Hand signs on the cover of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch?
January 8, 2014 7:29 AM   Subscribe

What do the hand positions on the cover of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch mean?

I've looked through lists of mudras, christian hand signs, satanic hand signs, etc, but haven't found matches for the positions of the hands on this book cover.
posted by gregr to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
I think it's just an artistic presentation of a "corrupted" sign of the cross (i.e., because that seems to be a devil, so he's doing something "scary"), which is a typical way of presenting saints in Christian iconography. See, e.g., this mosaic of Jesus on the wikipedia page for sign of the cross, with the same two fingers up. You see it everywhere in iconography.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:41 AM on January 8, 2014

I don't think the left hand really indicates anything: its just an artistic pose rather than something with symbolic meaning. The right hand is basically a standard priestly 'blessing' format.
posted by easily confused at 7:41 AM on January 8, 2014

Do you mean as both hands together? Or separately? The right hand looks like this. And the whole image reminds me of Byzantine "Christ Pantocrator" image.
posted by pointystick at 7:42 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The cover is drawn as a hagiography/icon, and the two-fingers thing is definitely the sign of benediction/blessing. I suspect the other hand is in the frame for contrast, because he's explicitly making the sign with his robot hand, as per the three stigmata in the book: the artificial teeth, the eyes and hand.
posted by griphus at 7:53 AM on January 8, 2014

In regards to this particular nth edition 1980s paperback cover, I would bet that the publisher said, "do something science-fictiony with religious twist" and the artist dug some reference out of his/her image library without knowing much about the specific intent of the hand gestures.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:57 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's the Christ Pantocrator pose: "Christ holds the New Testament in his left hand and makes the gesture of teaching or of blessing with his right." Also from Wikipedia: "Christ Pantocrator has come to suggest Christ as a mild but stern, all-powerful judge of humanity." Possibly the fact that the character in the illustration has his hand posed as if he's holding a book, but is actually holding nothing, is meant to have some kind of symbolic significance.
posted by milk white peacock at 8:21 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pure speculation: The left hand may be palm up to show that Eldritch's stigmata are the figurative kind (as mentioned, his hand, teeth, and eyes) instead of the literal crucifixion kind. The way his hands are spread out also suggests a kind of sinister embrace, which is consistent with the plot of the book.

(at any rate that's a seriously awesome cover)
posted by neckro23 at 8:37 PM on January 8, 2014

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