Popular Science Monthly/Volume 38/February 1891/Greeting by Gesture I
|GREETING BY GESTURE.|
VERBAL salutations have generally been employed to explain those expressed by gesture and posture. The study of ancient literature and of modern travel has furnished many friendly phrases of anthropologic and ethnic interest. But friendly greetings were common before articulate speech prevailed. Sign-language was then the mode of communication, and gestures connected with the concepts and emotions of men preceded and influenced all historic ceremonials of greeting. So it is judicious to resort to gesture-speech, as still found surviving among some peoples and deaf-mutes, for the explanation of the existing and still more of the oldest known forms of salutation, whether verbal or silent. Undoubtedly some of the verbal forms are of recent origin and are independent of any gesture, and such cases require separate discussion; but there are many known instances where greeting is and long has been expressed by gesture without words, and others in which the words used, conjointly or independently, are but derivations from the older, perhaps disused, gestures.
In this application of sign-language the characteristics of that mode of expression appear with distinctness, noticeable among which are the variety of shades of meaning conveyed by substantially the same gesture and the different modes of exhibiting the same substantive concept. Sign-language is more elastic as well as more comprehensive than oral language. Its abbreviation and symbolism are also so clear that linguistic lore and etymologic guess are not needed for their explanation.
The main divisions of the subject to be now considered are I. Salutations with contact; and, II. Salutations without contact. Under the first division it is convenient to notice successively those directly connected with the sense of—1, touch; 2, smell; 3, taste—although that is not the probable order of their evolution.
Touch.—Under the heading of touch come the personal palpations, such as patting, stroking, or rubbing the head, chest, or abdomen. These are very ancient and wide-spread, but have seldom special significance save as expressive of good-will by seeking to give a pleasurable sensation. Licking sensitive parts with the tongue is in the same category; and most actions of this class may be derived from, or at least explained by, those of subhuman animals.
The abdominal surface was most generally favored, its rubbing being practiced in both hemispheres, and ranging from the Arctic Ocean to Polynesia. Perhaps the notorious fact that eating was often continued to painful repletion, after which friction of the abdomen is a relief, may have some connection with the practice; but it is more probable that it arose from the moderate and agreeable warmth and titillation produced by manipulation of that region. The highest mark of respect in the Mariana Islands was to stroke with the hand the abdomen of the person saluted. The stroking of the exposed surface of that part of a friend's body was symbolized in 1823 by the Eskimos stroking down with their palms the front of their own fur jackets.
But other exposed surfaces received the same attention. When the Kaiowa Satana came back to his wives after a long absence, he said not a word, neither did they, but they stroked his face and shoulders gently with indistinct murmurs of endearment. Livingstone reported that the Zambesi patted the hands of the person saluted.
The Gond people pull the ears of their friends. That familiar performance between the low comedian and the soubrette on the stage is probably not immediately connected with the manners of Corea, where, according to H. St. John, "they have no salutations except buffeting each other/' The latter may be likened to the proverbial Irish mode of courtship, or with more seriousness to the love-making of lions, where the pat of the paw is subversive.
In many hot regions, markedly in the New Hebrides and New Guinea, actually sprinkling water by the hand over the friend's head is the best expression of friendship. It was symbolized by canoe-men who, on approaching a vessel, sprinkled toward it the sea-water from their paddles, and the significance, if not otherwise known, would be made clear by the spoken words, meaning "May you be cool!" It becomes a question how closely this idea is connected with baptism, and how nearly the old gesture of the hand is preserved in those forms of benediction which are not immediately adopted from the figure of the cross.
In Arabia Petræa the cheeks are pressed together without the use of the lips or hands; and the Indians of Texas in 1685 were noticed to show affection by blowing against the ear. The Biluchi "embrace" by each laying hands alternately on both shoulders of the other. The mutual embrace of affection can not, however, properly be considered as a mere salutation, because it is a communion practiced wholly unconnected with meeting and parting, but it may explain the origin of some of the salutes made with personal contact. Yet certain reports of the occasion and manner of embraces seem to include them among true salutations—e. g., men of the Darling River, when friendly, "salute by standing side by side and casting each of them his nearer arm round his fellow's neck." This suggests the concept of union, though it is more commonly and more conveniently expressed by other actions.
