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Have you ever noticed how many people raise their hands when music comes on? People do it in churches all the time, and religions always take it as a form of worship. Some say it’s a sign people are admitting they’re weak before God and cite scriptural references to raising hands in worship. The Knowing Jesus website lists 21 references to raising of hands in worship. However, none of these theories take into consideration that this happens with all music, not just the music of religion. People at concerts raise their hands; people dancing raise their hands. Even babies raise their hands when music comes on.
I confess to being one of these people. When music I like comes on, I’ve got my hands up, and I’m dancing. So, what is it about music? It just comes naturally to me, and I know it does for others. Different people react to music differently. Some get chills. Some cry. However, I found little research on the act of raising your hands when music comes on, or in response to other stimuli. Everything I found about raising your hands was related to religion.
However, that doesn’t explain why babies do it, so is it possible it’s a response more basic than religion? I feel certain my response to Pink Floyd, for example, has nothing to do with religion, but when it comes on, there I am, hands in the air, dancing. So where does this behavior come from?
I tend to agree with the theory that it’s an archetypal behavior that predates modern religion. The Bible mentions it as a part of worship, but there’s no consensus really on what it means or where it started. However, if you think of the universe as energy that can manifest in many forms, raising your hands to share the energy seems a much more logical response. We reach up to welcome the energy and allow it into our being.
Music has been called the “Universal Language;” however, researchers disagree about this or even whether it’s a “type of language,” but according to David Ludden, in Psychology Today, we use the same elements of tone, rhythm, and pitch in speech to influence emotions, just as we do in music. Researchers don’t appear to have looked as much at people who raise their hands or those who cry as they do at people who get chills, or goosebumps. However, these same researchers say the reason we have those reactions is in response to patterns and the absence of them in music.
We know that music can speed healing, increase creativity, sharpen problem-solving skills, and Improve memory and concentration, so it makes sense that we reach out to grab those gifts. What seems a contrary way to worship is to kneel and fold the hands when you pray. Speech uses the same tone, rhythm, and pitch as music, and just as with spells, prayers are written to invoke that same connection. Why would you block out that energy? Most references to this practice cite submission to and dependence on “God.” Interestingly, while many major religions do use folded hands, Pagans have always had open hands, often raised during ritual.
This is one of the many things that make my choice of path feel natural to me. Tomorrow is Ostara, which heralds the coming of spring, so when you celebrate, if you don’t already, raise your hands and see how it feels to welcome the energy of the music. Take in all the energy you can for the season to come. Release the old and welcome the spring. We have some lovely new tarot decks if you want to look to the future, and some beautiful 2" eggs in Lapis, Malachite, and more to aid you in your journey.
Jonah Lehrer “The Neuroscience of Music.” https://www.wired.com/2011/01/the-neuroscience-of-music/
"21 Bible Verses about Lifting Hands" Knowing Jesus. https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Lifting-Hands
Ludden, David, PhD. “Is Music a Universal Language?” Psychology Today. July 31, 2015 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-apes/201507/is-music-universal-language