From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Friday, January 6, 2017

Put a ring on what?

Digitus Quartus     (Photo by Michiel1972)
Throughout the centuries, suitors have heard the command:  Put a ring on it!  Some could have stalled such demands with this retort:  Put a ring on what?

These days, many assume that wedding bands belong on the fourth finger of the left hand.  Few question why that particular digit has come to be known as the “ring finger.” 

Those who do are led through a maze of ancient and medieval history.  Egyptians and Romans, for example, “falsely believed” in the presence of a “delicate nerve” or a vena amoris (“lover’s vein”) which ran from the fourth left finger straight to the heart.  Putting a ring around this finger was therefore tantamount to keeping a
firm grip on one’s lover.

As time went on, the Church began to have its say.  Early Christian worshippers would cross themselves by joining “the thumb with the index and middle fingers” of the right (often stronger) hand.  These three digits would represent the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  This left the fourth finger free for “earthly love.”

As more time went by, the Church began to split.  Protestant reformers were bent upon changing Orthodox rituals.  They therefore relocated wedding rings to the fourth finger of the left hand.  In 1549, such instruction was even included within Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer.   


Copyright January 6, 2017 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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