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Hand Of Glory - The Pickled Hand Of A Hanged Man For Spells And Other Such Deeds

Updated on December 12, 2012
Hand of Glory Whitby Museum
Hand of Glory Whitby Museum

The Hand Of Glory has been used throughout history and especially the Witchcraft period for spells, deeds and other sinister dark things. It is the pickled hand of a dead man used as a candle. It was used in black magic, sinister spells, and other magical incantations.

The hand was usually taken from the hanged man who had been tried for murder. The more notorious and grisly the murder, the better the potency of the spell casting. It was said that using the left hand, aka the sinister side was best, but if the murderer had used his right hand then that would be most powerful to use for the candle magic, or evil spells.

There are two versions of the Hand of Glory. The first is the hand itself is used as a candle, and in the second the Hand itself holds the candle which is made out of the humans fatty tissue. Some say that using the hair of the murderer as a wick will add to the potency of the magic.

The Modern Version!

Hand of Glory Candles
Hand of Glory Candles
Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn

Magical Uses of the Hand of Glory

The Hand of Glory was said to be mainly used for rendering people to sleep, so that the perpetrator can break into a house to steal or murder the victims. The hand, once lit, will emanate a foul smell that will render the victim comatose. The only way that it could be put out was to pour milk onto it.

Milk was the one magical and mythological substance that would render it powerless. This does make sense if you think about what milk represents. Life, nourishment and health.

Another magical property of the Hand of Glory is the fact that it can open all doors and keylocks.

One of the main magical properties of the Hand of Glory is said to be the fact that it can make the owner of the foul hand totally invisible. Therefore it was said that rogues and thieves would do anything to get their grubby fingers on it.

There have been many references to Dead Mens Hands over the centuries. In fact Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII second wife was said to have an extra digit on her right hand, which we know today as polydactyly.

We now know that this was probably a rumor because Henry wanted to portray her as ugly and possibly a Witch. If she had an extra finger it would have been impossible for her to marry King Henry purely because he would have seen her as fey or bad luck.

Rhymes and poems were said to make the spell more powerful:


Let those who rest, and more deeply sleep,
Let those awake make their vigils keep,
Oh hand of glory please shed thy light,
Direct us to our spoils tonight.

Whitby Museum
Whitby Museum
Hand of Glory Whitby Museum  said to be the only real Hand of Glory left. It could also have been used for protection if they had been buried in a wall or behind a chimney.
Hand of Glory Whitby Museum said to be the only real Hand of Glory left. It could also have been used for protection if they had been buried in a wall or behind a chimney.

Hand of Glory in the Whitby Museum England

The severed mummified hand that is in the Whitby Museum was said to have been found hidden in the wall of a thatched cottage in Castleton by a local historian who was also a stone mason, Joseph Ford.

Realising what it was he handed it over the the Museum in 1935, and its believed to be the only Hand of Glory that has survived.

On the history of the Hand, it was said that the magical properties were well known to many countries in Europe, from Finland across to Italy, Russia to Ireland, and of course England.

Real Mandrake Root
Real Mandrake Root


There is a connection between Mandrake and The Hand Of Glory. Sources say that The Hand is related to the French saying, Main de Gloire. (Mandragoire) or Mandrake and its superstitions. This could be where the overlapping of the legends takes place. At this point we could say that the Hand of Glory is then in fact a myth.

But that's just not so. There have been may Hands of Glory found by archaeologists and people who have moved into old houses. Doing their renovating they have found the Hands hidden beneath the chimney or floorboards.

The Mandrake itself is a very strange looking plant, and people believed that it was sown from the seed of a hanged man. Therefore the connection.

In witchcraft and old legends, its said that when the Mandrake root is lifted from the ground it will scream so loud that it kills all who hear it. There was a standard procedure to pull the Mandrake from the ground, it included tying a dog to the root, then retiring to a safe distance!

With the shape of a man, and the narcotic effects of its flesh, it can easily be seen why this plant has gone down in history as the most magical and mysterious of them all.

Mandrake the Harry Potter Version! public domain
Mandrake the Harry Potter Version! public domain

St. John's Hand

On the subject of magical plants and their properties, there is another mysterious flower that has a long history. Its called the Dryopteris or St. John's Hand. Also known as Dead Mans Hand.

In magic and folklore, Dead Man's Hand is the name of a male fern root that is harvested on Mid Summers Eve. When it is dug up it is left to dry by the bonfire on this magical night. Its said that the magic will increase when it soaks up the energy from the flame of the fire.

This root has been used for protection against Witches, devils, demons, ghosts, magic, illness and physical harm. Ghenghis Khan was said to have carried this charm with him at all times for protection.

The root was also said to have magical love properties too, and used in love philtres in the middle ages.

St. John's Hand Fern public domain
St. John's Hand Fern public domain
White Witch   public domain
White Witch public domain

Witchcraft Magic

Throughout history Witches have used many strange and even bizarre magical props to make their spells much more potent and frightening to the general public. Most of the time it would only take a glimpse of these objects to scare the people into believing that the magic actually worked.

But there were magical potions and poultices that did work. These Witches or Wise Women used herbs and flowers to heal peoples wounds, illnesses and even heartache. They were the real wise women. To read her fascinating story please click on the link below.

The Wise Woman or White Witch.


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