When an Aino returns home after travel, he and his friend put their heads on each other's shoulders; the elder then lays his hand on the younger's head and strokes it down, gradually drawing his hands over the shoulders down the arms and to the tips of the younger's fingers. Until this has been done neither speaks a word. The description would apply to the usual mode of making hypnotic passes. A similar stroking is performed by the Blackf oot Indians of Canada to express gratification.
Other salutes of contact were symbolized by a pantomime in which actual contact was omitted. The Eskimos, as La Potherie told in 1753, "jumped, and rubbed their own stomachs," and the Ainos in informal society stroke their own flowing beards at a visitor, as if to signify, "Consider your beard, if you have any, to be duly stroked."
Some gesture-signs to express friendship are simply symbolic of the actions of friendly greeting. In the remarkable speech of Noaman at Tinicum, on the Delaware River, in the middle of the seventeenth century, he stroked himself three times down his arm, as a greeting of peace, not being able to perform the ceremony to the arms of the auditors. The actions, above mentioned, of the Eskimos in stroking their own bodies and rubbing their own noses, may merely signify that, when they could not get at the proper subjects for nose-rubbing and stroking, they made the semblance of those motions as the sign for their usual physical demonstration of friendship. A case where actual contact and symbolizing appear to be mixed was reported in 1699 by DTberville of the Bayogoulas, who first stroked their own faces and breasts, then stroked the breasts of the saluted party, after which they raised their hands aloft, at the same time rubbing them together. The concept of intermingling personalities is indicated. A suggestion of the absorption of happiness through pressure and friction comes from the narrative of Sir John Franklin, as follows: "Whenever Terregannœuck (a Deer-Horn Eskimo) received a present, he placed each article first on his right shoulder, then on his left; and, when he wished to express still higher satisfaction, he rubbed it over his head" This is apparently more than mere taking possession of the article.
Next may be considered the mutual grasp of the hands in greeting. It is difficult to realize that the junction of hands by friends is not instinctive, a physical or sentimental magnetism being so commonly associated with it. Nevertheless, the mutual grasp of hands on friendly meeting, apart from ceremony and symbol, is comparatively recent, and the practice is even yet confined to a limited area. For instance, it appears in Captain Back's Narrative that in 1833 the greeting by union of hands was as strange to the dwellers in arctic lands as their rubbing of noses was to the visitors. Mr. Spencer has published his opinion that the "hand-shake," as the salutation is commonly entitled in English, originated in a struggle, first real, afterward fictitious, in which each of the performers attempted to kiss the hand of the other, which was resisted, thus producing a reciprocating movement. To verify this suggestion it will be necessary to examine into the antiquity and prevalence of the kiss in salutation, which will be considered in its order.
Instances are found for the identical friendly contest for kissing, or priority in kissing, hands, relied on by Mr. Spencer, but they are connected with the topic of precedence as affecting all forms of greeting. Far too much importance is given in the suggested explanation to the shake or motion of the joined hands. The ancient usage, and even that which is now general, is not "hand-shaking" but hand-taking and pressing. The French expressions are "serrer la main" and "donner une poignée," or more fully "échanger une poignée de main." The translated Gaelic phrase is "Give me the hand," and the German is "Hand reichen" or "Hand geben." The quotation so often made from Virgil, where Æneas says to his father Anchises, "Da jungere dextram," indicates only union. It does not appear that any language but English has the familiar and colloquial form "shake hands" or its equivalent, and this is because the hands are not often shaken among other than English-speaking peoples. No more motion is normally employed than is needed to give emphasis, that is, pressure, to the union, and, except when the gesture is made by awkward persons, the pump-handle is not put into operation. Cases of great excitement, real or simulated, formed exceptions, and the ostensible, perhaps ostentatious, motions derived from such exceptional cases must be classed as extrinsic to the intent and unrelated to the origin of the gesture.
