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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 tripadvisor.co.uk
Hand of Glory Whitby Museum tripadvisor.co.uk

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  instructables.com
Hand of Glory Candles instructables.com
Anne Boleyn biography.com
Anne Boleyn biography.com

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.   www.whitbymuseum.org.uk/collections/hogg.htm
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. www.whitbymuseum.org.uk/collections/hogg.htm

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  en.wikipedia.org
Real Mandrake Root en.wikipedia.org

Mandrake

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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    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 4 years ago from The High Seas

      Good stuff, an entertaining read.

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Thanks GetitScene, glad you liked my gory tale! lol!

    • Lilleyth profile image

      Suzanne Sheffield 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      Ewwwww....nice hub Nell!

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

      Hi Nell. Wow, I didn't know that!

      There's another Dead Man's Hand tradition from America's Wild West. Shortly before he was murdered in 1876, "Wild Bill" Hickock was playing Poker. His hand included 2 black aces and 2 black eights.

      Voted up.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      This is really interesting Nell! I have never heard of the hand of glory. Now I have goosebumps. I also did not know that Anne Bolelyn was rumored to have an extra digit. I am pretty confident it was a rumor because I can't imagine Henry VIII marrying someone with what I imagine would have been considered a serious "flaw" in those days. Up and interesting. Shared all over too.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This was very well done and held my interest throughout. Awesome and up!

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

      Exceptional read -- this sort of thing interests me tremendously. Must admit my funnybone got involved as I have this clown of a dog that may well have the "Paw of Glory" as he successfully opens -- and closes doors all by himself. My true love owns three timber wolves and when we're visiting at his house my dog "Bubba" opens the back door and lets the wolves in -- all on his own -- thus "the Paw of Glory." (I know, I have a sick sense of humor). Best/Sis

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Angela, haha! brilliant! the paw of glory! love it, and thanks as always, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
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      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Thanks avian, just me getting back to what I love, spooky and pretty horrible! lol! thank, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
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      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Glimmer, yes Henry would probably have used that against her too, mind you I think it must have been him that spread the rumour in the first place probably to say she was a witch as well as an adulterer, thanks for reading, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
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      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi larry, lol! good twist there larry! yes that hand did him no good! lol! thank as always, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Haha! sorry Lilleyth, bit gruesome eh? thanks for reading, nell

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Fascinating. That hand really does LOOK evil. Though I don't really believe in spells and such like, I still have respect for the powers of will of the spell casters. I believe all the magic and spells and so forth are ways to focus will power, for good or evil.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

      Wow...never realized that there is history behind such eww hands. :)

      Thanks for an enlightening hub.

      Voted up as interesting.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Well i must say that a pickeled hand would make me run like hell, but learning the beliefs associated with the pickled hand is intriguing. Thank's nell. I love your offbeat hubs. Cheers..

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Legends attract people so much because in every legend there is some part of truly events. I believe that there are many things in this world which are not understandible for a modern person because we live in a physical world and often do not see direct influence of this or that on outr life . Great Hub! Shared

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Really nasty stuff Nell. Yikes, a dead man's hand, not to mention hanged mans hand, no wait, a murder's hand! Does something like this really work! No I don't want to know!

    • sfrentz06 profile image

      sfrentz06 4 years ago from Sterling Heights, MI, USA

      Wow! How fascinating, and somehow quite disturbing. I have never heard of the pickeled hand, but I can imagine how it would conjure up this gruesome legend. I am always intrigued by stories like this! Thanks for sharing.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      If you don't mind, Nell, I prefer the real thing. A pickle, that is. But this is a fascinating and somewhat gory tale you have penned that held my interest, m'dear.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Witches and potions and pickled appendages and spells......Oh my......I did not know any of this. The Witches in my area are much less creative!........Hey, Nell....Do you think that Lorena Bobbit intended to do some pickling???? ....UP+++

