Sunday, October 2, 2011

With this ring

Will you be my, be my beloved?
Will you help, help me to get through?
Will you be my, be my destruction?
Will you help, help me to be through?
--Ever and A Day, A.F.I.
I’m feeling a bit sentimental, so this Sunday’s Mythbusters is going to veer into the realm of symbolism and folklore, another of my favorite topics.  You see, the Hubs and I celebrated 9 years together, and as I looked at the band of gold on my hand, I just had to wonder . . . is there magic in this ring on my finger?
Rings have been symbols imbued with significance and power since ancient times, although their meanings have not always been what Tiffany & Co. would have you believe.
The ring is viewed as a symbol of eternity--something with no beginning and no end, no direction and no break.  It encompasses all space and time.  Some of the first ornamental rings mimicked a serpent eating its tail.  The consumption and rebirth of the figure was felt to represent the cyclical nature of life. 

A ring could give the wearer various strengths--from invisibility to immortality.  Magical rings are part of several cultures--Odin wore an arm ring that regenerated itself.  King Solomon had a ring that gave him power over demons and animals.  Literature also celebrates the mystique of the ring.  Merlin was the victim of a ring that carried a love spell.  And who can forget the bauble that put Middle Earth back on the map, J.R.R. Tolkein’s The One Ring.  
Gratuitous picture of Viggo Mortensen.  
The first rings were documented in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and probably evolved from the use of official seals, i.e. signet rings.  In other parts of the ancient world, rings were worn by Celtic tribes and fashioned of iron or stone.  In their myths, it was believed that rings anchored the soul in the body and prevented demons from entering.
The Greeks and Romans initially shared this not-so-romantic view of the ring.  Although they were given during marriage, in most cases they symbolized the groom’s financial commitment to the bride--and the bride's duty and subservience to the groom.  The ring was simply a symbol of being bound and was probably connected to the story of Prometheus.  Prometheus, of foie gras fame, was forced to wear a link of his chain as a ring to serve as a reminder of being bound to the rock and “owing” the Gods.  
Prometheus at Rockefeller Center
Later in the Roman Empire, rings were used to designate social classes.  It is not until the 2nd century that the Roman comedic poet Plautus finally documents the ring as a symbol of love.  Unfortunately, Hannibal misses the romance memo and uses his ring to poison himself to escape capture by the Romans after the second Punic War.
I have a poison ring that looks like this.  For those Lucrezia Borgia days.
Christians started using plain gold rings in their wedding ceremonies in the 8th century, which was around the time clerical rings were appearing as well.  Diamonds did not become a girl’s best friend until 1477, when Emperor Maximillian I gave the first known diamond engagement ring to Mary of Burgundy.  Interestingly, rings for husbands didn’t gain popularity until post-WWII when marketing efforts placed value on celebrating marriage.  Only 15% of pre-Depression era marriages were a double ring ceremony.
In the past, the placement of the ring was probably more important than its appearance.
The issue of left versus right hand was derived from ancient Egyptians’ belief that a vein ran from the ring finger of the left hand straight to the heart--the vena amoris. However, in some places in the Ukraine and Germany, the right hand is the proper hand for a marriage ring--they were a little less creative about the anatomy of the human body than the Egyptians.  In symbolic terms, the left hand is often viewed as the receptive hand--it receives energy and gathers information in a subconscious fashion.  The right hand is the active hand--it gives energy and is a symbol of awareness.  Depending on what the wearer desires to achieve with their ring, either hand may be appropriate.  
During the Renaissance, a person might wear a ring to announce their occupation or place in life.  Thumb was for medical practioners, index was a merchant or salesman, middle was for a fool (I’m thinking not too many middle finger ring wearers back then), third was for the student, and the pinky was for lovers.
He may be a fool, but
he can walk in the daylight with that ring
Because of its roots in pagan and ornamental usage, some Puritans believed that wedding rings should be forbidden, citing Biblical admonitions against wearing gold or pearls or costly attire.  In an effort to make the ring seem a bit more Christian, The Book of Common Prayer in the 1500s declared that the thumb, index and middle finger represented the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  The next finger was designated okay for use by humanity. 
For those unhitched, each finger can symbolize and/or help emphasize certain qualities.  The thumb represents self-assertion and power of will.  The index finger, or the Jupiter finger, represents leadership abilities, ambition, and self confidence.  Saturn is the middle finger and channels a person’s sense of law and justice.  It forces introspection and self analysis.  Apollo is the ring finger and represents love of beauty, creativity and expression of self.  The little finger is Mercury, and speaks of intuition and communication, especially if used in manipulation.  Now I understand the roots behind the mafioso pinky ring.

Tony Soprano rocks the pinky ring.
Some of my favorite rings have nothing to do with precious metals.  Since I have mad love for anything paranormal, the ring of salt as popularized by Supernatural is always a good one. 