When it is considered necessary to do something obvious in connection with the grasp, as if to proclaim that the act of peace and good-will is performed, peoples not of English origin and not under English influence have devices differing from the "shake." On the Niger the ceremony is completed by the two parties taking loose hold of the fingers of each other's hands and then slipping them, making at the same time a snapping noise with the aid of the thumb. In the same region the Lander party complained of being obliged to "crack fingers" along with other ceremonies. According to Schweinfurth, the Niam-Niam and the Monbutto extended their right hands on meeting, "and joined them in such a way that the two middle fingers cracked." The action is essentially not hand-taking, still less hand-shaking, the object being to join in making a noise by the fingers to emphasize union.
A parallel exhibition of the savage idea that satisfaction should not be silent is in the still extant custom of those Bedouins who pride themselves on their breeding. When they sip coffee they make a noise with their lips such as a horse makes in drinking, which among them is the criterion of the man accustomed to the usages of polite society; he who is in the habit of sipping it noiselessly being regarded as a person whose social education has been neglected. The Zuñi and other Indians, whose sole test of festal enjoyment is in repletion, show their gratification by pronounced and elaborate eructations.
It must be noticed that a mutual struggle for the privilege of kissing the hand could only occur in contention of courtesy between equals. It would be a sign of displeasure for the recognized superior to withdraw his hand from his inferior; and special favor was shown in the East, not by withdrawal, but by turning the palm to be kissed sometimes instead of, and sometimes in addition to, the back of the hand, which was normally approached by the lips. It is also clear that the hand-taking or grasping, 1 with or without the shaking, was in its essence mutual, which hand-kissing could not be, as the nearest approach to the idea of mutuality in that action would be its exchange in succession. So Mr. Spencer's explanation does not apply to the great majority of the salutes now in question. It is also necessary to bear in mind that the expression "hand-shaking" as reported by English travelers is deceptive, being, as before explained, a mere term. When detailed descriptions are presented it generally appears that there is no "shake," but a mutual grasp or some other use of joined hands. In the present discussion, therefore, the so-called shake may be dismissed as non-essential.
The Chinese saluter clasps his hands together, holds them out, waves them gently, bends forward, and says, "Chin! chin!" meaning, "Please, please!"—or, less definitely, "Thank you," or "Goodby," as the circumstances explain. In the Society Islands the clasping of hands marked the marriage union or the loving compact between two brothers-in-arms, but had no place in ordinary greetings. Among the North American Indians, and in other parts of the world where, as among the Indians, the hand-grasp in simple salutation has not been found, the junction of the hands between two persons is the ceremonial for union and peace, and the sign for the same concept is exhibited by the two hands of one person similarly grasped as an invitation to, or signification of, union and peace. It must be remembered that among the North American Indians to smoke tobacco is the most common salutation. Indians are at peace only with those with whom they smoke, and to smoke is to make peace. When actual smoking is not practicable the gesture-sign for it is also that for "peace" and "friend." The Cheyenne form is—tips of the first two fingers of the right hand placed against or at a right angle to the mouth and suddenly elevated upward and outward to imitate smoke expelled. Apart from this prevailing sign, one, often made for peace, is by clasping the hands in front of the body, the back of the left hand usually down. Some Indians clasp the hands by interlocking the fingers, holding the forearms vertical. The Sac, Fox, and Kickapoo tribes hold before the body the extended left hand, and grasp it with the right. It is of interest, in confirming the above-mentioned concept of these signs, that since the Cherokees have learned to write in their own language by their own syllabary, they place at the end of their friendly missives the word "wiguyáligû," meaning, "I grasp your hand at a distance."
The ideogram of clasped hands to indicate peace and friendship is found in pictographs from many localities. It is possible that the exhibition and presentation of the unarmed hand, to be mentioned in another connection, may have affected the practice, but the probability that the paramount idea was that of agreement is enhanced by a prescribed pantomime of the old Roman law continuing down to the empire from the time of Numa, or the prehistoric lawgivers who were embraced in his mythic personality. The contestants before the legal tribunals were compelled each to offer his right hand for the clasp of his adversary in token of good faith and confidence, before the cause was heard. The same pantomime, pretending honesty of purpose, is obligatory now between prize-fighters, stripped and in the ring, before the first blow can be struck. Support to the hypothesis comes also from a formulary which is still common in Ireland and in some parts of England, of depositing saliva in the right hands and then mutually grasping them to solemnize or cement a bargain.
