I was surprised what this word meant, and particularly how it was used. I would imagine it would work, if only out of sheer fright but if you read on, it was supposed to make the holder invisible.
Hand of Glory, n.
[‘ Originally: a charm made from or consisting of the root of a mandrake (see the etymology) (now rare). Later: a charm or talisman made from the dried and pickled hand of an executed criminal, used esp. (with a specially prepared candle placed within it) to render the occupants of a house motionless during a burglary.‘]
Various stories and legends exist concerning the preparation and use of the Hand of Glory.
A detailed description followed by many later texts is given by Francis Grose in Provinc. Gloss. (1787) 73-5. See also Scott Antiquary (1816) II. ii. 46-7.
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌhand ə(v) ˈɡlɔːri/, U.S. /ˌhænd ə(v) ˈɡlɔri
Inflections: Plural hands of glory.
Etymology: < hand n. + of prep. + glory n., after French main de gloire (c1436 in Middle French as maindegloire), alteration of mandeglore, mandegloire (see mandglorye n.) by folk-etymological association with main hand (see main n.3), de de prep., and gloire glory n.
Now chiefly hist.
- [1687 tr. P. Jurieu Accomplishm. Script. Prophecies xix. 191 He assists at the right hand of God, because that is the hand of glory, and glory is for him.]
- 1707 tr. P. Le Lorrain de Vallemont Curiosities in Husbandry & Gardening 284 Mountebanks..make of it [sc. mandrake] what we call a Hand of Glory..They..make believe, that by using some little Ceremonies, the Silver they lay near it, will increase to double the Sum every Morning.
- 1787 F. Grose Provinc. Gloss. Superstitions 74 The use of the Hand of Glory was to stupify those to whom it was presented, and to render them motionless.
- 1816 Scott Antiquary II. ii. 46 De hand of glory..which de monksh used to conceal their treasures when they were triven from their cloisters.
- 1858 J. Timbs Pop. Errors(new ed.) 140 The Hand of Glory..was supposed to be protection for robbers when committing their crimes.
- 1900 F. T. Elworthy Horns of Honour iii. 181 There are many stories told..in which it appeared that nothing but milk could extinguish the flame of the ‘hand of glory’.
- 1917 Bull. John Rylands Libr. Jan. 372 We have the belief that the ‘hand-of-glory’ can be dug up under a gibbet, both in England and France.
- 1979 B. Walker Body Magic 101 The ‘hand of glory’, the pickled hand of an executed criminal the fingers of which were used as candles, was believed to confer invisibility.
- 2002 N. Drury Dict. Esoteric 132/2 The Hand of Glory was supposed to have the magical power to freeze people in their footsteps.