The Hand of Dionysos

Those of you familiar with the work of the painter Dali, will recognise the image of his figure Narcissus in the following illustrations. This placing of the thumb and forefingers is characteristic.

Here we find the image was alive in Roman days and associated with certain additional symbols.

Hand of Dionysos

In the first illustration we note the form of a serpent curling around the wrist and rising into the palm towards the head of a workman. I call him a workman as his hat is that of a labourer more than of, for example, a merchant or a noble. He is a man of the people, much in the way that Hercules and Athena were gods of the agora or marketplace. It has to do with being commonplace, though not common. In addition we see a pine cone lifted by the thumb and the head of wisdom gazing down from the back of the two folded fingers.

Another Hand of Dionysos

In the second illustration the presence of the serpent is also noted rising above the two folded fingers in place of the head of wisdom gazing down. Here however the head of the serpent is a stylised Eagle’s head. The pine cone is still present on the thumb but in place of the head of the workman rising from the palm, we find the head of a ram over what appears to be a votive offering dish. Importantly, at the wrist lies a figure apparently bound in a serpents coils beneath a curved ceiling. This figure is reminiscent of the figure of Mithras slaying the bull. These images are clearly part of the same iconography and the dome beneath which they lie or stand might reasonably represent the night sky. Indeed in the image of the bull slayer we see the signs of the zodiac in a crescent above his head.

Slaying of the bull

Among the symbols familiar to us from Freemasonry is that of the cornucopia, the horn of plenty. When we consider the Twelve books of Architecture of Vitruvius we find that many symbols which are still alive today were present in the Roman era. We might conclude that they were much older also.

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