Frieza: What are you doing?
Goku: [thinking to himself] I have to use the Spirit Bomb! It's my only chance!
Frieza: Seriously what...what is this all about? Are you trying to telling me you once caught a fish that big?
Goku: I'm just...stretching.
Frieza: In the middle of a fight?
Any physical activity required for magic, ranging from simply pointing at the target up to day-long ritual dances.
At its simplest, this is just a way of showing the wizard is actually doing stuff. They will point at the target, wave their hand around to move it, and close their fist to crush it. Moving up a step, some types of spell require precise gestures to work, leading to wizards with very nimble fingers as well as an excuse for them not to wear armor involving the restriction of mobility. The precise gestures have to be memorized as part of the spell.
The more time-intensive forms of Ritual Magic also often require magical gestures: stir the cauldron nine times widdershins, point the sword at each compass point in turn.
Compare with the Pstandard Psychic Pstance. Contrast Geometric Magic (spells come from shapes), Language of Magic (spells come from words), and Powers Do the Fighting (spells don't give a damn about gesticulation). See also Badass Finger Snap, when magic isn't necessarily involved for some interesting effect.
- Naruto has hand seals. Influenced, if not completely derived from, Kuji-Kiri and mudras. Shikamaru's concentration gesture is a mudra.
- In InuYasha Kikyo, Kaede, and Miroku use what seem to be a mudra (Kapittaka? Pran? First two fingers straight out, next two curled, with the thumb touching the top of the third finger) when focusing their spiritual powers.
- In Harukanaru Toki no Naka de, Tenma, Inori, Shimon and Tomomasa use specific mudras for performing attacks; for the first three characters these are single gestures taken from kuji-kiri ("pyou", "tou" and "sha", respectively). In the anime series, Yasuaki performs a full-blown kuji-kiri sequence along with the required mantras.
- Ga-Rei - Releasing Byakuei's seal requires a certain hand gesture.* Kagura's actually put out of action because her hands are shot and she can't make the seal.
- Most signature attacks in Dragon Ball involve some unique gestures- the most famous being the spirit bomb and the kamehameha.
- A handful of characters in Bleach, most notably Captain Byakuya Kuchiki. When he activates his Bankai, he doesn't have to use the gestures and such to control the storm of blades, but he states that it does help, and increase his speed. Kido spells also involve hand gestures, with some having more than one gesture that will work.
- Many wizards, especially those who use Maker Magic, in Fairy Tail utilize these. While nearly everybody in the series uses Full-Contact Magic as well, gestures are often used for more powerful magic, like Makarov's Fairy Law or Zeref's attack to kill Hades.
- Spells in Slayers involve complex gestures manipulating glowy magical energy. For example, the Flare Arrow spell needs a gesture like firing an imaginary bow (and, indeed, a glowing bow made of fire appears during the casting of the spell).
- Trafalgar Law is one of the few One Piece characters who does this. He has a couple of very distinctive gestures for creating his 'room' and controlling things inside it. It appears as though he actually needs his hands, if not the gestures themselves, to use his ability effectively.
- As shown in the page image, Doctor Strange uses particular positions of his hands to cast spells. He often holds one or both hands up with the middle and ring fingers folded inward (c.f. the "I Love You" gesture or the "Metal Horns").
- The Scarlet Witch has a similar gesture to activate her probability-altering powers. In fact, in the early days, if she accidentally made the gesture, random misfortune would happen to whoever was in its general direction without her intending.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch's gesture varies Depending on the Writer. Sometimes she tugs her earlobe, sometimes she points her index finger (as seen in the live-action TV show), sometimes she snaps her fingers.
- The Genie from Disney's Aladdin makes all sorts of gestures. Sometimes they appear to be explicitly necessary for the magic he's casting, but other times it appears to be just plain showmanship.
- In Absolutely Anything, Neil is completely omnipotent. Unlike Bruce Almighty, however, whose powers are controlled by mere willpower, Neil actually has to state what he wants to happen and wave his right hand or it won't work.
- The title character in Bruce Almighty has a habit of doing this whenever using his divine powers. Being near-omnipotent, he doesn't need to do them, he just does for fun.
- Played with in Doctor Strange (2016) Strange complains that he can't make the spellcasting finger moves because of the damage to his hands, and the Ancient One shows him that the gestures aren't really necessary one of the masters is missing a hand but controls magic just fine.
- Nerissa from Disney's Enchanted tended to wave her arms and then throw them up or outward as part of her incantation process.
- The witch seen in the opening scene of the film adaptation of Night Watch uses both incantations and magical gestures in her spells. To successfully complete her ritual to kill an unborn child, she needs to clap her hands together and they need to touch when an object is interposed between her hands as she claps, the ritual fails.
