Fantastic 13th – A Chronicle of Magical Items: Hand of Glory

Continuing our theme of escape, we present a magical item that will allow its user to escape any problem: The Hand of Glory!

WHAT IS IT

The Hand of Glory is a North European mythical item that, when used, grants the owner the ability to unlock any door and break any lock with some tales saying it’ll help you walk through walls. Also, some of the earlier myths say the Hand of Glory allowed the holder to have perfect vision in pitch-black darkness.

As amazing as that seems, acquiring a Hand of Glory is no easy feat. If you want one, you either have to steal it or find a thief that’s been hung. Then you have to cut off his left hand, dry and pickle it and, finally, shape the thief’s fat around a candle wick. Once the candle burns out completely, all the powers disappear and the hand becomes nothing more than mummified human remains.

It’s a gruesome process. Especially since it actually happened!

hand_of_glory-lead-image
Pictured: a mummified hand resting on velvet inside a wooden box. A real Hand of Glory on display at the Whitby Museum, Whitby, England.

ORIGIN

Like most mythology, the origin of Hand of Glory is hard to pin down. Philologist Walter William Skeat theorized that the phrase was a translation of the French main de gloir (literally means hand of glory) which was a bastardization of the latin mandragore, the name of the mandrake plant – a herb that notoriously resembles a dried up human.

Mandrake plants have been used in mythology since it was discovered – including mentions in the Bible! However, the phrase Hand of Glory wasn’t seen in print until 1702 when the process of making a Hand of Glory was described in a French grimoire titled Secrets Merveilleux de la Magie Naturelle et Cabalistique du Petit Albert. The French book was eventually translated into English in 1722 and titled Petit Albert.

You can learn more about the Hand of Glory on display at the Whitby Museum here.

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Pictured: still from Canadian TV show Lost Girl, showing a page of a book with an image of a Hand of Glory.

 

MODERN USE

The Hand of Glory appears relatively frequently in modern fantasy:

  • In Season 2 of Lost Girl, Bo needs a Hand of Glory to steal back a selkie’s skin.  
  • The short-lived NBC show Constantine gave a twist to the Hand of Glory – instead of being able to break locks, it allowed users to raise the dead at the cost of their own life force.
  • There’s a Hand of Glory on display in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that Draco Malfoy purchases and uses in the sixth novel.
  • In the wildly popular MMORPG EverQuest, you can collect five parts of a Hand of Glory to make your own master key.
  • There was a 2012 movie titled Hand of Glory that had main character Joseph use a Hand of Glory to discover his lover’s mysterious past.
  • And of course, most demonology books have a section dedicated to the Hand of Glory. 

I did find a metal band called Hand of Glory, but their music wasn’t particularly Satanic – just your average run of the mill heavy metal.

UNIQUE IDEAS

With the exception of Constantine, the Hand Of Glory is used mostly for thievery. I’d love to read/see a story where the main character has a Hand of Glory and uses it to prank people instead of stealing valuables. Being able to walk through walls is a great way to sneak into someone’s house and replace all their light bulbs with neon pink lights. Or to steal all their spoons.

Leave a comment letting us know how you’d use a Hand Of Glory.

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