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi paula, Haha! oh I remember her well! sorry for the grisly stuff, you know me, I spot something and think oo er that sounds fascinating! lol! I think witchcraft back then was fiddly! so much easier these days, get a candle mumble a spell and voila off we go! and if that doesn't work just pick up the cell phone and dial! lol! thanks again, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
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      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi drbj, lol! put me off pickles for good! thanks again, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi sfrentz, thanks for reading, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      HI Cardisa, lol! yep all of those! haha! I am sure it didn't work, but a bit messy carrying that around with you! thanks for reading, and nice to see you, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
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      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Pavlo, yes I agree, back then it was a totally different story, thanks for reading, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Ruby, lol! me too! thanks as always, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Ruchira, yep those ewww hands! lol! thanks for reading, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Paradise, yes it was a case of focusing the power along with trying to scare people half to death too! lol! thanks so much for reading much appreciated too, nell

    • DanaTeresa profile image

      Dana Strang 4 years ago from Ohio

      AWESOME! I have heard of this hand but really never knew much about it. I am fascinated by things related to spells and witchcraft. This is a great hub. Perfect combo of creepiness and info. My spine has chills and my mind is dancing. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hey Dana! lol! that's a great way to put it, your spine has chills and your mind is dancing! love it! thanks so much, nell

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Nell,

      Your article was creepily interesting. There's something fascinating about stories such as what you've discussed.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This hub is definitely creepy, but it's also very interesting, Nell! I've never heard of the Hand of Glory before. Thank you for the education!

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Fascinating read, Nell. I've never heard of the Hand of Glory before, and learned something new and very interestng. Excellent write.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Well, these are both fairly grotesque, and I'm glad never to have seen them before. I think I'll skip the Whitby Museum if ever I'm in that area. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      lol! thanks alocsin, not everybodies cup of tea as they say! thanks!

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Genna, thanks for reading, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Alicia, lol! yes its creepy stuff, but fascinating too, thanks so much for reading, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Daisy, thanks so much for reading, yes the macabre is fascinating isn't it? lol! thanks!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Very interesting stuff, but I'd like to leave "pickled" to the stuff I put on my sandwich. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Lol! thanks Terrye!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      You come up with the most interesting stuff! Really....how did they Pickle the Hand of Glory? I mean did they brine it?

      I enjoyed this and the info about the Mandrake Root. Jolly old England I say!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 4 years ago

      Dead hand giving off foul odor? Say it isn't so...omg!

      This must have been 'IT's predecessor (ya know, the adams family...lol)..

      I love learning Nell - and this has certainly been some of the oddest information ever taken in with my morning coffee...

      ewwwww...i don't think i'd make a very good witch - i'd be like..."um..could someone please toss in that slimy disgusting eye of newt for me?"

      Thanks..

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

      Ms. Immortal 4 years ago from NJ

      What a fun and truly interesting read. I have never heard of the, Hand of Glory' until now. Dead Man's hand seems 'handy' to have around too. Who knows when you might run into a witch :o)

    • innerspin profile image

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      I read about a Hand of Glory in a book recenly, a detective novel, and now I can't remember which book. Darn. Your detailed explanation is fascinating, thank you!

    • starbright profile image

      Lucy Jones 4 years ago from Scandinavia

      Yikes - that sound a bit creepy but really interesting. A great read as always Nell. Voted and shared.

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi starbright, thanks for reading, nell

      Hi innerspin, that's where I got the idea this time too! lol! can't remember the book either! haha! thanks for reading, nell

      Hi cathy, yes very handy! lol! thanks so much for reading, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi ImKarn, lol! sorry about spoiling your coffee, haha! thanks for the laugh! nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi tills, probably! haha! thanks as always mary, nell

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 4 years ago from the Ether

      I've seen the hand of glory image in passing but never knew that much about it, Nell. This was seriously amazing and left me so inspired and in awe. Many blessings and a very merry winter solstice!

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      Engaging but at the same time creepy! I have heard that the parts of the hanged murderer were used for magic and hands were no exception. I am surprised to know that the museum have this pickled hand but I don't think I want to visit it out of fear - I am sorry. A detailed and creepily entertaining hub! Well-done!

      Merry Christmas to you & your family!

      Thanks for SHARING. Awesome & Interesting. Voted up & shared

    • Brandon Martin profile image

      Brandon Martin 4 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Love this! Awesome work!

    • Silver Fish profile image

      Silver Fish 4 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Utterly fascinating- another amazing Hub. I loved reading this. Voted and shared.

