The hand of God
IN THE CHRISTIAN WORLD
The hand of God (the right hand) – is a symbol of power and strength. Therefore, all the actions of the omnipotence of God are attributed to the right hand of the Almighty “Thy right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power; Thy right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy” Exodus 15:6. The right hand generally means the south, and the left hand means the north “He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus” Gen. XIV, 15. It is said that among the Jews it was customary to swear by the right hand, which is confirmed by the words in the book of the Prophet Isaiah “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” LХII, 8. While taking an oath the Jews lifted up their right hand to heaven (Gen. XIV, 22).
In Galatians 2:9, the term is used to indicate a pledge of friendship or commitment by clasping right hands (“the right hand of fellowship”). Hence the power of expression (Ps. СХLIII, 8): “whose mouths speak deceit, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood”. To place a guest at the right hand was considered as a special honor (III Chronicles II, 19), and when this expression is used concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, then it indicates His incomparable dignity and the height of greatness and glory. It is also a symbol of happiness.
“In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm XV, 11). The left hand in Slavic is called “shuitsa”. The Veniamins were particularly distinguished by throwing the sling from the left hand; were, as told in the Bible, skilful leftists.
During the appearance of the iconoclasm movement in Byzantium, supported by Emperor Leo III Isavryanin, John Damascene, secretary of the Caliph of Syria, wrote three treatises in defense of icon-worship and handed them over to the emperor. Lev Isavryanin became angry, but could not do anything, since John was not a subordinate of his empire.
To prevent John from writing the works in defense of icons, the emperor resorted to defamation. On behalf of John Damascene a false letter was written, in which he claimed to have offered the emperor assistance in conquering the Syrian capital Damascus. This letter and the Emperor’s reply were sent to Caliph`s. The Caliph was furious and ordered to drive John out of the palace and cut off the wrist on his right hand (“the right hand”) that was hanged in the square. After a while, John received back his cut wrist.
Having closed himself in the house, he put it on to his arm and began to pray before the Virgin Mary icon. During his dream, John saw the Virgin Mary, who told him “Wake up, John!” When he woke up, he discovered that his hand had grown miraculously, and only the scar remained.
As a sign of gratitude for his healing, John put a hand, poured out of pure silver, to an icon and, until the end of his days wore the bloody towel on his head, with which the cut-off arm was carried. He became an ardent Christian, the world later recognized him as John Damascene, and the wonderworking icon of the Virgin Mary is therefore called “Trojeručica” (Three-handed). The icon is located on Mount Athos, in the Serbian Monastery of Hilendar, and for many centuries, miracles have been happening to her. The exact copy of the icon is stored in Bulgaria, in the Troyan Monastery.
In the Muslim world, the symbol of the hand is also much venerated. There is a legend that Fatima, the only daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, was cooking the pastries in the garden and while stirring the mall of fire, her husband Ali walked into the house with his new second wife. Fatima was struck right in her heart, dropped the spoon and continued to stir the hot halva with her hand without noticing the pain.
Since then her hand has become a symbol of patience. “The Hand of Fatima” is also considered as a symbol of the five pillars of Islam: faith, prayer, pilgrimage, fasting, and almsgiving.
The Jewish people usually call this amulet “hamsa”. In translation from Hebrew (הסמח), “hamsa” means “Five” or “The Hand of Miriam”. She was the sister of the prophet Moses. Jews consider the hand of this woman to be very powerful, full of good strength. They carry an amulet in the form of key rings and pendants; put it over the entrance to the dwelling, the windows, in the cars. It is believed that the “hamsa” against the evil eye. Sometimes masters add an image of the Star of David or the eye in the base of the palm. The Jewish people often associate the five fingers of this symbol with the five books of the Torah.
IN ANCIENT TIMES
The symbol of the hand was known in the ancient world long before the emergence of monotheistic religions. In Mesopotamia, Egypt, Phenicia and the Assyrian kingdom, this Symbol in the form of an open palm was very widespread. The inhabitants of Mesopotamia called it “the hand of Ishtar,” the main goddess of the Akkadian pantheon of the gods. Ishtar is the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and love. The symbolic image of the palm was carried by women in order to be loved and give birth to many children. The amulet protects against malice and intrigues of envious people. In Carthage this symbol is called “The Tanith’s Hand”. She was one of the Phoenician goddesses. The image of her hand protected from the evil eye and was often used in magical rituals.