Today we have something a little bit different in the form of a little music history lesson one might say. Hope you enjoy the post, and remember before heading to your next show, read up on my 11 tips for attending concerts and why you should protect yourself by wearing ear plugs at said concerts. With that being said, here we go.
The sign of the horns has become a universal symbol tied not only to metal music but also to pop music and even sports teams around the globe. It’s instinctive to throw up the salute to signify rock n’ roll, a resounding hell yeah, or just good vibes, but where did it begin? Was it created solely for the purpose of music, does it mean you’re hailing Satan, or is there a different, lesser known origin for the hand gesture? We’ll get into all of that in the post below.
Let’s start off by saying this, the true origin of the devil horns seems to be unclear, but we could certainly try to trace it back to early connections to the music world and what nudged it into popularity.
Oft-confused as the creator of the gesture, Ronnie James Dio began flying the horns in 1979 when he replaced Ozzy Osbourne in the metal band Black Sabbath. When asked about ‘creating’ the symbol he is clear that he does not take credit for the birth of the gesture, but does state that he made it fashionable. It can’t be argued that it became a trademark for him.
Not quite as humble as Dio, Gene Simmons of Kiss tried to trademark the symbol and ended that pursuit merely weeks after filing the claim.
Dio also goes on to state that the symbol lost meaning once Britney Spears started using it. While I don’t completely agree with that declaration, you’ve got to admit it’s pretty hilarious.
Before we get into evidence of earlier usage of the sign of the horns, let’s quickly ask why Dio used it on stage. He emphasizes that it is NOT the devil’s sign or a way to unite his followers. In fact, the intention behind it is quite the opposite. The late frontman said he got the idea from his grandmother and that it’s an Italian sign called the “Malocchio”. In Italy and the Mediterranean regions, this was used to ward of the Evil Eye, so not exactly welcoming evil spirits in like many think. There is a similar origin dating back to ancient India as well.
Prior to Dio there were a couple of other examples of musicians using the horns. On the cover of Yellow Submarine by The Beatles, John Lennon can be seen repping the gesture, although his thumb is sticking out in this instance, which in sign language means ‘I love you’, so one can only speculate as to the reasons behind this usage.
Even earlier than that, and spawning interesting ties to people we’ve already mentioned, the band Coven released an LP in 1969 titled Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls, and on the back, two members of the band can be seen giving the sign of the horns. Weirdly enough, they have a track on that album titled “Black Sabbath”. Okay, now THAT’S quite a coincidence. That same year, heavy metal band — you guessed it — Black Sabbath, was born.
This evidence of the use of the gesture does not bode well for the evil misconceptions surrounding the horns, as Coven references the Occult throughout ‘Witchcraft …’ and even have a song called “Satanic Mass” that closes it out.
Cameron, this post is supposed to clear up the origin of the metal horns, not create more confusion. WHOOPS. It seems that in researching the music side of this topic in depth, the waters get murkier as you go deeper, so unfortunately there are a lot of holes and questions that remain about its ties to the metal and music world.
One thing that can be certain is that in most cultures outside of the US, this hand symbol is used to ward off evil spirits or negative energy, which is one big takeaway you can take to Aunt Jill the next time she scoffs at your use of it. Has that ever happened? Not to me, but I’m sure someone has experienced this.
If you’re a returning reader, you’ll know that I’ve written about misconceptions tied to the metal world already, and this seems to fit nicely into that category as well. Make sure to check out that post if you’re new here.
Whether you’re looking to convince somebody that you’re not worshipping Satan by throwing up the metal horns or you’re just interested in weird, random music history facts, the rabbit hole that is the origin of the metal horns is a fascinating one to fall into.
Now that you know a bit more about the history of the metal horns, why not venture into a couple of my other blog posts? Find out what my favorite albums of the year have been so far, and most anticipated releases of 2019 yet to come. Like the blogpost, find me online on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and let’s keep the discussion going. Have you ever had to explain to someone what exactly the metal horns signify? Let me know, and we’ll see you back here for the next post. Leave any and all suggestions for what topics I should cover in the comments.