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The Hand of Glory

These blogs won't just be about wax melts and the other stuff I make, but they'll also be about Whitby. They'll include lots of the weird and wonderful curiosities that make Whitby so magickal. The Hand of Glory is one of them...

Our museum here in Whitby is lovely. I absolutely love having a mooch round all the strange and beautiful artifacts. My favourite though, has to be the Hand of Glory.

This mummified, severed human hand was found in the early 20th century. It was discovered by a stone mason and local historian, Joseph Ford, hidden on the wall of a thatched cottage in Castleton. Being a knowledgeable man, he recognised it straight away from popular stories as a 'Hand of Glory'. Whitby Museum received this grisly but special artefact in 1935 and it's the only alleged Hand known to survive.

Now, the way a Hand of Glory was taken and made is not for the faint of heart. A Hand of Glory was supposedly taken by a witch from the right arm of a criminal. She would slice the arm off while the body still hung grimly in the gallows. She would then take the hand and boil it, this would be done to extract the fat in order to make a candle later. The bones and the skin would then be pickled in a mixture of zimort, saltpetre and peppercorn before finally being hung to cure in a chimney under the smoke of yew and juniper wood. But what was the purpose of the Hand? The Hand of Glory was thought to be a talisman of invisibility. It was said thieves would use it in the night to send sleepers in a house into a coma from which they were unable to wake. There seems to be two version's of the Hand, in one the clenched hand is used as a candleholder for the human fat candle, but in the other version all the boney fingers of the pickled hand were lit. It was told that if on lighting, one of the fingers refused to light, it was a sign that someone in the household was still awake.

Of course the only way to extinguish a Hand of Glory was by blood or 'blue' (skimmed) milk - the usual macabre method in stories.

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