LONDON (Express) — A ghastly mummified human hand, discovered hidden in the wall of a thatched cottage in Castleton, North Yorkshire, is the only known Hand of Glory still in existence.
A Hand of Glory is the preserved hand of a hanged convict, which was believed to have unique magical properties.
The preparation of such a grizzly souvenir was complicated. First, the hand of an executed felon had to be cut off while the body was still hanging from the gallows. The worse the crime, the more effective the magic.
Once the blood was drained, the hand was wrapped in a cloth (preferably the winding sheet of a freshly buried corpse) and, according to an old recipe: ‘pickled in salt, and the urine of man, woman, dog, horse and mare; smoked with herbs and hay for a month; hung on an oak tree for three nights running, then laid at a crossroads, then hung on a church door for one night.’
Finally, either the fingers were dipped in the fat of a gibbeted felon, or a candle from the same ingredient was placed in the hand.
Once it was ready, the hand was used by burglars to make their work easy and safe by ensuring their victims fell into a deep supernatural sleep. The candle was lit and, as the villains entered the property – now illuminated by the glow from the burning hand of glory – they chanted the following:
Let those who rest more deeply sleep,
Let those awake their vigils keep,
O Hand of Glory, shed thy light,
Direct us to our spoil tonight.
The magical qualities of the hand would enable the thieves to creep through the sleeping household, take all the swag they could carry, and make their getaway undisturbed.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Draco Malfoy sees a Hand of Glory in Borgin and Burkes, the dark arts specialist shop. He is told that it “gives light only to the holder”. Draco later buys the hand and uses it in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.