Hand of Glory

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Hand of Glory

Accession Number:

NEBYM:2019.20

This modern Hand of Glory is made from beeswax using thumb moulds by the 3rd Newbury Scout Group who were completing the Heritage Badge. The scouts were taught the story about the ‘Boxford Wizard’, a man called John Palmer who lived in Boxford in the early 19th century. It was believed he used his powers to banish ghosts and evil spirits, to detect crime and recover lost or stolen property. The Hand of Glory was a supposedly magical item made from the severed hand of an executed criminal, marinated in spices and dried. It was used as a candle holder, the candle being made from other items such as fat and hair from another executed individual. It was believed that this, along with a recited spell, would cause the occupants of a house to remain asleep while the burglar carrying the hand could loot the house at leisure.

The story goes that a series of burglaries in the area led people to believe that a Hand of Glory was being used and ‘Wizard’ John Palmer was asked to help. He gave various magical remedies, such as smearing blood from a white hen or screech owl on their doorsteps to counter the Hand of Glory, but in order to put a stop to the crimes he employed the more mundane skills of eavesdropping on local gossip. From this he learned that a robbery, using the hand, was planned at a farm near Winterbourne. Accompanied by a boy who he believed to be immune to the spell, he hid in the kitchen of the house and when the thieves entered, extinguished the hand with a bucket of skimmed milk (believed to remove its powers). The robbers fled, and Palmer took the Hand of Glory. What became of it thereafter is not known but Palmer’s reputation was greatly enhanced by this event.

Period: Early 21st century

Place: Boxford

Other items in the collection

Cavalry Helmet

An iron helmet with a broad rim and decorative brass top.

Cavalry Helmet
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