Tag Archives: gesture

Hinduism Gesture

Tags: Gesture, Hinduism, India, Spiritual and Religious Practice


Offerings can only be given using the right hand.

Informant Info

Race/Ethnicity: Indian

Age: 22

Occupation: College Student

Residence: Northwest Arkansas, USA

Date of Performance: February 2024

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

Relationship: Friend


AH, the informant, is of Indian descent. Her father practices Hinduism and speaks Tulu. He has been a very influential figure in her upbringing.


This gesture/cultural practice stems from an Indian practice where the left hand is used to cleanse the body, leaving the right hand reserved for purity exchanges. A purity that is valued in Hinduism spiritual and religious rituals, for mind, speech, and body. To use the left hand to give offerings, for example, would be considered taboo.

Head Nod Gesture

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

Age: 21

Occupation: Student

Residence: Los Angeles, CA

Performance Date: 02/17/2024

N.N is 21 years old and is from Burbank, CA. I am close friends with N.N and asked him to tell me about any gestures that he uses and is familiar with. N.N tells me about a gesture he has been using since becoming a teenager. 

“When I was younger,” N.N. recounted, “I saw N (his brother)’s friend, who typically didn’t speak much to me, nodding their heads slightly downward when they passed by me at school. It seemed like a way for them to acknowledge my existence, even in silence. Over time, I adopted this gesture myself and began to see it as a sign of respect or acknowledgment. It’s something I’ve noticed guys do pretty often when they meet each other, almost like a form of introduction or to recognize each other’s presence. I think it’s a way of showing that you notice people, even those you aren’t close to, ensuring they don’t feel ignored, particularly if they are strangers”.

This is a gesture that I am familiar with since I’ve seen other guys do this as well, mostly younger guys among my age range. This slight nod among men is a subtle, non-verbal form of communication. It’s about acknowledging others quietly. Culturally, I believe it’s tied to masculine norms, social etiquette, and a sense of informal familiarity. 

Don’t split the pole


A superstitious practice that dictates that when two people walking together encounter an obstacle (such a pole), they should stay together and maneuver around that obstacle on the same side, rather than passing by the obstacle on either side, as is often most convenient.


The informant first learned of this superstition while attending college at USC in Los Angeles.


This superstition conveys a clear message that staying together is preferable while breaking apart is bad luck. The unsaid implication is that the bad luck generated from splitting a pole would be regarding the relationship between those two who split the pole. It seems as if this superstition functions as a sort of performative gesture, in which the performance of this action serves to makes something happen. For two people to stay together while walking around an obstacles bodes that they will stay together in their relationship when they encounter their own obstacles.

Shaka Handsign

Shaka Hand Sign – closed fist, thumb and pink extended

This hand gesture is very common in Pacific Islander culture and has spread over time to surfers and many Californian individuals. Original to Pacific Islander culture, the Shaka hand sign was a signal of Ohana or family, and even the broader belief of Shaka which was like “good vibes.” There are multiple variations as to what people think of and use Shaka for, but for the informant who is Pacific Islander, they found it to be an extension of the good/loving vibes of Ohana and to live life with the disciplines of having good days and the beliefs of Ohana.

Knocking on the head of a virgin


Perform the physical action of knocking on the head of a virgin.wood, they would knock on the head of a virgin instead. This gesture can also be substituted with the phrase itself “knocking on the head of a virgin” as a form of proverbial speech.


In high school, the informant learned this saying from a friend who was Greek Orthodox and claimed it as a part of Greek Orthodox culture. Preliminary research has yet to provide any link between this superstition and Greek Orthodox culture, instead pointing towards this practice stemming from urban legend.


Though the connection between wood as a material and virgin’s heads may seem far-fetched, the substitution of heads for wood is common in the practice of ‘knocking on wood.’ When someone knocks on their own head as a substitution for knocking on wood, they are not only participating in the superstition but also making a joke at their own expense, implying that their head is made of wood rather than brains and thus they are dumb. With this common conflation in mind, knocking on the heads of virgins as a substitute for knocking on wood presents both as a means of participating in the ‘knock on wood’ superstition while making a joke, this time at the expense of a group (virgins) rather than the self. The claim that this superstition comes from Greek Orthodox culture is so far unfounded and inexplicable.