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!
- Tom Ingoldsby
A Hand of Glory was the severed hand of a murderer who had been hanged. Depending on which source you consult, the hand could be the left or right, but many agree that it was best to get the one that had "done the deed." Specially prepared through an meticulously involved process of thoroughly draining the blood, drying, and finally pickling, the hand was then made into a candle using the body fat of the same hanged man, wax, and some special herbs.
|Woodcut by Karel Němec|
It is interesting to note that, some legends state that only one finger of a Hand of Glory needed to be lit, while others contend that a robber needed to be aware of the number of individuals dwelling in a house beforehand - no pun intended - and light the corresponding number of digits accordingly (It is unclear what would needed to be done if the count of occupants was to exceed five...).
|Artwork by James Deeb|
Thankfully, if you fear that a robber might use a Hand of Glory against you, it is said that there are counter-spells that could offer some degree of protection. If you are somehow able to avoid being enchanted to begin with and know the proper charm, you can turn the table on any would-be thieves by extinguishing their candle, thereby paralyzing the hand's possessor instead!
* The top image is supposedly an actual Hand of Glory...