Sign Salad has reached five years of age. Why do we all see a fifth anniversary as more important than the second, third, sixth or seventh?
One reason is it is half of ten, and what with our decimal system this carries some weight. But there is another reason: five has an ancient resonance in the human mind. Why? Because we each have five fingers (including the thumb) on our hands. The ‘high five’ may be a modern term, but it accurately reveals the centrality of the number five to basic human interaction and psychology.
Evidence for the archaic resonance of the number is found in the glorious ‘Panel of Hands’ in El Castillo Cave in northern Spain. It is around 40,000 years old. We can’t know exactly what the images represent, but we can say that five was a number that possessed a fundamental power in the makers’ minds.
A five-pointed shape is of course also found in the pentagram (or pentangle), which has deep religious and mystical resonance. While today we tend to automatically associate it with paganism, Freemasonry or even witchcraft, the shape actually has roots in less negatively coded historic settings, including the Pythagoreans in ancient Greece and the Babylonians.
Indeed, interestingly, the pentagram was once upon a time not a symbol of anti-Christianity but of Jesus himself through reference to his ‘five wounds’ at the crucifixion (two hands, two feet and a spear in his side). Giampietro Valeriano Bolzani (1477–1558), the Italian Renaissance humanist, made this drawing of Jesus illustrating exactly that.
Again, then, the link with five, mysticism and the hand is evident.
We look forward to adding a second hand to our own wall of symbols. See you in 2017.