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Silver Fish, thanks for reading, nell

      Hi Brandon, glad you liked it, and thanks!

      Hi ishwaryaa, lol! yes it is kinda creepy, have a great Christmas and thanks!

      Hi kitty, yes I had forgotten about it, then spotted the word in a book and it got me searching for info, have a great winter solstice, and thanks!

    • Silver Fish profile image

      Silver Fish 4 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Reminds me now of a wallet my friend bought at an auction in London, made from the skin of William Burke, one the the notorious duo Burke and Hare the body snatchers.

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      hi Silver Fish, that's fascinating! I don't know if you watch Four Rooms on tv, but they had one on there, maybe it was your friend selling it? lol! thanks for reading, nell

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 4 years ago

      Great article, very interesting. I always found the hand of glory particularly creepy. Great research!

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi there Nell. Pardon me for being tardy on your hubs reading recently. How about that with the Hand of Glory, certainly a new one here. When teenagers a witchy friend and two of us were in the biggest Atlanta cemetery - at night with her where she wanted to do some casting or something. She found the grave that felt right and placed a black candle on it. After some incantations Nell that candle started bending over in the middle and I don't mean melting! Even spooked her. Anyway, nice subject and write. Is the mandrake a protected species over there?

    • JaneA profile image

      JaneA 4 years ago from California

      Great hub on a fascinating subject. Funny you should mention the Whitby museum - that is where me and my family first came across the "hand of glory" about 10 years ago when we were visiting from CA.

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Alastar, thanks for spooking me out! lol! seriously I would have run so fast the hounds of hell couldn't have caught me! not sure about the mandrake, I don't think so, I will have to find out, thanks for reading, and great to see you, nell

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi Jane, now that's a strange coincidence! wow! thanks so much for reading, nell

    • Sonia Perozzi profile image

      Sonia Perozzi 4 years ago from California

      This was a very fun read for me. When I saw the title "Hand of Glory-" I was immediately drawn to your article. A group of very talented writers (in my humble opinion) created a wonderful story based around a character called Doctor Crowe, "a formidable psychologist until a terrible tragedy sent him spiraling down the dark pathways of the occult", who has a "hand of glory" and it is a central theme of the story.

      Their use of it expands on your passage of how it can "open all doors and keylocks" .

      They created first an old fashioned radio show/podcast based on this Doctor character called "Wormwood" and now they have made it into a comic book series called "Sparrow and Crowe"

      I was lucky and blessed that I played the voice of Sparrow- a Cyber Witch and assistant to the doctor in the podcast. I think you might enjoy their writing as they greatly appreciate many of the things you write about. http://wormwoodshow.com/

      Either way thank you for reminding me of the power of the Hand of Glory:)

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi sonia, that sounds like fun, I will go and take a look, and thank you so much for reading, nell

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Nell, I'm always entertained in your writing subjects. Certainly, I had never heard of this before. If I ever heard the phrase, "hand of glory," I'm sure I wouldn't have imagined it as being what it was! Good material. Thank you.

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi ytsenoh, lol! yes it's a bit bizarre isn't it? thanks so much for reading, glad I could help! lol!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      How strange this is. This was definitely a learning experience for me as I had never heard of this. You certainly have thoroughly shared info on the topic. Very interesting. Voted up+++

      Sending Angels your way :) ps

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi pstraubie, thanks for reading, yes its a bit bizarre, and well, yuck! lol! but fascinating look at the old witchcraft, thanks, nell

    • crayonbrains profile image

      crayonbrains 3 years ago from The World Is Mine !

      You are my favourite hubber. I love reading your hubs. They are so entertaining and informative. Thanks for sharing Nell :)

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Thanks so much Crayon, glad you liked it, and I do like my weird stuff! lol!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Mandrake plants, of course, and Ron Weasley. I love these background insights into things found in the fictional story which became favorite reading for the now generation. Malfoy and the hand of glory... so interesting to read the actual reference behind the symbolism used in the series, Nell. Wonderful topic and very interesting.

    • Nell Rose profile image
      Author

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Hi Peg, thanks so much, yes its a bit gruesome but I love the history behind the pickled hand, we did some strange things back in history didn't we? lol! thanks again, nell

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