The Hand of Benediction

Which hand do you use when blessing something — like crossing yourself, blessing a person or object, etc. — and how do you hold the fingers of said hand?  Why should anyone (especially me, since I’m not Catholic or Orthodox) even care?

Well, I have three reasons for seeking insight into this.  A) Very soon I expect to start pursuing some kind of certification for interfaith minister, so I feel I need to know this stuff.  B) I’m into Western Esotericism, I have rituals to do that include blessings and crosses, and I need to know how to hold my hand.  C) Western Esotericism involves pointing at stuff with wands and knives and stuff, and I really don’t like the symbolism.  I’d prefer to use a naked hand.

Use of the right hand seems to be pretty universal.  Finger position, must less so.

Wikipedia has an article on crossing yourself that provides some guidance, but I question the accuracy of the article.  They say that,

“In Russia, until the reforms of Patriarch Nikon in the 17th century, it was customary to make the sign of the cross with two fingers…The enforcement of the three-finger sign was one of the reasons for the schism with the Old Believers whose congregations continue to use the two-finger sign of the cross.”

And yet, if you look at Rasputin in the photo above, he looks like he’s doing some kind of modified tora guchi or Okinawan Karate tiger mouth strike.  Clearly not a two or three-fingered sign of benediction.

Most people I have seen crossing themselves use three fingers of their right hand, as if they are trying to pick up six grains of rice.   Why?  I have not a clue.  But, according to this article, the traditional hand of benediction in use by the Catholic Church today was invented because Pope Peter had nerve damage.

In the end, I don’t think it matters all that much, so I’m going with the relaxed-two-finger-point.  If anyone has reliable information on this topic, any salient input at all, even a strong opinion one way or the other, please comment below!

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2 responses to “The Hand of Benediction

  1. Use the right hand. The first two fingers of the right hand are together and pointing out. The ring finger and pinky are tucked into the palm. The thumb is on top of the nail of the middle finger.

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