In several parts of the world the junction is not of the hands, but of some or all of the fingers bent so as to form hooks or links, thus removing from the salutation the suggestion of magnetic pressure and sympathy, and substituting that of mechanical attachment. The Papuans of Torres Strait partially bend the fingers of the right hand and hook them with those of the person saluted, then rapidly jerk the hands apart. This is repeated several times. Schweinfurth describes as general in Africa the hooking of the middle fingers, and their violent jerking, often causing the "crack" before mentioned. The Dakota sign for "friend" is to point forward and a little upward with the joined and extended fore and middle fingers of the right hand, which is about a foot in front of the right breast; move the hand upward to the right side of the face, then straight forward about eight inches, and then a little upward. Thus a hook is pictured in the air. Or the bent right index, palm downward, is hooked over the bent left index, palm upward, the hands about a foot in front of the body. The Southern Indians frequently link their index-fingers in front of the body to express friendship. A more emphatic sign made by the Comanche is to bring the two hands near each other in front, and clasp the two index-fingers tightly, so that the tips of the finger and the thumb of each hand touch, thus forming two distinct and united links.
The Delaware Noaman, in his speech at Tinicum, made the sign for friendship in special connection with alliance "by the semblance of making a knot." The etymology of alliance from alligare, to bind to, is at once recalled. Some deaf-mutes in the United States interlock the forefingers for "friendship"; clasp the hands, right uppermost, for "marriage"; and make the last sign, repeated with the left hand uppermost, for "peace." The idea of union or linking is obvious. Other deaf-mutes, to express friendship, link the index-fingers twice, first holding the left hand hack down and then turning it back up.
In this connection it is to be noted that the Japanese, in actual salutation, not merely as a sign of it, only indicate the hand-grasp. They fumble with their own hands in greeting, instead of troubling those of the person greeted, which is a proof of their refinement, deserving of imitation in the United States, where the continual and promiscuous hand-taking, which often is hand-shaking, is a serious nuisance, and is properly ridiculed by foreign visitors. The habit, however, is not peculiar to the United States, most Teutonic peoples having the same and being also ridiculed by the French. The Chinese, with a higher conception of politeness, shake their own hands. The account of a recent observer of the meeting of two polite Celestials is: "Each placed the fingers of one hand over the fist of the other, so that the thumbs met, and then, standing a few feet apart, raised his hands gently up and down in front of his breast. For special courtesy, after the foregoing gesture, they place the hand which had been the chief actor in it over the stomach of its owner, not on that part of the interlocutor." The whole proceeding is symbolic, but doubtless is a relic of objective performance. The Chinese symbol for friend, dok, is two hands.
Some writers have conjectured that the custom of giving and taking hands is derived from the giving and taking of presents, often an obligatory act of friendship. In several countries objects, perhaps of no value, must always be exchanged on the meeting of friends. To offer, accept, or refuse a hand undoubtedly has import, independent of the manner of junction. Other suggestions have been made to the effect that the hand-grasp was symbolic of the action by which physical help is frequently rendered, as by raising up a comrade who has fallen into a hole. A more poetical concept is clearly indicated in the Oto addition to the common sign for friend: Both hands are brought open before the chest, then extended, and the left hand, with palm up, is grasped crosswise by the right with palm down, and held thus several seconds. The hands are then unclasped, and the right fist is held in the left axilla, by which it is firmly grasped. "One whom I will not let go."
Indians have another mode of expressing "union," "friend," and specifically "brother," and "growing up together." They hold the right hand in front of and back toward the neck, index and second fingers extended, touching, pointing upward and slightly to the front, the others and thumb closed; raise the hand, moving it slightly to the front until tips of fingers are as high as the top of the head; or the index-fingers of both hands may be used similarly.
A form of expressing friendship accompanied by adoption was reported in 1837 from a Texan tribe. The oldest chief took the white visitor "by the right hand and commenced a sort of manipulation up the arm, grasping it strongly, as if feeling the muscles at short distances quite up to the shoulder." The visitor was obliged to do the same to the chief, and to exchange the same ceremony with all the other chiefs. The Murray-Islanders of Torres Strait do not clasp hands, but each gently scrapes with his fingernails against the palm of the other's hand. These performances remind of certain secret society "grips," and they may have been absolutely on that principle, as many American and some Polynesian tribes have mystic, generally religious, secret societies similar to those of Europe and Asia.
