, summon, dismiss, threaten, supplicate, express aversion or fear, question or deny? Do we not use them to indicate joy, sorrow, hesitation, confession, penitence, measure, quantity, number, and time? Have they not the power to excite and prohibit, to express approval, wonder, shame?”(78).” – See Reference Here:

I find it interesting reading up on the symbolism of hands and how the hands are depicted in philosophy, religion and applied to sign language, are all different and in a way, it is like compilling a compelling argument or selection of opinions and remarks.

Regardless, it is all positive and helpful contextualisation for my project in Subject. The further I understand the symbolism and importance of hands, the more I can apply this to my experimentations with materials and developing final outcomes. As I am using the significance of hands to portray a visual link to the past with the Holocaust, I feel it is important to fully apply the logic and philosophy and all the context into my project to better develop outcomes.
“Man alone has a hand. He uses it as a tool, as a symbol, and as a weapon. A whole literature of legend, folklore, superstition, and myth has been built up around the human hand. As an organ of performance it serves as eyes for the blind, the mute talk with it, and it has become a symbol of salutation, supplication, and condemnation. The hand has played a part in the creative life of every known society, and it has come to be symbolic or representative of the whole person in art, in drama, and in the dance. Students of constitutional types have used the hand as a means of classification, and the correlation between mental ability and manual dexterity has been the subject of much research. At the University of Pennsylvania, Krogman, using x-rays of the hand, currently is demonstrating new and important aspects of the interrelation of a child’s growth and mental age. Thus the hand, perhaps because it is also dominant in the world of action, has come to be interpreted and understood best in its social aspects.” See Reference Here:


Author: lawrenceaaronmaker

Studying a BA Hons in Artist, Designer; Maker at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s