The Powers of Prestidigitation

On the rule of thumb and other digital tips

“Presto!” like from a magical demonstration, which means to be quick.

Design by Elysia Willis: podcast host of Astronaut-to-Zookeeper

By the pricking of my thumbs,
something wicked this way comes…

I get to play with magic finger wiggles as a warlock class water genasi in Dungeons & Dragons. From the French preste (nimble) and Latin’s digitus (fingers), prestidigitation means "the act of quick fingers". 

We use our hands to manifest creations in both fantasy and real life. The same knuckles that knead a sourdough can be used to serve someone a fist sandwich. Similar to how the pomegranate was weaponised to become a destructive device, or rotten eggs and tomatoes are pelted at someone to shame them… I’m fascinated how both the benign and the malign can be the same source.

Due to ongoing current events, I’ve been wondering about the thumbs up 👍🏽 and the raised fist ✊🏿… what if there’s something more subconscious about it?

For yoga practitioners of course, the mudras (which means ‘seal’) are sacred symbolic gestures that stimulate the body and mind to affect the flow or prana during meditation.

I can’t help but remember that scene from Casino Royale when Daniel Craig Bond tells Eva Green Vesper “That's because you know what I can do with my little finger.” Well, indeed.

While humans are prone to anthropomorphise divine supernatural powers in his/her image, perhaps there really is a magic force with the sense of the touch. The art world is rich in this symbology, and not just with that famous ceiling fresco. The Hand of God, as endorsed by the footballer Diego Maradona, did not belong to some bearded man in the sky, but was that of the Argentine’s. What if we believed that we are, and have always been, the supreme beings that can generate, organize/order, and deliver/destroy?

Under the Rule of Thumb

Some might think it’s game controllers that trained thumbs to be the digit of choice. In alchemical drawings of The Philosopher’s Hand (pictured above), it’s curious that the thumb is assigned with the crown. Masonic handshakes are also distinguished by the placement of the thumb.

It’s popular to think of emperors giving gladiators the sign for life or death. More recently, we use the thumbs up for OK (except in scuba diving). Thanks to etymology nerds studying Roman antiquity, the pollex was not only a unit of measurement, but named as such because it ‘has power’, derived from pollet, which could explain how it evolved into potere (Italian verb ‘to be able to’), or polleō (to be potent).

Additionally, contrary to common knowledge, the thumbs pointing upward probably did not mean life, but the opposite as infestus pollex — a hostile thumb, meaning ‘to attack, assail, hurt, distress, annoy’. I also discovered some corresponding thumberies that fit The Seven Deadly sins:

Sloth: to twiddle one’s thumbs
Greed: to put a thumb on the scale
Pride: to stand out like a sore thumb
Lust: to suck one’s thumb
Wrath: to thumb one’s nose
Envy: to stick a thumb in someone’s eye
Gluttony: to put in a thumb and pull out a plum

It turns out that the original benevolent sign was when the thumb is pressed or on top of a clenched fist, which is why in German, drücken die Daumen is an expression for wishing someone good luck!

So I had a crazy theory — What if the constant activation of our thumbs every time we use a mobile phone, is responsible for an imbalance of this collective energy? If it is said that the purpose of life is to disperse energy, maybe we’re all cocking the gun on some metaphysical levels? Is this why we are so easily triggered by social media algorithms that we are in fact authorising? Perhaps by castigating others with unlikes or being on autopilot about our likes, we condemn ourselves?

For my daily meditation practice, there is an exercise called the Ego Eradicator, since according to palmistry, the thumbs indicates logic + will-power, and represents the planet/god Mars. You can find out more about its benefits for yourself (try for just 3 minutes a day). You can even check out how Russell Brand (who called Kundalini the crack cocaine of yoga) does it.

Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

Hopefully, many of us are no longer engaged in a mass multi-player thumb war online, since it’s not even the fun variety that creates oxytocin (and ten other positive emotions). We should really refrain from hitting hostile thumbs and proliferating angry faces.

Here’s some links to thumb through, that might be of interest:

  • BOOKWORM — I’ve been thinking about the 5G stuff, but more on the rule by Guns, Goons, Gold, God and Gnosis. “Any attempt to transform a social system without addressing both its spirituality and its outer forms is doomed to failure.” So I’m studying Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination by Walter Wink.

  • FOUL MOUTH — Been hearing through the grapevine that White Supremacy has a White Jesus problem, which can only make Jesus sad. I bet not many BLM reading lists will have the Black Bible Chronicles on it.

  • FUTURES — An interesting take on how some people are addicted to ‘dystopian porn’ because they are privileged and not the ones suffering from it: America Has Always Been A Dystopia

  • HEADCASE — One day, I woke up with a bee in my bonnet about someone’s newsletter on systems thinking that had an Iceberg Chart in it. So I wrote a new sermon called: Big chunks of Ice are not tools for complex systems thinking

  • LITERATURE“Step into a world of deliciously wild characters: a group of outcasts who have only their rebellion in common. Weeds and humans overlap in this prickly-sweet fusion of poetry and illustration, painting tales of society's outsiders.” I am friends with the writer, and I read out one of her poems ‘Hypochaeris radicata’ at the House of Weeds launch over zoom.

  • PODCAST 1 (FAITHLESS) — Want to listen to some educational ‘religious loonies’ that isn’t a musical? Hear out How to Heretic by former Mormonists

  • PODCAST 2 (EDTECH) — If you believe ‘The Kids Are Alright’, then you’ll want to plug into Astronaut to Zookeeper about Life After School. Hosted by an Art Teacher on a mission to catch up with former students about the career paths they’ve taken and offerings of advice for other dangerous young minds out there.

  • SCAVENGER HUNT — It’s always good to test your mental skills and stamina for profanities. So prepare to handle future cognitive dissonance, and remember not all who wander are lost. Also known as Rabbit Holes = Deep State Mapping Project.

  • STATIONERY SUPPLIES — As a ‘devil’s advocate’ strategist, I coordinated the creation of some custom Hexagon Artefact Cards that’s good for those horizon scanning scenario workshops.

  • TELEPHONE — Get your fingers on these tickets asap. A lovely man named Tassos of Coney Theatre, “weaves together stories and games about connection across all kinds of distance, through a short and mostly true history of telecommunications.”

Design by Karli Ingersoll via

Hands On

If evil prevails when good men do nothing, maybe it’s because wicked people are always up to something? Let’s explore benign applications to maligned concepts! Please get in touch should you need a hand on something brilliant, or willing to lend one with an essay or artwork.

PS. There’s also lecturer jobs for History & Context at my university for someone keen to join our department!