Symbols - What does heaven look like
Hand washing takes on the symbolism of water as spirit. Many religions use hand washing as symbolic of the need for clean action, pure action and clean hands are thus symbolic of the need for ‘clean’ or honest action.
1The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
3Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
4He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
The initiation rights into the ancient ‘Mysteries’ were always preceded by purification by water, Islamic ceremonies are preceded by a washing of hands and feet. In the ancient Mysteries the washing of the hands was always an introductory ceremony to the initiation, and it was used symbolically to indicate the necessity of purity from crime as a qualification of those who sought admission into the sacred rites; and hence on a temple in the Island of Crete this inscription was placed: "Cleanse your feet, wash your hands, and then enter."
Wemyss - Clavis Symbolica
Hands are the symbols of human actions; pure hands are pure actions; unjust hands are deeds of injustice.
The symbolism of clean hands is found also in Greek texts thus Homer has Hector say [Iliad, vi. 266.] "I dread with unwashed hands to bring my incensed wine to Jove an offering."
In a similar spirit of religion, Æneas, when leaving burning Troy, refuses to enter the temple of Ceres until his hands, polluted by recent strife, had been washed in the ‘living stream’. This time symbolic water as opposed to literal water.
Æn. ii. 718.
"In me, now fresh from war and recent strife,
'Tis impious the sacred things to touch
Till in the living stream myself I bathe."
The same practice prevailed among the Romans, and a striking instance of the symbolism is exhibited in that well-known action of Pilate, who, when the Jews clamoured for Jesus, that they might crucify him, appeared before the people, and, having taken water, washed his hands, saying at the same time, "I am innocent of the blood of this just man. See ye to it."
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