Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Demonic Digital Device

When I was a kid, the magazines CREEPY and EERIE kept the spirit of Hallowe'en burning in me all year 'round. In one of them, I was introduced to the legendary device of dark magic, the hand o' glory.

The hand o' glory was a murderer's severed hand used as a candle, and was alleged to be used by thieves and killers, as it had the power to keep asleep any one inside a home that the user trespassed into. In the magazine story I read as a yoot, a criminal using a hand o' glory intends to steal from a family who have moved into a desolate mansion. But he finds to his surprise that they aren't kept asleep, because they do not live-- they're all vampires, and the criminal becomes their victim!

Never forgot that story.

My Halloween bride Jane the Voodoo Queen owns a 1961 book titled A Treasury Of Witchcraft. In its entry for "Hand of Glory" is this bit of verse:

Wherever that terrible light shall burn,
Vainly the sleeper may toss and turn;
His leaden eyes shall he ne'er unclose
So long as that magical taper glows;
Life and treasure shall he command
Who knoweth the charm of the glorious Hand!

--Ingolsby Legends
(Thomas Ingolsby, 1788-1845)

So you can imagine my happiness in seeing see hands o' glory at my local Walgreen's drug store! Of COURSE I bought them!

When burning, these candles drip blood-red wax. What a cool touch.

Here's another Walgreen's Hand O'Glory candle-- this one is even nicer, being the color of mummified flesh.

Above I shared some lines of poetry about a hand o' glory that were written by a Thomas Ingolsby. Seems that the name is variantly spelled Thomas Ingoldsby (both being pen names for a Rev. Richard H. Barham, who lived 1788--1845.) Under the Ingoldsby name I found another whole, long poem by him involving a hand o' glory, and it can be read here. I recommend it, but it's not easy to just skim and enjoy, as it isn't short and it isn't contemporary. But I like it, and especially during in the Hallowe'en season, I am perfectly happy to meet the past and all its traditions on its own terms.

Burglars using a hand o' glory were said to recite a poem when igniting it:
"Let those who rest more deeply sleep;
Let those awake their vigils keep.
O, Hand o' Glory shed thy light,
Direct us to our spoils tonight.
Flash out thy light, O skeleton hand,
And guide the feet of our trusty band."
Hate poetry? Want prose? Well, three short English folk narratives about the use of a hand o' glory can be read here, followed by two more gruesome German narratives of similar objects known as Thieves' Lights.

If you read all the links I've set up for you, you might acquire a taste for more morbid-looking hands of glory. Where can I find them, you ask. If you wish to buy this one,

(and of course you do, as it's a gorgeous piece of craftsmanship), then go to this page of the Miskatonic River Art Studio website, and you'll see it among the other hand-made items offered, or here to find ordering info.

What? You say you're saving all your dough for trick-or-treat candy? Just want to windowshop and see some interesting hands o' glory? Go look up Scotsman Gordon Rutter; the one below is in his collection:

And this one---
is on display at the Whitby Museum in Whitby, England.

Read more about the hellish "hand-le" (hand candle, natch) here.


This post was originally published in two parts and in slightly different form in 2007.


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