Hand of Glory at Whitby Museum.
By http://www.badobadop.co.uk – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36864122
Hand of Glory
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!
Now lock, nor bolt, nor bar avails,
Nor stout oak panel thick-studded with nails.
Heavy and harsh the hinges creak,
Though they had been oil’d in the course of the week.
The door opens wide as wide may be,
And there they stand,
That murderous band,
Lit by the light of the Glorious Hand,
By one! — by two! — by three!
From The Ingoldby Legends by Thomas Ingoldby
A hand of glory is the severed hand of a man hanged for murder, preferably the left hand, because there is something sinister in that, (sinistra meaning left in Italian) or the hand that committed the murder.
The removed hand is then dried or pickled or both.
To increase the magical abilities, and to add further insult to the original owner, a candle is also made from his fat, which can be held in the hand, making it a macabre candle holder.
Isabella Franken A Gathering of Witches. Note the hand drying above the hearth.
As a magical tool, a hand of glory was a useful item particularly to those of a more criminal nature. Those who had one could unlock any door. Once entry had been gained to a building anybody within would become statue-like and immobile, allowing the criminal to help himself to whatever wares he wished to steal.
The term Hand of Glory originates from the French main de gloire which itself derives from the word mandrake, one of the best-known cauldron ingredients. A mandrake can resemble a hand with its finger-like roots, although it is more commonly thought to look like a complete body.
In the grimoire The Wonderful Secrets of Petit Albert, the method for making a hand of glory is given in some detail.
“One takes the right hand or the left of a hangman exposed on the highways; it is wrapped in a piece of mortuary cloth, in which one presses it well to make him return the little blood which could be left; then put it in a vase of earth with zimat, saltpeter, salt, and long pepper, all well pulverized: it is left for two weeks in this pot; then having drawn it, it is exposed to the great sun of the heat, until it has become thoroughly dry; & if the sun is not enough, it is put in an oven which is heated with fern and verbena; then we compose a kind of candle with hangman’s grease, virgin wax, and Lapland sesame.”
But please don’t try this at home.