Q: What is the Mano Poderosa?

A: The Roman Catholic image  of the Powerful Hand (Mano Poderosa in Spanish) depicts the right hand of God with fingers and thumb stretched upright [see right].  The palm, with its stigmata, faces toward the viewer.  The figures that stand at the top of the four fingers represent St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne.  The Christ Child is depicted on the thumb.

Often, the hand is shown with small winged cherub-heads floating in the sky above the hand.  Sometimes, four female angels kneel beside the hand, gazing upward and bearing the tools of the crucifixion.  One of the angels holds a bowl to catch Jesus' blood; another angel holds a spear, a vinegar soaked-sponge, a hammer and nails.  A third angel holds a cross and the fourth, a crown of thorns.

This image, the Mano Poderosa is quite popular throughout Mexico, and is often sold on holy cards and votive candles.  The meaning of the hand may derive from ancient times as a sign of magical protection and benediction.  Historian Carla Wisch explains, "Within popular Catholicism, the Omnipotent Hand symbolizes the all-powerful hand of Christ.  With its stigmata, the severed hand evokes the image of Jesus' hand nailed to the Cross. It most likely evolved from pre-Christian pagan rituals that prophesied the coming of Christ.  In Europe it was known as the "Anna Hand," for St. Anne, and was used as a mnemonic device to help the faithful recall the order of prayers and confessions."

Source: Dr. Judith Huacuja

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