“Fingers crossed” isn’t just an everyday expression, it’s actually one of the most popular and lasting superstitions still used today. And like many other beliefs and superstitions, its origins are largely unknown to the common man.
From mentioning it in casual conversations to actually physically crossing our fingers (and toes. and eyes.), finger crossing can hold a barrage of different meanings.
It could be that we are willing something good to happen, asking for luck, or even telling a lie. It’s subconsciously relying on divine intervention or providence to deal with a situation.
The cross is symbolic for many obvious religions reasons. It signifies authority, unity and holiness in Christianity, but it doesn’t just stop there. The lesser known explanation for this habit dates way back to the pre-Christian era. Crosses symbolize “power and unity”, such as the Solar Cross. As time progressed, “one person would make a wish, the other person would help solidify the wish by putting his index finger onto the other person’s index finger, making the sign of the cross”. It evokes images of modern day practices like hand-shaking and pinky promises.
Very much like knocking on wood, crossing your fingers originally meant you wanted God’s protection. It’s historically used by Christians in the face of major threats: sickness, Satan, witchcraft, misfortune, and more. With the evolution and onset of modern times, the symbol lost some of its sombreness. “For example, 14th century Christians would probably find it a little dramatic that you crossed your fingers to ensure your favourite sports team won”.
But this practice isn’t known everywhere for the same meanings. In fact, it’s more commonly used in western countries. Different countries use different hand signs and body signals to will good luck into their lives. Vietnam, for instance, this is an obscene gesture as they resemble female genitalia. This is especially rude when done while looking at or addressing another person.
Pretty cool huh? Next time you cross your fingers, be glad you don’t have to ask a nearby stranger to cross fingers with you.