The Magic of Hands
Hands were the first magical tools. Long before the earliest spell
books were written, humans saw their hands as tools of power. With
them they changed their world, and change is the essence of magic.
In the earliest days of our species,* hands were used to gather
and to prepare food, to create shelter, for making simple garments,
and to fashion tools of wood, bone, stone, and shell. Hands clasped
together during the beginnings of life, assisted during birth, struck
against flesh in combat, and laid the deceased to rest. Finally,
humans discovered they could use their hands to create fire. These
quite real changes were probably viewed as the products of what
we would term magic, for many of them were the sole province of
* We can only speculate concerning the earliest spiritual and magical
beliefs and practices, for there certainly are no written records. Speculation
is based on a study of symbolism and a comparison with early
historic civilizations, as well as with pretechnological peoples of more
Hands had other uses as well. Though some now speculate that
early humans first communicated by telepathy, it seems possible
that hand signals were also used. Apart from their value in everyday
life (warning of danger, giving directions during hunts, passing
on rudimentary knowledge), the language of gestures probably
evolved specific signs reserved for religious and magical purposes.
Certain shapes created with the fingers may have promoted union
with spirit. Some were most probably magical in nature.
Thousands of years later, some of these early forms of communication
were specifically associated with religion. Some of these
ritual gestures have been preserved and are still used in religions
found throughout the world*.
The miraculous changes that could be created with hands drove
humans to regard them as one of the most spiritual parts of the
body. In the first great civilizations (Sumer, Egypt, Greece, and
Rome), hands enjoyed both a secular and a sacred aura of power,
and played important roles in religion.
Sumerian images of worshippers were often carved with their
hands held upward in supplication or clasped in humility. Wall
paintings in Egyptian tombs depict deities holding ankhssymbols
of lifein their hands. In reliefs of Ra (an Egyptian sun
deity), the rays stemming from the solar orb terminate in small
Pagan deities from around the world are often depicted holding
or clutching symbols of their powers (which are dispensed through
their hands). Some Hindu deities are equipped with multiple arms
and hands to symbolize the many powers and influences that these
Even while hands were being used in religious capacities, they
never lost their magical qualities. Hand-to-hand combat fostered
the idea that hands were protective. Eventually, hands created
symbols in their own images. Figures of hands were painted or
carved and worn for protective purposes in ancient Egypt, Greece,
*All scuba divers are aware of the importance of gestures as a means of communication.
Rome, Asia, and possibly South America. The powers of hands
were transferred from flesh to bronze, stone, wood, clay, silver, and
gold. For example, protective door knockers from ancient Pompeii
were fashioned in the form of a hand grasping a ball. (Representations
of hands are still worn today throughout the Middle East,
Europe, and Latin America, as they have been since ancient Greek
As systems of magic evolved, hands became increasingly important:
specific figures were drawn or traced, the hands were placed
in certain postures, and ritual tools were carried and moved.
Though many inner processes were at work during magical rituals,
hands were viewed as the channels through which magical energy
Even today, hands havent lost their power. Laying on of hands
is a popular form of healing, in which the hands are used to transport
energy into the sick. The age-old art of palmistry hasnt died
out. Gestures of love (holding hands) and hate (in the United
States, the upraised middle finger) still evoke powerful emotions.
To symbolize the depth of our sincerity while swearing oaths,
we raise a hand. Clasping hands upon meeting a friend is a social
ritual in the West today, and is a survivor of the ancient ritual
demonstration of exhibiting weapon-free hands (and thus, of
We still wear betrothal, healing, and luck rings on our fingers,
perhaps with the unconscious hope that placing such special objects
on our fingers will strengthen their effectiveness. Some of us shake
hands with famous persons, hoping that luck will rub off. Business
transactions are often sealed with a ritual handshake. Semisecret
groups continue to utilize ritual handclaspings as a means of recognition,
and, throughout the world, most of us earn our living by
using our hands.
Religious use of the hands is also with us. Catholics trace the
sign of the cross on their bodies during prayer, priests and ministers
often lift a hand during prayer and supplication (as religious
persons have been doing since ancient Sumer), and Asians clap
before images of their deities during religious ritual.
The wide range of unusual rituals and customs that we still perform
with our hands hints at the magical potential contained
within them. Our hands are far more than utilitarian objects: our
palms and fingers are potent magical tools. Even several millennia
of cultural and technological progress hasnt been able to fully
exorcise this knowledge, as demonstrated by the above four paragraphs.
Knowingly or unknowingly, we still affirm that hands are
Magicians (those conversant with natural but little understood
transformative techniques) know that the human body produces
energy that can be used in magic. The hands are seen as conduits
through which this energy is sent from the body during magical
And so, hands are truly magical tools. With their help we can
change our lives. Any creative act performed with the hands (writing
a letter, weaving a rug, building a house, or knitting a sweater)
can be an act of magic, if its done with the proper intent.
So, what, exactly, is magic? We discuss this subject at length in
chapter 3, but a few words are appropriate here. Magic is the
movement of natural (yet subtle) energies to create positive
change. Its an ancient art, rich with centuries of history and practice.
It isnt supernatural, evil, or dangerous.
Many have found magic to be a technique that allows them to
gain control over their lives; to transform them into happier, more
Spell craft is a special category of magic. It consists of the magical
creation of, and ritual use of, magical objects. When we make
such objects, were performing acts of magic, for were causing
transformations (the raw materials and energies within them) with
Magic can be a purely mental process, using no tools other than
a trained mind. More often, though, it involves the use of specific
objects as focal points for concentration, such as candles, brooms,
and herbs. These objects are usually handled in ritual ways while
energy from within the body is sent into or through them.
This book describes many of these tools. Such objects, specifically
made for a specific magical act, can be quite effective. The
tools described in this book are rarely available in stores, but you
can make themwith your hands.
All hand-made objects contain a bit of energy. The process that
creates these objects is more than a simple repetition of techniques.
During the creation process the craftsperson, through concentration
and the physical activity involved, moves energy from within
the body, through the hands, and into the material being worked.
This is what sets it apart from other objects, and what readies it for
use in magic.
In magic, we have the opportunity to imbue our crafts with specific
energies: a loving relationship, increased money, protection
against harm, enhanced spirituality, a sense of peace, physical and
emotional purification, and psychic awareness. Today, many are seeking
the spiritual dimension of our physical world. Though some of
us enjoy the increasingly complex manifestations of applied technology,
were also searching for subtle explanations of the ways in
which we interact with nature.
Were also eager to take control of our lives, to fill them with positive
energy, to wash them clean of doubt, guilt, depression, poverty,
and pain. Magic is a tool that can be used to do this, and the magic
starts in our own hands.
The aim of magic isnt the domination of nature; its the domination
of ourselves. We can clasp magic as a tool of positive selftransformation.
Spell craft is one aspect of this tool. Sewing beads,
weaving wheat, and creating magical brooms affirms, through
simple techniques and rituals, the powers within our hands and
their ability to shape our lives into nurturing, evolving experiences.
Look at your hands as they really are. See them as wondrous
vehicles of power, of the energy that flows through everything you
do. Tap into that power! Carve a symbol, dip a candle, mix fragrant
herbs, sculpt clay, and make your life all that you want it to be.
Create objects of magic and use them to transform your life into
a positive experience. In doing so youll celebrate nature, your
hands and, ultimately, yourself.