A curious custom of the Ainos may be explained either on the theory of magnetic rubbing or on that of producing union by trituration: A strange Aino is received by the head man of the village visited. Both kneel down, and, laying their hands together, rub them backward and forward. Neither says a word before the ceremony is completed.
Smell.—The sense of smell, though intimately connected with that of taste, is remarkably acute among the lower tribes of men, therefore probably its exhibition in gesture-speech is at least as ancient as the similar exhibition of the sense of taste.
Smelling and sniffing come early among known salutations, and are still common. Those actions among subhuman animals on their meeting are so well known that comparison is needless. The wants and habits of civilized but not thoroughly cultured life have diminished the functions of smell, and tobacco-smoking, among other usages, has impaired its organs. But relics of the importance once attached to smell are yet found. In Siam there is a rule which might be imitated to advantage. On the approach of an inferior the superior sends one of his attendants to examine whether the visitor has eaten or carries with him anything of an offensive odor. If so, he is refused admission. A remarkable contrast to most of the American Indians regarding scents has lately been reported from British Columbia. Immediately before the expected arrival of friends the tribesmen clean their habitations and bathe, so that no bad odor remains to offend the guests. They also take repeated baths before religious ceremonies, so that their redolence may be agreeable to the Dairnon invoked. This concept recalls the still existing Gaelic belief that the fairies are pleased by sweet odors and cleanliness, and are driven off by the opposite. Neither of these examples relates to the use of any ceremonial perfumes, such as incense, which, indeed, was designed to affect the worshiper.
The junction of noses is so general, and described as so forcible in Africa and Oceanica, as to have given rise to a fanciful theory that it had occasioned the flattening of the noses of the peoples. But in the accounts of many of the tribes of the Dark Continent ajid of the islanders of New Zealand, Rotouma, Tahiti, Tonga, Hawaii, and other groups, the essential action does not seem to be that of either pressure or rubbing, but of mutual smelling. It is true that the travelers generally call it rubbing, but the motion and pressure are sometimes no greater than that of the muzzles of two dogs making or cementing acquaintance. The pressure and rub are secondary and emphatic. The juncture only means the compliment, "You smell very good!" It is illustrated in the Navigator group when the noses of friends are saluted with a long and hearty rub and the explanatory words "Good! very good; I am happy now!" The Calmucks also go through a suggestive pantomime of greeting in which they creep on their knees to each other and then join noses, as much as possible like the two dogs before mentioned. In the Navigator Islands only equals mutually rub their noses. The inferior rubs his own nose on and smells the superior's hand. The respectful greeting of Fiji is to take and smell the hand of the superior without rubbing it. In the Gambia when the men salute the women they put the woman's hand up to their noses and smell twice at the back of it. In the Friendly Islands noses are joined, adding the ceremony of taking the hand of the person to whom civilities are paid and rubbing it with a degree of force upon the saluter's own nose and mouth. The Mariana-Islanders formerly smelled at the hands of those to whom they wished to tender homage. Captain Beechy describes of the Sandwich-Islanders: "The lips are drawn inward between the teeth, the nostrils are distended, and the lungs are widely inflated; the face is then pushed forward, the noses brought into contact, and the ceremony concludes with a hearty rub."
Sometimes the smelling and the nose-rub are not mutual, being successively exchanged. The Chittagong-Hill people and the Annamites place the nose upon the friend's cheek and inhale through it strongly. They ask not for a kiss, but for a smell. The Khyoungtha of eastern India apply the mouth and nose to the cheek and give a strong inhalation. The Zuñi clasp hands and alternately carry the hand of the friend to the mouth and inhale it. They neither kiss nor smell, but, as they say, "exchange the breath of the life." This action has been erroneously reported as hand-kissing; and several of those above mentioned, which are accurately described as joining the noses and smelling the cheek or hand, have been mistaken for the kiss, either mutual or single.
