06 Nov 2015

Only Hand of Glory in Existence?

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Hand-of-Glory

Ancient Origins:

[A] mummified hand found in Castleton, North Yorkshire, England is the only known ‘Hand of Glory’, a grotesque artifact meant to aid thieves in their work during the night, still in existence. This mummified hand supposedly has the power to “entrance humans” according to the Express. Hands of Glory were also a favorite tool for thieves and creative storytellers for over 200 years.

What the newspapers have claimed as the last Hand of Glory was first uncovered in 1935 inside the wall at a thatched cottage in Castleton by a stonemason and local historian named Joseph Ford. Ford is said to have immediately recognized the importance of the hand as a supernatural tool, so he gave it to the Whitby Museum for safekeeping soon after the discovery.

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Express:

A Hand of Glory is the preserved hand of a hanged convict, which was believed to have unique magical properties.

The preparation of such a grizzly souvenir was complicated. First, the hand of an executed felon had to be cut off while the body was still hanging from the gallows. The worse the crime, the more effective the magic.

Once the blood was drained, the hand was wrapped in a cloth (preferably the winding sheet of a freshly buried corpse) and, according to an old recipe: ‘pickled in salt, and the urine of man, woman, dog, horse and mare; smoked with herbs and hay for a month; hung on an oak tree for three nights running, then laid at a crossroads, then hung on a church door for one night’.

Finally, either the fingers were dipped in the fat of a gibbeted felon, or a candle from the same ingredient was placed in the hand.

Once it was ready, the hand was used by burglars to make their work easy and safe by ensuring their victims fell into a deep supernatural sleep. The candle was lit and, as the villains entered the property – now illuminated by the glow from the burning hand of glory – they chanted the following:

    Let those who rest more deeply sleep,

    Let those awake their vigils keep,

    O Hand of Glory, shed thy light,

    Direct us to our spoil tonight.

The magical qualities of the hand would enable the thieves to creep through the sleeping household, take all the swag they could carry, and make their getaway undisturbed.

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From The Ingoldsby Legend:

Now open lock

To the Dead Man’s knock!

Fly bolt, and bar and band!–

Nor move, nor swerve

Joint, muscle, or nerve,

At the spell of the Dead Man’s Hand!

Sleep all who sleep!– Wake all who wake!–

But be as the Dead for the Dead Man’s Sake!!”

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