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THE HAND OF GLORY

This mummified hand of an executed criminal holds some magic powers. The "Hand of Glory" supposedly comes from an executed criminal and was cut off the body while the corpse was still hanging from the gibbet. The recipe for its preparation is simple : squeeze the blood out of the hand; embalm it in a shroud and steep it in a solution of saltpetre, salt and pepper for two weeks and then dry in the sun. The other essential for its use is a candle made from hanged man's fat, wax and Lapland sesame. This candle was then fixed between the fingers of the hand and lit when a burglar broke into a house. Reputedly it prevented the inhabitants of the house from waking up thus allowing the burglar to investigate the house at his leisure. Various forms of this European legend abound. Probably the Museum's most viewed (and popular?) exhibit!

 

By TONY DAVIDSON

The Hand of Glory is as the old legends state the dried and often pickled hand of a dead man who has been hanged for a foul murder, often it is specified as being the left (Latin: sinister) or in most cases the actual hand that "did the horrid deed." Though today only a few actual reported as real hands of glory do actually survive from days gone by.

Many true students of the occult would love nothing more then to own such an item and to test the supposed powers of such magical artifact. And there are those in the paranormal community would love to put to the test and find out if any paranormal activity is reportedly able to be documented.

There are as we know many occult practices from over the centuries that have paranormal activity associated with them. And the Infamous Hanf Of glory is such an item that many would love to investigate and it's reported powers.

According to many traditions of the old European beliefs, a sallow colored candle made of the human fat, virgin wax, and Lapland sesame oil - lighted and placed or held (as if in a candlestick) in the Hand of Glory, it's strange powers would have rendered all those in in it's presence paralyzed or struck dumb and motionless all persons to whom it was presented might not see the thief in the night who carried it for it made the person who held it invisible to all. Such old established beliefs as we in the 21st century understand seem to be more myth then truth.

The Hand of Glory also purportedly had the great strange power to unlock any door lock, lock or pad lock it comes across. This legend is traced to about 1440, but the name "Hand Of Glory" only dates from 1707.

Hand of Glory or " Main de gloire" in French, was originally a name used as the exact name for the evil magical mandrake root (via French “mandragore” and thus “hand of glory”) that became very confused with the earlier legend many scholars believe in their research.

Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae). Because mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, hyoscyamine and the roots sometimes contain bifurcations causing them to resemble human figures, their roots have long been used in magic rituals, today also in neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism. (Also see Mandrake.)

The confusion may have occurred because mandrakes are said to grow beneath the bodies of hanged criminals and often resemble human hands grasping for the ground when pulled from the earth.

hand of glory

The sinister evil hand of glory;s burning candle could only be extinguished or put out with fresh milk from a pure white cow, sheep or goat. This belief being that it would stay lit and if discovered so was the thief.

(In another version the hair of the dead man is used as a wick, also the candle is said to give light only to the holder.) The Hand of Glory also purportedly had the power to unlock any door it came across. The method of making a hand of glory is described in "Petit Albert", and in the Compendium Maleficarum

An excerpt concerning the Hand of Glory from a book entitled, "The Golden Book of the Mysterious":

"A fearsome talisman called the Hand of Glory was prepared by some sorcerers for robbers to use as they went about their work. Its preparation started with cutting off the hand of a hanged criminal. This had to be wrapped in cloth, placed in a pot with various herbs and minerals and left for two weeks, after which it was to be dried in the sun."

If someone took the care to rub a potion made from the gall of a black cat, the fat of a white hen, and the blood of a screech owl, it was believed that the Hand of Glory would be rendered powerless to paralyze those to whom it was shown and so the denizens of the house would be protected. The strength of the Hand of Glory could be doubled by using it for a candle holder. This candle would be made of such ingredients as human fat and horse dung among others.

DeGivry and Waite provide a description of the process in "Secrets merveilleux de la magie naturelle et cabalistique du Petit Albert" (Cologne, 1722):

"Take the right or left hand of a felon who is hanging from a gibbet beside a highway; wrap it in part of a funeral pall and so wrapped squeeze it well [to get out all the blood]. Then put it into an earthenware vessel with zimat, nitre, salt, and long peppers, the whole well powdered. Leave it in this vessel for a fortnight, then take it out and expose it to full sunlight during the dog-days until it becomes quite dry. If the sun is not strong enough put it in an oven heated with fern and vervain. Next make it a kind of candle with the fat of a gibbeted felon, virgin wax, sesame, and ponie, and use the Hand of Glory as a candlestick to hold this candle when lighted."

