'Rock on' Hand Sign in Different Cultures

Hand signs have been used as indicators and symbols from time immemorial by human beings. Some are universal and recognised the world over – for example - the thumbs up sign and a victory sign, but there are also other different signs that mean different things to different tribes and cultures. Heavy metal culture and rock and roll band culture are symbolised by the ‘Rock on’ hand signal, also referred to as the devil’s horns. It is represented by the back of a clenched fist, and the index finger and little finger unfolded. The thumb remains closed. While this may be its meaning in the Western world, it may mean other thing to different cultures.

Origin of ‘Rock on’ hand signal:

It is referred to by many names – devil’s sign, goat horn, metal signs, metal horns, evil fingers and rock fist. As stated before, it most commonly refers to rock and roll. Many musicians use the symbol regularly. It is commonly seen at rock concerts and on music albums. Many celebrities also flash the symbol often. The symbol itself can be traced back to the Mediterranean culture where it was used to ward off the evil eye. It was thought to bring good luck and overcome bad luck. It is seen in ancient Greek paintings from where it was passed on to the Romans and then the Italians. In 1969, the psychedelic rock band Coven used this symbol at the start and end of their concert.

Meaning of ‘Rock on’ hand signal in different cultures:

In India, the use of this sign can be traced as far back as to the Buddha, who used it as a Karana Mudra. It was considered important in ridding oneself of all negativity and to overcome any obstacles in life such as injury, failure, sickness and so on. Its significance is pretty much the same in Italy and in the Mediterranean cultures and is meant to ward off the evil eye. In Peru, again though the sign means the same, they add the word ‘contre’ beside the sign for added measure. This means ‘against’, so the combined sign means against ill luck. In many other countries such as Spain, Argentina, Cuba and Columbia, if the sign is moved back and forth at somebody, it means cuckoldry. It represents the horned god of Wicca in Neopaganism. And somewhere here there is a link to Satanism, which however, has not been established clearly.

When the sign is flashed in a rock concert, it generally means that the person who is flashing that sign is enjoying the concert. The University of Texas uses this as a slogan and as part of their sign language vocabulary. They refer to it as Hook ‘em Horns. This sign is used differently in different cultures. In some cultures there is a positive connotation, while in some cultures there is a negative connotation. However, the ‘Rock on’ hand signal is most widely recognised in the music industry and every rock and roll enthusiast will use the sign extensively.

Atreyee Roy (have 690 posts in total)

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