Hands of glory are gruesome oddities believed to have magical powers, like the ability to induce a sleep-like paralysis and keep danger at bay. Their origins are unclear, but there is a fair amount of literature about hands of glory, including detailed descriptions on how they were made. The hand of a thief was severed and cured, and then his fat was used to shape candles atop each fingertip. These grim relics were set in windows at night, their flames glowing in the darkness, as an omen meant to ward away thieves. Because of their spooky appearance and backstory, they make foreboding yet beautiful tattoos.
There are a number of legends about hands of glory, but the most well known one goes something like this: on one dark and stormy night, a knock came at the door of a lonesome inn along a road nearby a dreary fen. The innkeeper opened the door to find an old beggar shivering in the rain. He asked to come inside and was given some food and allowed to warm himself by the hearth.
When everyone settled into bed, with the exception of one servant, she witnessed the stranger remove a dried and withered hand from his satchel. He then lit a match and applied it to each finger, making their tips dance with green flames.
Horrified, the girl ran upstairs and tried to wake her masters, but because of the magical power of the hand, none of them would stir from their sleep. While the man scoured the inn for valuables, the girl attempted to extinguish the candles atop each finger, blowing on them and dumping beer on them, but nothing would put them out. Finally, she emptied a bottle of milk over the bewitched appendage, snuffing out the supernatural fire.
The spell was broken, and hearing the girl’s cries, everyone in the house immediately woke up. The thief was cornered, and as the sun rose the next morning, they hung him, his corpse dangling from the inn’s front sign.
Because of the mysterious properties of hands of glory, tattoos of them have an unsettling mystique. They are so peculiar that they instantly catch the eye, exerting a bewitching effect on the viewer, but their dark aesthetic is just eerie enough that it also makes one want to look quickly away. Just like their real-life counterparts, hand of glory tattoos emit a strange and unnerving power.
To see more haunting body art, make your way to these tattooists’ Instagrams. Should you want a hand of glory tattoos to paralyze everyone around you with fear, have one of them execute it for you.