Published on March 17, 2013 by Amy
Native American symbols, like the hand symbol, are geometric portrayals of celestial bodies, natural phenomena and animal designs. Native Indian symbols were used for a variety of reasons and depicted on numerous objects such as tepees and clothing. The hand was a common symbol seen on the face or the body of Indians, which we have illustrated in the pictures on this page – refer to further examples in War Paint and Horse War Paint. The meaning of the Hand symbol represented success in hand to hand combat. For additional information refer to the Eye-in-the-Hand symbol.
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The Hand symbolized human life and this sign was believed to channel energy to the wearer. War paint in the form of various symbols, such as the hand symbol, were applied to intimidate their enemies when going into battle or during warfare – this where the term “War Paint” was originally derived. The following picture of the Mandan Chief succeeded – he scares the life out of me! The hand symbol also represents spiritual power, strength, domination and protection. The process of applying war paint provided strong mental preparation for the forthcoming battle. Medicine Men sometimes chose certain markings for warriors, like the hand symbol, and powerful magic was passed on during the application of the war paint, such as the hand symbol, helping the warrior to believe himself to be invincible.
The next picture illustrates the use of the black hand symbol on the white horse. Black was used to symbolize victory and might be applied to the horse before returning home to the camp. Black Paint was made using ground charcoal, mixed with spit or animal fat, so it was readily available. The hand symbol was also easy to fast and apply, requiring no artistic skill, just a print of the hand that had been dipped in a colored dye or pigment. A woman who saw the hand symbol on the horse of a warrior was filled with pride and safe in the knowledge that he had shown strength and domination in battle. She knew that she would be able to look to such a man for protection.
Native American Indians had a highly complex culture, especially those who lived on the Great Plains. Their religion was dominated by rituals and belief in a spiritual connection with nature and these beliefs were reflected in the various symbols they used such as the Hand symbol. The clothes, tepees and all of his belongings was decorated with the symbols depicting his achievements, acts of heroism, his various spirit guides or the most important events in his life. Every symbol used by an American Native Indian had meaning which can be accessed from Symbols and Meanings.