The Devil's Horns: A Rock And Roll Symbol

author: sillybuuger12 date: 09/07/2005 category: junkyard

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01. Intro 02. How to do it and Common Mistakes 03. The Origins of the Horns 04. How it entered rock 05. Overuse and Misuse? 06. Conclusion

01. Intro

The Devil's Horns hand gesture is one that has come to signify every thing rock. However these days it has become less and less so by it's overuse and misuse. In today's music market it appears that no band that claims to even be the tiniest bit rock can be photographed without at least one of them making this symbol.

02. How To Do It And Common Mistakes

Put your middle and ring fingers down into your palm whilst keeping the others straight, then place your thumb on top then either hold aloft, point at someone or hold across the chest. Do not place your thumb underneath or hold out to the side, also never hold the thumb out always keep it on the middle two fingers or it will become the sign language for I love you, unless you're a hippie or in love with a deaf person it's not really appropriate is it? Here is a picture of it being done wrong (in every way).

03. The Origins Of The Horns

What is far less known is where in Satan's name it actually comes from. Because it is a gesture it is very difficult to trace the origins of it. However the very earliest depiction of the symbol that I have ever heard of is in and ancient Greek painting. From here it is thought to have passed into Roman culture and has existed in Italian culture ever since. The true name of the Horns is the "Corna". In Italian culture it has several meanings, and can be used in several ways. One of the more interesting ones used is in photos as a more insulting version of the bunny ears gesture. What it means in this context is that the person's partner has been sleeping around. Here is a pic of the Italian Head Of State demonstrating this. However the use of the Corna that applies to rock music is as one of the ways to ward off evil spirits and "the evil eye", others are touching wood or grabbing your bollocks once again demonstrated by the Italian Head Of State (weird bloke). Another place it is common is in Texas where it is used as a general victory or celebratory symbol. However this is not so important to the origins of the horns as Dio's grandmother was Italian not Texan.

04. How It Entered Rock

The way that this found its way into rock culture is via Ronnie James Dio and Black Sabbath. Dio's Italian grandmother being rather superstitious and having no testicles to grab used the Corna for its original purpose. Later in life when he joined Black Sabbath he felt that he needed some kind of gesture to connect with the crowd better. However he wanted to have one that was his own and not use the peace gesture that Ozzy had always used. Given the dark nature of the songs he was singing he decided to use the Corna. As he himself put it in a 2001 interview I was in Sabbath at the time. It was a symbol that I thought was reflective of what that band was supposed to be all about. It's not the devil's sign like we're here with the devil. It's an Italian thing I got from my Grandmother. Unlike now it was a far more active symbol and wasn't just there to be thrust into the air, if the fingers are tilted upwards it was meant to ward off evil but if the fingers were tilted downwards towards the target then it was supposed to "curse" them. From there it was adopted by metal fans the world over as a vague sign of the occult Satanism or just metal-ness, and has since simply become a symbol of all that rocks, and is even creeping into use in pop music. Gene Simmons also claims to have invented the sign as a rock and roll symbol before Dio; however I think he is simply trying to jump on the band wagon. On the other hand he does claim to have evidence for this in the form of an album cover but in this enlarged version of the photo in question he is doing it wrong, by forming his hand incorrectly and also by holding it jutting out from his hip not in front of him or above him as it should be done.

05. Overuse And Misuse?

In a fairly recent interview with Kerrang, Dio commented that, "It (the Corna) was a symbol of darkness not something to be passed on to Britney Spears!" and this is a view that I can agree with having once ended up sitting in front of Top Of The Pops nursing an horrific hangover, when I saw the presenter use it to describe McFly and just to add insult to injury she did it with her thumb out. It now appears to be something that is used by bands who wish to gain credibility with a cynical audience (Simple Plan or Avril Lavigne anyone?). While I dislike this I am of the opinion that the symbol is simply changing meaning just as language does. E.G. 'Quaint' used to be a slang word for vagina.

06. Conclusion

Whatever the future holds for the Horns or Corna as it should be called, whether or not they simply become a symbol of music in general, they will always hold a special place in every head-banger's heart. F--kin rock on \m/.
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