Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Horn Sign

Yesterday I revisited the Thessaloniki Archeological Museum and something pretty odd drew my attention, the "sign of the horn" known these days as "the devil's horns".

Paul Stanley-KISS :)
making the Horn sign

While I'm used on seeing this gesture being made by rock stars I must admit I was a little by surprised to see it on a first century B.C. bas-relief.

This is a picture I took Yesterday while in the museum. As you can notice, the lady sited on the chair is making the horn sign with her left hand while pointing it to the ground. This bas-relief represents a grave stone made by the mother (sited) for her dead son (standing). Why was she doing that sign? Was it bad luck for the living to appear alongside the dead and she needed to protect herself? Was she trying to ensure the safe passage of her son to the other world? One thing is for sure though, this sign was used for keeping away or fighting of evil.

Tomb Stone Bas-Relief - 1st Century BC
Back in those days, magic had a very strong grasp over people. Amulets and protective signs were of daily use. The sign of the horn was a protective gesture and also an implicit curse since in the Mediterranean area (but not only) fighting of evil would mean threatening to curse or cursing it.

Even from the beginnings, magic has been associated with the Moon (Artemis is the Goddess of hunt but also of the magical arts and of the Moon). A waxing moon, or a growing moon was believed to have a positive impact on people lives. It was auspicious for new business, for new beginning. On the other hand, waning moon was considered to be unfavorable to any activities, what we would call "unlucky" these days.
Waning moon
While there are not that many theories about the origins of this gesture, the most believable is that the sign of the horn bares the meaning of the waning moon being a curse and a protective gesture in the same time.

The direction of the fingers indicates the direction in which you send the curse. In that bas-relief, being pointed at the ground, it meant protection from the underground forces by cursing them. In Greek mythology, the underground was the home of Hades, one of the twelve Olympian Gods and probably the less loved of them all since he was in charge of the dead and their souls. 

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, I was wondering what exactly the sign was.