- Parodied by Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, where Gideon uses hand gestures that are suspiciously similar to Naruto to power up into his "ultimate form".
- Using The Force in Star Wars. As with many examples, it's not absolutely necessary, but it helps with focus.
- Hand gestures are often used by sorcerers in The Belgariad, especially when using telekinesis. They aren't strictly necessary, they just help the user focus their will in the right direction. As such, making a "mystical hand gesture" quickly becomes a visual shorthand for doing sorcery. Ditto for most spellcasters in Eddings' other works.
- This is lampshaded by Belgarath, who makes a few snide remarks over the centuries about how Polgara feels the need to accompany every release of Will with an airy hand gesture.
- Magic in Birthright (2017) is performed with a series of gestures that range from hand signs, to full-body movements. The gestures are a language used to communicate with a goddess in order to ask for a desired spell, meaning they can get quite complex. This only applies to human magic; dragons are able to use their shapeshifting magic without any movements at all.
- Completely averted, but lampshaded in The Black Magician Trilogy, magicians are capable of using their powers as long as they are conscious and have a flicker of life left in them, and Sonea is advised that any good Warrior will not move his hands at all in battle, to avoid telegraphing his attacks.
- The Sartan from The Death Gate Cycle have to trace runes with their hands in midair for many of their spells (and trace other runes on the ground with their feet for some of the more powerful ones, lending a spellcasting Sartan the look of someone engaging in a bizarre interpretive dance routine). Their rivals the Patryn do this a little, but not as much (their runes are tattooed directly onto their bodies).
- Discworld: Parodied in Interesting Times, when Rincewind makes the finger gesture that's described as the traditional one used to banish demons. As it turns out, it's the same gesture used to banish people, too.
- In The Dresden Files, magic can be done without motions, but most wizards and sorcerers use hand motions to help focus magical forces. Some attach certain gestures to spells in the same way as words are.
- Harry's own training taught him that the right hand is used to project energy, while the left hand draws in energy. It's unclear if this is universal or just something he was taught, although given that Ebenezar was one of his teachers and literally wrote the White Council's textbook on introductory magic, it's probably very common for wizards to practice this even if it's not mandatory.
- Conversely, Cold Days describes how for the Fae, their magic is bound into their actions; for them, movement itself is magical, and their dancing even more so.
- Spellcasting, at least as done by Styrics and by extension the Church Knights in The Elenium, is mentioned as requiring highly specific (though undescribed) gestures as a key component. It is not mentioned if the magic of the followers of other gods requires anything similar.
- The setting of The Eye In The Stone uses and explains this. Magic works by manipulating a many-dimensional lattice of energies which underlie reality. All movement disturbs this lattice, but movement entirely within "normal" spacetime only causes the magic known as physics. The older races born before planets (the setting is sort of a softer Lovecraft) simply exist and move in a different set of dimensions, which may overlap ours. Mages in some way have become connected to or "sponsored" by such beings, which provides the needed extras to work magic. Spells can include physical props and rituals, or just consist of carefully-derived sets of incantation and gesture (whose movement and sound waves help create vibrations within the Lattice). It is possible to cast a spell "in your head" but this is directly connected to clearly visualizing yourself performing the ritual, as the visualization is itself a form of physical movement through other dimensions, and can be perceived as such by others. You can cast two spells at once if you're good at doing it both ways, and having more than two arms (or probably tentacles, though that doesn't come up) is an advantage.
- In Harry Potter, spells requires precise gestures with the wand.
- In The Half-Blood Prince (the sixth book), the making of a particular potion requires it to be stirred clockwise. But the notes of the Half-Blood Prince say it's faster if you stir 1 time counterclockwise for each 7 clockwise.
- This is seen in the first book as well, when Hermione describes the proper method for Wingardium Leviosa.
- Supplementary materials reveal that African wizards don't even need wands; the hand gestures are enough. It has also been noted that exceptionally skilled and powerful wizards, such as Voldemort and Dumbledore, can cast spells without the use of wands; the use of a wand just makes magic easier.
- Spellcasting in the Heralds of Valdemar books typically requires some physical gesturing, though more experienced mages go for subtle movements, leaving the grand sweeping gestures for beginners and showoffs.
- While Jakub Wędrowycz usually uses Ritual Magic to do his exorcisms, he knows more than a few magical gestures as well, and taught some to his grandson. They can do things like allowing you to throw something at the annoying news anchor on TV, or bringing sexual impotence upon someone.
- In The Luck Of Relian Kru, all the sorcerers need double-jointed fingers to perform the gestures.
- In The Magicians, complex gestures are essential to performing magic; in fact, when Penny has his hands bitten off by Martin Chatwin, he's rendered incapable of magic.
- The sequel reveals that Penny eventually found a way around this by utilizing a form of magic based on subtle muscle movements.
