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A circle of light around paintings of the Christ and the Saints by artists to denote spirituality. The inclusion of the halo began during the 5th century when it was first used only around the head of Jesus and the Virgin, but later was used for the Saints as well. The ancient Egyptians used a device similar to the halo in pictures of pharaohs; it often took the form of the sun’s rays behind the head.

It has been suggested that the custom had its origin when certain especially endowed persons claimed to see an aura around the body. See also AURAS.

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