I’m also a fan of fairy rings.
Circle of mushrooms called a fairy ring.  
And onion rings.

And salt rings of all kinds.

So after all of this, is there magic in a ring?  I think after nine years I can honestly say . . . yes.


  1. What a fantastic post, Jules. From the gratuitous pic of Vigs to the rita. Damn, girl, I really liked this post.

    I'm listening to Cowboy Junkies 'Misguided Angel' from Maggie's post as I read yours. I like the fairy ring and the onion rings and the Lucrezia Borgia days ring. I like the pinky ring and the salt ring for protection and I have two ring stories of my own.

    For each of the novels I wrote, I wanted a necklace. I have one for Music Major-- it's a tiny, gold flying-V guitar-- one for Madame Thunderbolt-- it's, yeah, a silver-plated thunderbolt-- and, until today (yesterday) was missing one for Chevy Loves Mallory Keaton. In the second chapter, she is seen wearing a pinky ring with two gold hearts. I have that ring. So, yesterday, I took a gold chain that had stones from Taos on it, removed the stones and slipped the ring on the chain.

    I now have a necklace for the girl whose story I am really struggling to rewrite.

    My other ring story is this-- my parents never wore their wedding bands. They've been married 38 years but neither has ever worn their rings. I had trouble wearing my beautiful engagement ring and wedding band. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I, too, have been married to my husband for nine years-- some much, much harder than others. This one has been good. I have worn the rings.

    Love your blog, Jules.

  2. Hello Jules
    This is a fascinating post and I shared much of it with my husband this morning.
    Growing up in rural Ireland, we had a fairy ring in one field..we had nothing to do with it's creation
    It was a perfect circle of dark green grass in a field of lighter green grass. We would run around the fairy ring as children and often made wishes.
    Recently, in Ireland I asked my brother if the field still exists and he said "very much so" and curiosly my father would not plough that field, it was left for pasture and grazing.
    A lovely memory, thank you
    Helen Tilston

  3. Very insightful - I love the whole vein the heart thing from the left ring finger. Everything I learned about the significance of a ring I learned from The Dresden Files. They keep demons out... or in... I can't remember which.

  4. Didn't know the signifigance of the ring being worn on the left hand. And now I want onion rings.

  5. Happy Anniversary, Julie!

    One of my best friends lives in Spain and she and her hubby wear their wedding rings on the left hand since they were married in the U.S. (but in Spain the tradition is the right hand) And she wonders why so many women hit on her husband all the time! (he's cute and charming too though ;)

  6. Very cool post. For some reason (probably because of several you pointed out here) I'm always using rings and bracelets in my stories. They make such great symbols for love and power. And thanks for the Viggo pic. :)

  7. You have the most amazing and informative posts!

    Love this and am bookmarking it for future reference (why reinvent the

  8. Happy Anniversary. This is such a sweet post, especially that last line. I've always been confused about the significance of a ring on the right vs left fourth finger. Who cares? I wear it where it fits best.

  9. Aw, that last line was a beautiful summary of a really interesting post. I've never seen a fairy ring, but I'd really like to!

    Congratulations on your anniversary!

  10. Congrats on your anniversary! And THANK you for the Viggo picture. hehe

  11. My father used to love to watch Mythbusters.

    You mentioned loving the paranormal. Have you ever seen a ghost? Just curious. I have.

    Congrats on your anniversary.

  12. Happy Anniversary Julie! I'm ambidextrous, and sometimes I do wear my engagement ring on my right hand when I wear my wedding band on my left. Sometimes it's just too much to think about, and I throw on a pair of gloves. I never want to get on your bad side when you're wearing your poison ring! I hope you're having a wonderful celebration! Julie

  13. Amazing, informative and lovely post. Definitely made me look at rings in different ways...and want some onion rings, but that's besides the point. Seriously, great post.

  14. Congratulations on your nine years! That's quite an achievement. I had no idea that there was so much background involving rings or that when I give someone the finger I'm actually enforcing justice. Seriously, rings have the power we give them. And what can be more powerful than our love for each other. :) Here's to 90 more.

  15. This post is fantastic! I think there's a lot of significance in the shape of a circle. A never ending curvature symbolizes everlasting life and eternal love. At least, that's how I view rings.
    I like wearing them. They're one of the only pieces of jewelry I wear, and I think it's because of the significance of them.

  16. I love rings, and I love this post! I really want to construct a necklace with three gold rings to symbolize my kids. Someday!

    I have a Bohemian garnet ring that I love but don't wear as often as I should. Does that have any special powers?

  17. Congratulations on nine years! (Nine is the number of wisdom, which makes this even better.) Love this post. Viggo, sigh. Foie gras and Prometheus, hahaha! (I didn't know he had to wear a link of that chain as a ring forevermore. Fascinating.)

  18. Love this! And Happy Anniversary! ;)

  19. Happy anniversary!

    I don't know if rings have magic, but I think the right mate does.

