The Hand of Glory is said to be the dried and pickled hand of a man who has been hanged, often specified as being the left hand, or else, if the man were hanged for murder, the hand that "did the deed."
According to old European beliefs, a candle made of the fat from a malefactor who died on the gallows, virgin wax, and Lapland sesame oil - lighted and placed (as if in a candlestick) in the Hand of Glory, which comes from the same man as the fat in the candle - would have rendered motionless all persons to whom it was presented. The candle could only be put out with milk. (In another version the hair of the dead man is used as a wick, also the candle is said to give light only to the holder.) The Hand of Glory also purportedly had the power to unlock any door it came across.
In popular culture
- In the Supernatural episode "Red Sky at Morning", the brothers are hunting down a Hand of Glory.
- In the Harry Potter series, a Hand of Glory appears twice, once in The Chamber of Secrets (for sale) and again in The Half-Blood Prince (in the possession of Draco Malfoy), as an object which grants illumination only to its holder.
- Hand of Glory is the title of the second album from the Cornish band Spriggan.
- "Hand of Glory" is a song from The Smithereens' album Especially for You.
- In the film Angel Heart, the character played by Charlotte Rampling keeps a Hand of Glory in a box.
- In Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, a Hand of Glory is offered for sale to Richard.
- A Hand of Glory is employed against Sgt. Howie as he feigns sleep in The Wicker Man.
- The legend is the basis for the 2011 dark thriller "Hand of Glory".
- The Hand of Glory is used as a model for the Transient Curse Item in video game Dark Souls
- In Thief: The Dark Project collecting a Hand of Glory is a mission objective for the Cragscleft Prison mission
- In Hellboy's Box Full of Evil story and Being Human story, a Hand of Glory is used to paralize everyone except the holder of the hand.
- In The Invisibles by Grant Morrison large parts of the plot surround attempts from both the Invisibles and the Outer Church to obtain, and find out how to control, a Hand of Glory. In the comic, it is seen has having the propensity to open doors in timespace - i.e. open gates to other worlds and ages.
- In the Lost Girl episode "Fae Gone Wild", a Hand of Glory is being created.
- Episode 7 of The Dresden Files has Harry tracking down three college students who are using a Hand of Glory to bypass high tech security systems.