The Wedding Ring Finger

The origin of the finger used for the wedding ring, the falacy of the vein that reaches the heart, the widespread acceptance of the wedding ring symbol, and the varying fingers used for the marriage ring

We have remarked on the vulgar error of a vein going from the fourth finger of the left hand to the heart. It is said by Swinburn and others that therefore it became the wedding finger. The priesthood kept up this idea by still keeping it as the wedding finger; but it was got at through the use of the Trinity: for, in the ancient ritual of English marriages, the ring was placed by the husband on the top of the thumb of the left hand, with the words, "In the name of the Father;" he then removed it to the forefinger, saying: "In the name of the Son;" then to the middle finger, adding: "And of the Holy Ghost;" finally, he left it, as now, on the fourth finger, with the closing word "Amen."

As to the supposed artery to the heart. Levinus Lemnius quaintly says:--"A small branch of the artery and not of the nerves, as Gellius thought, is stretched forth from the heart unto this finger, the motion whereof you may perceive evidently in all that affects the heart of woman, by the touch of your forefinger. I used to raise such as are fallen in a swoon by pinching this joint and by rubbing the ring of gold with a little saffron; for, by this, a restoring force that is in it passeth to the heart and refresheth the fountain of life unto which this finger is joined. Wherefore antiquity thought fit to encompass it about with gold."

By the way, a correspondent, in a British periodical, suggests: that a lady of his acquaintance has had the misfortune to lose the ring finger, and the question is raised whether she can be married in the Church of England!

In the "British Apollo" it is said that, during the time of George the First, the wedding-ring, though placed in the ceremony of the mariage upon the fourth finger, was worn upon the thumb.

The use of the ring has become so common in England that poor people will not believe the marriage to be good without one; and the notion also is that it must be of gold. At Worcester (England) on one occasion, the parties were so poor that they used a brass ring. The bride's friends indignantly protested that the ring ought to have been of gold; and the acting officer was threatened with indictment for permitting the use of such base metal.

In another case of humble marriage, the bridegroom announced that a ring was not necessary. The woman entreated to have one. The superintendent of the poor took part with the woman and represented how the absence of it would expose her to insult; and he, kindly, hesitated to proceed with the marriage until a ring was produced. The man yielded at last and obtained one. The woman's gratitude brought tears into her eyes.


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