- Averted in Mistborn Kelsier explicitly points out to his apprentice Vin that Mistborn don't need to gesture at a piece of metal to telekinetically manipulate it. They sometimes do, but it's just for show.
- In the Old Kingdom series, Charter Magic is done by drawing the signs on the air, with hands or with sword-tip. A diamond of protection (a must-have when exploring Death) is drawn with one's sword. Using the magical bells requires gestures (different ways of ringing will produce different effects), so this all crosses over into Ritual Magic.
- In The Powder Mage Trilogy, Privileged (the rarest and most powerful kind of mage) have expansive elemental powers that they manipulate using elaborate hand gestures the main hand is used to pull in magical energy from the Else, and the off hand directs that energy for specific tasks. Most Privileged need to wear special gloves while doing this, or else they risk being killed by magical backlash, but the eldest and most powerful don't and neither does young prodigy Nila. Of course, a side-effect of all this is that a Privileged is effectively Brought Down to Normal if their hands are crippled or severed.
- Interesting example in the later books in The Wheel of Time. Aes Sedai have during many handing-downs of techniques been including gestures to the casting to make them easier to cast. The result is that many younger Aes Sedai cannot cast the techniques without them.
- Played with even further. Some people claim to be able to tell which Aes Sedai a channeler learned techniques from, simply by the motions. While the Aiel Wise Ones, as well as the Sea Folk Windfinders, can do the techniques without the motions. As such, they are much more efficient and much quicker.
- Magic in the world of The Witcher is usually harnessed through gestures and incantations, but the latter part can be skipped, and the former can be performed with, say, a leg.
- In Through The Motions, magic is cast by drawing symbols in the air with a magic wand, and then thrusting or flicking the magic wand toward the target.
- In Bewitched, Samantha Stevens has her famous nose wiggle.
- In Charmed (1998), binding witches' hands to their backs often makes them unable to use their powers, even if some have learned to "point" with the eyes instead.
- In Emerald City, part of Mombi's process for making Tip's medication involves reciting an incantation over the mixture while making various hand gestures.
- The powers in Heroes and its follow-up Heroes Reborn are usually accompanied by subtle gestures. Sylar slices heads open by using his finger as a sort of psychic scalpel; Hiro teleports, time travels and freezes time by scrunching up his face and closing his eyes; Greg Grunberg described psychic cop Matt Parkman as having "the power of leaning".
- In I Dream of Jeannie, Jeannie crosses her arms and nods her head, then blinks.
- The Magicians: The series is famous for using extremely complex hand and finger gestures in its magic. This of course is a holdover from the book series, but it's more impressive since the actors actually have to learn all the proper gestures.
- In Merlin (1998), magical gestures are said to be used by intermediate wizards, called Hand Wizards. Stronger wizards could use magic without gestures, while weaker ones had to rely on words and incantations. Merlin himself is an intermediate wizard.
- Star Trek Reality Warper Q sometimes gestures or snaps his fingers (finger-snapping became more and more common as time went on) but it's purely for drama's sake. Other members of the Q Continuum use other gestures, such as Amanda Roger, a human-borne Q who waves her hands; and the Q from the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Death Wish", who raises two fingers upward.
- In one instance of Q appearing on the Enterprise, Guinan raises her hands in a defensive gesture which hints that she may have some ability to repel Q's powers (though she can't stop him from flinging the Enterprise across 7,000 light-years of space).
- Played with in the famous The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "It's a Good Life", about a young boy who terrorizes his small town with his Reality Warper powers, especially his power to whisk people away to a place where no one can escape from or be found, the Cornfield. While he can make things happen simply by thinking about it (making food appear, changing the weather, etc.), he points and glares menacingly at his specific victims.
- Though gestures are not necessarily needed to cast a spell for most practitioners of hermetic magic in Ars Magica, there is a penalty for not using gestures or using only subtle gestures. Certain virtues remove this penalty for in specific cases or outright.
- Mage: the Awakening has mudras for rotes (codified spells as opposed to improvised ones). Rotes do require the mudras (which can be hand gestures, facial gestures, body postures, breath control or tattoos) because they act as a mnemonic for remembering the complex imago (imaginary image of a spell's effects and mechanics) of a codified spell.
- Changeling: the Dreaming's bunks. A changeling can do just about any kind of magical effect (stats permitting) as long as they can do a bunk that makes it "possible".
- In Dungeons & Dragons, any edition that specifies the need or lack of need for these calls them "somatic components". Generally, somatic components for arcane spells need to be so precise that armor, or at least too much armor, will get in the way, while for divine spells, as long as you can move at all, you're good to go.
- Then there are feats and prestige classes that allow an arcane caster to bypass many of these limitations.