A tribe of the Eskimos was described by Captain Ross as pulling their own noses for greeting, which he thought had reference to the application of snow as a cure for the frost-bite. It might occasionally have been a signal or warning to a friend that his nose required snow, but as a greeting it was merely symbolic of the rubbing or pressing of noses common both in high and low latitudes. This pressing itself is abbreviated or perhaps indicated in New Guinea by friends simply touching with the hand the tips of their respective noses. The Todas, in respectful address and on approach to sacred places, raise the thumb-edge of the right hand vertically to the nose and forehead. This probably is the gesture of an imprecation—the penalty being that the head may be split open—and has no connection with either smelling or with rubbing the nose, though easily mistaken for those actions. Another symbolic gesture of salutation which is given by the Aino women between themselves may be mentioned. They draw the forefinger of the right hand between the forefinger and thumb of the left, then raise both hands to the forehead, palms up, and then rub the upper lip under the nose with the forefinger of the right hand. This might be translated as expressing admiration for the good odor imputed to the other lady.
Taste.—After smelling, the gustatory employment of the lips comes in order of time and of culture planes. Regarded merely as a salutation, the kiss seems to have been used between men before it was applied between the sexes—e. g., Cyrus kissed his grandfather in formal reverence "because he wished to honor him." But perhaps this distinction was only because there was no public salutation adopted for men to women, on account of woman's greater seclusion. In the old days the women were regarded as inferiors, and the erect posture required for a mutual and ceremonial kiss in public was subversive of some regulations concerning superior and inferior to be discussed later. The practice of kissing between males, seeming to cultured peoples ludicrous if not disgusting, is still common in continental Europe and in other less-civilized regions, but it is seldom performed by the two pairs of lips. The lips of one or successively of both actors are generally applied to the cheek. But sometimes, when kissing the cheek has been reported, the action was in fact misunderstood. In addition to the instances mentioned elsewhere, this error would naturally attend the "blowing upon our ears," as narrated by Joutel of the natives of Louisiana in 1685. Also to-day in Arabia, indeed commonly in the Orient, the lips are applied to the flowing ends of the saluted man's beard. These appendages, to which veneration is always attached, are solemnly raised to the saluter's mouth and kissed. That was the treacherous salutation of Joab to Amasa.
The mutual kiss of affection or passion by the lips between persons of opposite sex is generally considered to be instinctive. Reichenbach sought to explain it on the theory that the mouth was the focus of his "odic force" and that these two foci of opposite sexes possessed natural attraction to each other. The hypothesis that the kiss is to be derived from the mutual licking of each other by the subhuman animals is unsatisfactory, because those animals seldom bring the soft parts of their respective mouths into contact. They exchange licking as they exchange rubbing of other parts of the body, and such lickings and rubbings are unrelated to sex. But the fact that the mutual kiss between opposite sexes is not general among the tribes of men is abundantly shown by the observations of travelers in the lands where savagery and barbarism still exist. Where it is now practiced it is not probably of great antiquity. In some languages, notably the Japanese, there is no word for kiss.
When, however, the kiss was introduced to include women, its vogue, like that of other new inventions, was carried to excess. According to the chronicle of Winsenius, it was unknown in England until the Princess Rowena, the daughter of King Hengist, of Friesland, instructed the insular Vortigern in the imported salute. Though the Saxon statistics are not probably exact, it is historical that in England, not many generations ago, it would have been the imperative duty of a visitor to have kissed all the ladies of the household, even without previous acquaintance. Such was the experience of many surprised literary foreigners, notably Erasmus. The contemporary drama shows the usage to have lasted into the Georgian era, and it is to be noticed that the performance was generally called a "salute," sometimes "the salute."
The history of the early Christian Church affords instruction on this topic. At first the kiss was an adopted sign of fellowship—"Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss" (1 Thess., v, 2G). It early passed into ceremony as the kiss of peace given to a newly baptized convert, and in celebrating the Eucharist. But, as it was found to have some qualities not adapted to religious and spiritual use between the sexes, it was ordered that only men should kiss men and women only women. The awkwardness of this practice, or perhaps the experience that promiscuous kissing, even when limited to the same sex, was liable to convey contagious diseases, induced another amendment, by which the ceremonial kiss in the Roman Church was only passed between the ministrants, and a relic or cross called the oscillatorium or pax was passed to the people for their lips.
