The Meaning of Gesture

In Sai Herthe, as in all traditional cultures, the body is seen as microcosmos — the cosmos in miniature — with the interconnexions between the Great Body of the world, the small body of an individual maid and the body as a general, as opposed to an individual, phenomenon being a fundamental element in our understanding of each.

The heart is the Solar center in maid, as the Sun is in the cosmos. The chest, by extension, refers to the heart, and also to the lungs, which are the source of breath — another aspect of the spirit (re-spir-ation is from the same word as spiritus).

The head is the lunar center — so the light of reason is the reflected light of the solar Intellect, whose home in maid is the heart.

To touch first the forehead and then the chest is an in-gathering gesture, bringing exterior things (represented by the head) back to their true center in the heart. It can be made in significance of receiving a teaching or a reprimand, thus it can also be a sign of humility. It can be made to acknowledge and center ourselves in the Higher reality, or to show respect — gathering oneself in from the fragmented and peripheral world of the head to the still and Essential world of the heart.

Although in late western Telluria the heart has been taken as a (very loose) symbol for the emotions (so “heart vs head” means “reason vs emotion”), in Sai Herthe this is not the case. The heart is the center of the Spirit, and thus of Pure Intellect. It is also the center of Pure Love — first Divine Love and then its true reflection in human love. But it is not the center of emotional impulses and passions. That is the stomach.

There is also an inverse form of this gesture, touching first the chest and then the forehead, and then opening the hand in a “giving” or “indicating” gesture. This is the “outward” gesture and is one of generosity. It might, for example, be used when inviting someone into one’s house. Its implication is “from my innermost being, through my exterior faculties, to you”.

The Herthelan salute touches either the left shoulder or the left side of the chest (there are many variants on the salute — not random — each military or other group using it will have its own strictly-observed form). Nonetheless, the reference is to the heart (which is on the left side) and to the shoulder or arm (which is the instrument of action).

jaunty-saluteIt does not seem insignificant that the (relatively late) Tellurian salute should touch the head, which is the center of lunar reason, which in turn is the focus of the rationalist revolution which ushered in the rajasic age in West Telluria. The salute to the head is known in Sai Herthe, as are some other salutes used in different places and circumstances. The salute to the head generally has the effect of being jauntier and less formal than the standard salute, though there are a few contexts in which it is officially used.