Why is our fourth finger the “ring finger”?

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There is a historical reason why wedding and engagement rings are worn on the fourth finger.

You may have heard that people wear their wedding and/or engagement ring on the finger between the pinky and middle finger “because it’s the finger that has a vein that goes straight to the heart,” or something of the sort.

This belief dates back to Ancient Rome, probably inherited from the Egyptians or Greeks. They called the blood vessel in this finger the vena amoris (vein of love) and thought that in this way lovers connected their love through their rings.

However, current knowledge of anatomy tells us that there is no such single vein that goes directly to the heart, and that all fingers — not just the ring finger — have veins that in one way or another connect to the heart. But the symbolism has remained over time.

Try this out with your own fingers

Some time ago I read on Twitter an anecdote published by Fr. Patxi Bronchalo (@PatxiBronchalo) where he talked about an exercise regarding the wedding ring that he likes to do with brides and grooms before they get married, and I thought it was great to share it with you. Try it at home!

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ANILLO MATRIMONIO BODA PAREJA CASADOS

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Make a fist of one of your hands (or place your palm flat on a surface) and try to lift each finger individually, one by one (only one lifted at a time), starting with your thumb. I’ll give you time to do it…

Did you do it? I’m sure you noticed that lifting the ring finger was a little more difficult than the others; maybe you couldn’t even do it without another finger lifting along with it.

Fr. Bronchalo explains that the thumb is the one we use to give “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” to indicate easily if something is right or wrong, or whether we like it or don’t. Then there’s the index finger, which is the one with which we point, accuse someone, and so on. Then there’s the middle finger, which, well … some people use to insult others. Let’s skip the ring finger for a second, and go to the little finger, with which children make their pinky promises.

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So, what is one that’s left, the ring finger, for? Well, it’s for wearing the wedding rings, “because it’s the weak finger; it can’t even lift itself up on its own. (…) Wedding rings are put on that finger so that the spouses don’t forget that it is in weakness that they need to love each other the most,” writes the priest.

And did you know that you can receive an indulgence?

St. John XXIII granted a special indulgence for kissing the wedding ring every day. It’s a way for spouses to remind themselves of the vows they made on their wedding day, especially to support each other in times of sickness and difficult times, which is when true love comes to the fore.

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