It may, perhaps, be suggested that one reason for the very long delay in the practice of the mutual kiss was in the general use by one or both of the sexes of nose-rings or labrets, either of which would prevent the approximation requisite. If such use be not admitted as a causa sufficiens, it at least affords evidence that the kiss was not customary among the people by whom nose-rings and labrets were worn. Indeed, Prof. Dall gives instances where labrets being common and the kiss unknown, the tongues are protruded in affectionate salutes.
The kiss of the hand is undoubtedly ancient, and therefore is not derived from that of the lips, but probably the converse is true. The hand-kiss is loosely asserted to be developed from servile obeisances in which the earth, the foot, and the garments were kissed, the hand and cheek succeeding in order of time and approach to equality of rank. But it is doubtful if that was the actual order, and it is certain that at the time when hand-kissing began there were less numerous gradations of rank than at a later stage. Kissing of the hands between men is mentioned in the Old Testament, also by Homer, Pliny, and Lucian. The kiss was applied reverentially to sacred objects, such as statues of the gods, as is shown by ancient works of art, and also, among numerous etymologies, by that of the Latin word adoro; and it was also metaphorically applied by the inferior or worshiper kissing his own hand and throwing the salute to the superior or statue. In republican Rome kissing the hands of superiors was common, but the greeting was more energetic than the emperors could endure, and soon courtiers of even important station were compelled to kneel and with the right hand carry the hem of the emperor's robe to their lips. Even this became a too precious, or, through proximity, a too dangerous privilege, and they were only allowed to salute at a distance by kissing their own hands, as when they adored the gods. This sign of Rome's decadence has survived in the locality. The mouth kissing the hand, by which Job described a species of idolatry, is a species of adulation practiced by every cringing servant in Italy. When the actual practice has ceased, it survives in phrases. Austrian men habitually say to one another, "Küss d'Hand!" and Spaniards "Beso á Vd. los manos!" A variant form was found among the Algonkins and Iroquois, as Champlain related, in 1G22, that "they kissed each his own hand and then placed it in mine."
Affection, together with respect, is sometimes shown in the Orient when a servant salutes a master, a son his father, or a wife her husband, by kissing the other's hand either on back or palm or both and then carrying it to the kisser's forehead. Among the-Malays the visitor approaches the 'man he wishes to salute with his hands joined as if in supplication, while the other touches them lightly with his own on either side, and afterward raises his hands to his lips or forehead. These motions are similar to the ceremonies in the feudal acts of homage and fealty. The Micronesians, notably in the Pelew and Caroline Islands, took up either the hand or foot of the party respected and rubbed their own faces with it. Some religious sects—e. g., the Dunkers—also kiss one another's feet—after washing them.
The original concept expressed by the hand-kiss was that of "good." In very early times to possess what had a good taste was of the greatest importance to man, and therefore a good taste was the symbol of any good thing or person. So, when practicable, the hand of the person saluted was carried to the lips to signify that he was good. This act is naturally accompanied by the bowing of the head. The common gesture-sign for "good" in all senses is to carry the hand to and from the lips with a pleasant expression. The spontaneous expression of deaf-mutes is much the same, signifying not only greeting, but satisfaction, in short—good. Their full sign is described as "touch lips with palm or ends of fingers pointing upward, then wave the hands outward to the right and downward, turning palm up." This is a complete description of kissing one's own hand, but it has no relation to the kiss by the pairs of lips.
A common gesture-sign for "peace," the idea of friendship being more directly connected with that of "quiet," is made by placing the forefinger on the lips, which sign has often been erroneously reported as a kiss. Still another Indian sign, similar in motion and in conception, is that which, with variant emphasis and expression, means admiration, or surprise, or a high degree of content. Its essence consists in placing the hand upon or over the mouth, that being sometimes closed and sometimes open, though covered by the hand with rapid emphasis. In the former case it is interpreted to mean that language is inadequate to express the sensations felt. When the mouth is open, with the hand placed over it to attract notice, the sign represents surprise by imitation of the familiar and instinctive action attending that emotion. This sign also has been reported as a kiss of the hand. Another case where the same error might readily have occurred is also of interest, as showing a contrast with the Zuñi inhalation, giving an equally poetical concept. In equatorial Africa the hands of the person saluted are blown upon, with the words, "Let it be as smooth with you as the breath I blow on your hand."