There is one Hand of Glory which is stored at the Whitby Museum in North Yorkshire. It was found in an attic in a house in Eskdale. The hand was a grayish color. This color was the result of a preservation technique which involved the draining of the blood of the hand of a hanged criminal which had been cut off, and afterward using saltpeter and Lapland sesame to preserve it. The blood and fat the of the hanged man was then utilized to make a candle which would then be placed between the fingers of the Hand of Glory.

When a thief broke into a house, he would light the candle and recite a small rhyme:

"Hand of Glory shining bright, lead us to our spoils tonight!"

THE HAND OF GLORY The Whitby Museum's "Hand of Glory"

Thomas Kingbolts (1788-1845) wrote the following verse in his The Kingbolts Legends:

Wherever that terrible light shall burn,
Vainly the sleeper may toss and turn;
His leaden eyes shall he ne'er unclose
So long as that magical taper glows,
Life and treasure shall he command
Who knoweth the charm of the glorious Hand.

The passage below, written in rhyming verse, is also taken from The Ingoldsby Legendes (R.H. Barham's version, 1840).

"On the lone bleak moor, At the midnight hour,
Beneath the Gallows Tree,
Hand in Hand, The Murderers stand,
By one, by two, by three,
Now mount who list, And close by the wrist,
Sever me quickly, the Dead Man's fist,
Now climb who dare, Where he swings in air,
And pluck me five locks of the Dead Man's Hair!"


According to the 1826 edition of Collin de Plancy' Dictionnaire Infernal, a Hand of Glory can be manufactured as follows:

"The Hand of Glory is the hand of a hanged man prepared as follows: it is wrapped in a piece of funeral pall and squeezed well to ensure that as much remaining blood as possible is removed. It is then placed in an earthenware vessel with salt, saltpeter, zimat and long peppers, all of which have been crushed to a powder. It is left in the pot for a fortnight, then removed and exposed to the hot sun until it is completely dry. If the sun is not strong enough, it is placed in a heated oven with fern and vervain.

The Hand of Glory is used as a candlestick to hold this candle when lighted. Wherever one travels with this baleful instrument, those who are already there will remain immobile, unable to move as if they were dead."

The Petit Albert adds that the wick must be woven from tufts of hair from the horse of the hand's owner.

Collin de Plancy adds that since fewer people are hanged now than previously, it is hard to make such hands these days. He recounts the following legend:

"Two magicians had plans to steal from an inn. They asked to spend the night next to the fire, and their wish was granted. When everyone had gone to bed, the serving wench, who distrusted the sinister-looking travellers, looked through a hole in the door and saw what they were up to. She saw them remove a human hand from a bag, slather the fingers in some kind of ointment and light them all, apart from one which would not light, despite their best efforts. As she found out, the reason it did not light was that she was the only one of all the people in the inn who could not sleep. Since the other fingers were lit, everyone else was in a very deep sleep. She tried to rouse her master, but was unable to do so. In fact, she was unable to waken anyone until she managed to put out the burning fingers while the two thieves were at work in one of the bedrooms. Once the candles were extinguished, everyone woke up and the thieves were chased out of the inn.
Thieves are unable to use the Hand of Glory if one has taken the precaution of rubbing the doorway with an ointment made from gall from a black cat, fat from a white hen and blood from an owl. This ointment must be made during the midsummer heat."

The Whitby Museum's "Hand of Glory" supposedly comes from an executed criminal and was cut off the body while the corpse was still hanging from the gibbet. The recipe for its preparation is simple : squeeze the blood out of the hand; embalm it in a shroud and steep it in a solution of saltpetre, salt and pepper for two weeks and then dry in the sun.

The other essential for its use is a candle made from hanged man's fat, wax and Lapland sesame. This candle was then fixed between the fingers of the hand and lit when a burglar broke into a house. Reputedly it prevented the inhabitants of the house from waking up thus allowing the burglar to investigate the house at his leisure. Various forms of this European legend abound.

The Whitby Museum's "Hand of Glory"

The Whitby Museum's "Hand of Glory" PHOTO BY LISA LEE HARP WAUGH ©2010

Probably the Museum's most viewed and popular exhibit! http://www.whitbymuseum.org.uk/d12/misc/index.htm


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