    Wishing you many more years of magic.

  20. So many cool tidbits in this post. I'm a ring-wearer but had no idea about all the different possible meanings with where you wear them. Haha. Love this series that you do. Congrats, btw! :)

  21. Happy Anniversary!!!
    And this post is so interesting. I love rings, especially those with sentimental value. I have a ring from my great grandfather that I love.

  22. Julie, thanks for sharing this. It's a fascinating look at the symbolism attached to rings. Congrats to you and yours!

  23. Suze--I've always thought that jewelry could be personified--my grandmother wore this obnoxious macrame owl necklace and I will always connect it with her. I'm glad you have a tangible piece of the girl you are creating--it will give you focus.

    Helen--Do you think your father believed in fairies of the ring? I must admit, I still leave a tumbler of milk (or a shot of vodka) out at night when I think about it--just in case, you know ;)

    Rusty--Harry and his silver rings! Didn't they focus energy? I need to reread that series.

    Alex--I have to say, not anatomically correct but sure is romantic.

    Kelly--I will keep an eye on my hubby's hands if we ever get to Europe!

    L.G.--I always have a piece of jewelry in my novels, too. I think what people choose to wear in adornment says a lot about them.

    Raelyn--Thanks! I really love learning about stuff that seems so everyday.

    Robyn--I agree, I wear rings on nearly every finger, meaning be damned

    Tara--occasionally I have a sentimental side.

    Ali--I've never seen one, either. If I do, I'm totally dancing in it to see if I get swept into Faery

    Trisha--Viggo is my favorite man in chain mail.

    Sprinkles--I had a strange experience shortly after my grandmother's death where I thought she was with me, reassuring me, but I've never been able to convince myself that I wasn't just having an intense dream. It felt very real, though.

    ENI--The only thing I keep in my poison ring is ibuprofen. I wear it to meetings a lot.

    Regected--Thanks! Gotta love onion rings--the real ones, not those fake OreIda chopped onion concoctions

    Laila--"when I'm giving someone the finger, I'm enforcing justice." That was classic. I am totally using that in the future.

    E.R.--I love that image of eternity and everlasting emotion, too.

    Lydia--Rings are awesome--that sounds like a sweet idea for a necklace. I sent you a huge email about the meaning of garnets, because I am a crystal geek you know.

    Linda--that was a piece of myth I learned on this one too! Thought it was a pretty cool story--those Greeks were so creative!

    Cherie--Thank you, dear!

    Maria--That is the truth. Thank you for the kind words!

    Krispy--I love doing it. Hope I never run out of unusual folklore and myth.

    Cynthia--Jewelry is so much more meaningful when personified, I agree.

    E.--Thanks lady!

  24. J.L.--just missed you! Thanks for stopping by. Everything has a meaning, even the things we see every day.

  25. Jules! Miss you! :)

    Viggo and the Borgias and onion rings all in one post?? This is heaven, not Dante's rings of hell! :)

  26. You nailed it...onion rings are magical :)

  27. man, that fairy ring is massive! There must've been a giant tree there at some point

  28. Congratulations on your nine year anniversary. That's a big deal. I like this quote: Saturn is the middle finger and channels a person’s sense of law and justice. It forces introspection and self analysis.

    Maybe only fools wear rings on their middle finger because they need enhancements to their skills of self-analysis. Ha ha, I'm so kidding.

  29. GREAT post! I am particularly intrigued by your poison ring ;) ;)

  30. Happy Anniversary! :)

    Wow. I hadn't known so much about the history of rings! Intriguing about the symbolism of the left vs. right and which finger it's on.

  31. What a unique way to commemorate your anniversary. There's magic in your relationship for sure. I enjoyed the history of the symbolism and the pic of Viggo Mortensen. Thanks for that.


  32. What a beautiful and informative post! I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing all these great facts.

    In Poland, where I was born and grew up, we wear our gold wedding bands on the right hand. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived in this country! Now when I go visit my family in Europe, I wear my "American" ring on the right hand and switch it to the left hand upon returning back to US :-)

  33. Yeah, I found my party pants and now I've mostly taken 'em off again, by choice. hehe. I still like to have a good time though, don't get me wrong!

  34. Fascinating post. You forgot an old ring rhyme:

    A ring, a ring o' roses,
    A pocket full o’posies-
    Atishoo atishoo we all fall down.

    This is said to be associated with the great plague in London, 1665. "The invariable sneezing and falling down in modern English versions have given would-be origin finders the opportunity to say that the rhyme dates back to the Great Plague. A rosy rash, they allege, was a symptom of the plague, posies of herbs were carried as protection and to ward off the smell of the disease. Sneezing or coughing was a final fatal symptom, and 'all fall down' was exactly what happened". Thanks Wiki.

    No all rings are good, but I do like your ring of salt on the Marg!

  35. WTG on nine years! And yes, I believe rings can hold power. Very interesting post.


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