- In standard GURPS magic, the better you know a spell, the less moving around and speaking you have to do to cast it. (Casting time is also affected: a bad spellcaster takes double the listed time, and has to dance around and shout to get the spell to work.)
- The Fantasy Trip: In The Labyrinth has specific rules governing Magical Gestures. Basically, the smarter a wizard is, the less he has to move to cast a given spell. (This particular game also enforces Squishy Wizards by ruling that ferrous metals interfere with magic, meaning no steel armor or weapons.)
- In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Sword, all spell casters have hand motions before casting their spells. They only become more complicated-looking if the spellcaster becomes promoted.
- Various entries in the Tales Series involve spellcasters that require gestures before they can launch their spells. Interrupting this gesture will often cancel out the spell.
- In Mass Effect, this is justified by saying that biotics (telekinetics) use "a technique called 'physical mnemonics'; the biotic uses a physical gesture to cause the right neurons and eezo nodules to fire and create the desired effect."
- Mages in Aetolia can craft enchanted items, but doing so requires specific rituals involving magical gestures such as ringing a bell, waving one's arms, flipping a coin, lighting a candle, spinning around, and "squaring the circle"note .
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion featured three main gestures: open palms pushed forward for touch based spells, a throw gesture for ranged spells, and a closed fist held high for on-self spells. Oddly, there was no discernible difference to a spell's effect if this was done one-handed, two-handed, or carrying a weapon.
- In Final Fantasy VII, magic is commonplace, so most characters just throw up their hands when they cast a spell. Cid, on the other hand, goes into a full-on onmyoji routine during his incantations.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, the charging animation for spells is raising both arms over the head until the spell is cast, singing Magic Music is done with one arm raised in a dramatic gesture (while singing), and the Magic Dance is pulled off by a combination of right arm raised, left arm raised, both arms raised, and spinning in place.
- In Final Fantasy XIV, the Ninja job class uses Hand Seals called "mudra" to execute ninjutsu techniques. There are three gestures: "Ten", "Chi", and "Jin", correlating respectively with "Heaven", "Earth", and "Man". The order and combination of these mudra evoke different effects, such as using "Chi" and "Ten" to summon fire, "Jin" and "Chi" to conjure lightning, or "Chi", "Jin", and "Ten" to increase attack speeds.
- For an RPG character in an SNES game, Magus from Chrono Trigger pulls off some fairly elaborate hand gestures during his magic attacks.
- Amaterasu, the sun goddess in wolf form in Ōkami, uses her Celestial Brush with what appear to be precise movements of her tail.
- Nox features this when using magic. The player character automatically does them when you select which spell to cast, but each spell has a specific set of pictures of hand gestures pop up on the screen, and each even has it's own on-syllable spoken line, resulting in the character chanting as well as gesturing.
- In Arx Fatalis, you the player cast spells via mouse gestures.
- Ninpo in Ninja Gaiden utilizes hand symbols.
- Some of the ninja in Dead or Alive, such as Ayane, utilize hand symbols in their magic. In fact, Ayane and Kasumi, who both use these, became Canon Immigrants to Ninja Gaiden, mentioned above.
- The Skull Kid in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has a unique gesture of shaking his head, creating a rattling sound, when using the cursed power of Majora's Mask.
- Flandre Scarlet from Touhou Project: Embodiment of Scarlet Devil has the ability to destroy anything. She never demonstrates it in-game (due to combat being directed by nonlethal spellcard rules), but supplementary materials reveal she uses it by summoning the target's central core that holds the object/person together into the palm of her hand, and crushing it.
- In El Goonish Shive, Elliot's (and by extension Ellen's) "Tamashii Gekido" attack requires arm movement. This isn't readily apparent the first two times it is used, but becomes obvious when Elliot tries it while tied up.
- Bog from Sneaky Goblins manages to gesture for spells while missing his casting hand.
- In the Whateley Universe, Fey has done some hand movements so magical that it hurts other people to look at them.
- Although the "painful to look at" aspect may be specific to Ayla, rather than humanity in general, since Ayla and the Mad Scientist mentions that the same gesture that makes Ayla queasy just looking at it out of the corner of his eye goes completely unnoticed by anyone else.
- Many DPIs in Phaeton learn to bind their powers to movements to prevent themselves from using them by accident.
- Much of the Fake Interactivity in Little Einsteins involves performing various gestures to make on-screen magic happen.
- Sent up by the "Karate Island" episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, of all things. Looked at frame by frame, Sandy uses actual mudras rather than made-up symbols.
- Thundarr the Barbarian: All of Ariel's spells require her to gesture with her hands over her head; therefore restraining her arms serves to incapacitate her.
- Tree Fu Tom: The main character Tom cast spells by using various hand gestures and body movements. He finishes the spell by then calling out the spell's name.