344 – Skeletal hand

Physical description:
Bones of human hand strung together with string.
Museum classification:
Spells and Charms
Size:
230 x 128mm
Information:
Original text by Cecil Williamson: "This display consists of cleverly worked human bone finger rings. Sixteen sections of human bone strung on to a string and used for casting divinations. The hand of a dead man (a long story there), a wooden bowl with human skull fragments used for grating as you do with a nutmeg so as to produce a sprinkling of skull powder, and a corpse candle set in a small bowl of grave dust with an unchurched dead man's tooth. Horrible - you say - fiddlesticks. The witch of gallows hill would soon demonstrate to you how you can from such things learn to acquire a moral strength - develop a state of fearlessness and thereby gain a great peace of mind. All of which can be won simply by accepting and learning to live with the living dead." The use of human bone in magic was so common that in 1604 it was made punishable by death. Placing a small bone in a wound was thought to stop it bleeding. 'Powder made of men's joints' was used in spells to ease childbirth, and 'powder from the skull of a hanged robber' for epilepsy. Drinking water from a holy well out of a skull was a cure for many illnesses. A common remedy for scrofula (a skin infection) was to 'touch the place with the hand of one that died an untimely death', and after hangings people often asked the executioner's permission to use the dead criminal's hand. The Hand of Glory was a hanged criminal's hand mummified and used to hold a candle made of tallow from the corpse. It was believed that the Hand would 'stupefy and immobilise anyone it was presented to' - making it particularly useful to burglars. (Sources: Albertus Magnus (attrib.), 'Egyptian Secrets'; the trial of Agnes Sampson, in Robert Pitcairn, 'Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland'; Reginald Scot, 'The Discovery of Witchcraft'; Francis Jones, 'The Holy Wells of Wales'; 'Secrets Merveilleux de la Magie Naturelle et Cabalistique du Petit Albert'.)
Resource:
Object
Materials:
Bone
Copyright ownership:
Copyright to The Museum of Witchcraft Ltd.
Original text by Cecil Williamson: "This display consists of cleverly worked human bone finger rings. Sixteen sections of human bone strung on to a string and used for casting divinations. The hand of a dead man (a long story there), a wooden bowl with human skull fragments used for grating as you do with a nutmeg so as to produce a sprinkling of skull powder, and a corpse candle set in a small bowl of grave dust with an unchurched dead man's tooth. Horrible - you say - fiddlesticks. The witch of gallows hill would soon demonstrate to you how you can from such things learn to acquire a moral strength - develop a state of fearlessness and thereby gain a great peace of mind. All of which can be won simply by accepting and learning to live with the living dead." The use of human bone in magic was so common that in 1604 it was made punishable by death. Placing a small bone in a wound was thought to stop it bleeding. 'Powder made of men's joints' was used in spells to ease childbirth, and 'powder from the skull of a hanged robber' for epilepsy. Drinking water from a holy well out of a skull was a cure for many illnesses. A common remedy for scrofula (a skin infection) was to 'touch the place with the hand of one that died an untimely death', and after hangings people often asked the executioner's permission to use the dead criminal's hand. The Hand of Glory was a hanged criminal's hand mummified and used to hold a candle made of tallow from the corpse. It was believed that the Hand would 'stupefy and immobilise anyone it was presented to' - making it particularly useful to burglars. (Sources: Albertus Magnus (attrib.), 'Egyptian Secrets'; the trial of Agnes Sampson, in Robert Pitcairn, 'Ancient Criminal Trials in Scotland'; Reginald Scot, 'The Discovery of Witchcraft'; Francis Jones, 'The Holy Wells of Wales'; 'Secrets Merveilleux de la Magie Naturelle et Cabalistique du Petit Albert'.)