The Hand of Glory

I’ve never herd of this before, though I’ve had the Bloody Hand of Ulster pointed out to me in a few old buildngs. This is from Highways & Byways in Yorkshire, citing the Folklore Society

“Wild and varied as I know the superstitions of my native country to be, I must plead guilty to some astonishment at finding among them what Brand calls the foreign superstition of the Hand of Glory, once firmly believed in many parts of France, Germany and Spain. Sir Walter Scott brings it forward as a foreign charm. It is the German adventurer Dousterswivel who is conversant with it, and who describes it.”

But the author claims the German account is less detailed than this:

The Hand of Glory is the hand of a man who has been hung, and is prepared in the following manner. Wrap the hand in a piece of winding sheet, drawing it tight to squeeze out the little blood that remains. Then place it in an earthenware vessel with salt, saltpetre and long pepper, all carefully and thoroughly powdered. Let it remain a fortnight in this pickle, then expose it to the sun in the dog-days until it is completely parched, or if the sun be to powerful enough, dry it in an oven heated with vervain and fern. Next make a candle with the fat of a hung man, virgin wax and Lapland sesame. The Hand of Glory is used to hold this candle when it is lighted. wherever one goes with this contrivance, those it approaches are rendered incapable of motion as though they were dead.”

…One evening, between the years 1790 and 1800 a traveler dressed in woman’s clothes arrived at the old Spital Inn on Bowes Moor. the traveler begged to stay all night, but had to go away so early in the morning that if a mouthful of food were set for breakfast there was no need the family should be disturbed by her departure. The people of the house, however, arranged that a servant-maid should sit up till the stranger was out of the premises, and then went to bed themselves. The girl lay down for a nap on the long settle by the fire; but before she closed her eyes she took a good look at the traveler, who was sitting the opposite side of the hearth, and espied a pair of man’s trousers peeping out from under the gown.

“All inclination for sleep was now gone; however, with great self-command she feigned it, closed her eyes, and even began to snore. On this the traveller got up, pulled out of his pocket a dead man’s hand, fitted a candle to it, lighted the candle and passed hand and candle several times before the girl’s face, saying … ‘Let those who are asleep be asleep, and let those who are awake b awake.’ This done, he placed the light on the table, opened the outer door, went down 2 or 3 of the steps which led from the house to the road and began to whistle for his companions. the girl now jumped up, rushed behind the ruffian and pushed him down the steps. She then shut the door, nocked it, and ran upstairs to try and wake the family,but without success. Calling, shutting and shaking them were all in vain. The poor girl was in despair, for she heard the traveller and his companions outside the house. Suddenly she remembered the Hand of Glory, ran downstairs again, seized a bowl of skimmed milk and threw it over the hand and candle, after which she went upstairs agin, and woke the sleepers without any difficulty. The landlord’s son went tot he window and asked the men what they wanted. They answered that if the dead man’s hand were but given to them they would go away quietly and do no harm to anyone. This was refused, and the landlord’s son fired among them. The shot must have taken effect, for in the morning stains of blood were traced to a considerable distance.


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