Kissing the Hand

Either kissing the sovereign's hand at a public introduction, or kissing one's own hand to bid farewell to a friend, and kissing the tips of our fingers and then moving the hand in a sort of salutation to imply great satisfaction at some beautiful object, thought, or other charm are remnants of pagan worship. If the idol was conveniently low enough, the devotee kissed its hand; if not, the devotees kissed their own hands and waved them to the image. God said He had in Israel seven thousand persons who had not bowed unto Baal, “every mouth which hath not kissed him.” (See Kiss.)

“Many ... whom the fame of this excellent vision had gathered thither, confounded by that inatchless beauty, could but kiss the finger-tips of their right hands at sight of her, as in adoration to the goddess Venus herself.” —Pater: Marius the Epicurean, chap. v.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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