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Wills's Lucky Charms #19:
THE HAND [of Power]

This is one of 50 trading cards depicting amulets and talismans published in England during the 1920s by W. D. & H. O Wills, makers of Wills's Cigarettes. For a full list of cards in the set, see Wills's Lucky Charms #0: Introduction.


1920s-era cigarette trading card art and text:

THE HAND

The use of a representation of the Hand as a
talisman can be traced back to at least 800 years
B.C., when it was used as a charm against
enchantment. Many varieties of the Hand exist;
in some the elaboration is very marked, each
device representing some particular charm.
Life size models of these Hands were supposed
to guard the house against all influences of
magic and evil, and smaller replicas protected
their wearers from every description of harm.
The extended thumb and first two fingers, the
third and fourth fingers closed, is a position
still assumed during the Benediction in some
Christian Churches to-day.


COMMENT

The item depicted on this card is one of the more famous talismans in the British Museum, a late Roman bronze "Hand of Power" or Mano Panthea sculpted in the round. The defining quality of the Hand of Power in its many forms is that it invariably is shown standing upright upon its severed wrist and is adorned with various zoomorphic and utensil forms.

This hand -- a right one -- makes a sign of benediction, the thumb and first two fingers upraised and the last two fingers curled down. There is a small pine cone balanced on the tip of the thumb and a large crowned snake crawls up the back of the hand and arches over the bent ring and little fingers. Other animals and objects covering the rear of the hand in high relief include a lizard, a worm, a salamander, a frog, a caduceus, a fasces, a turtle, and a group of urns. The view shown here is from the rear, which complements pictures of the same object in other books, where it is photographed from the front.

The front of this hand (see the anonymous Octopus/Crown Books "Encyclopedia of Magic and Superstition") bears a ram's head, a sprig of mistletoe, a woman nursing a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and a curious table with human legs upon which rest three disks (votive food offerings?).

For a sketchy drawing of a similar late Roman bronze Hand of Power see Elworthy's "Horns of Honour" (reprinted as an illustration in DiStasi's "Mal Occhio"). This latter Hand features a pine cone on the thumb, a bust of wing-helmeted Mercury atop the curled-down ring and little fingers, a crowned snake wrapped around the thumb, a caduceus, a turtle, a frog, a balance beam scale, an urn, a sprig of mistletoe, and what may be a salamander.

Yet another late Roman bronze Hand of Power was sketched by Elsworthy in his classic book, "The Evil Eye."

The Hand of Power continues in popularity today as the Roman Catholic Powerful Hand or Mano Poderosa, which is sold on saint cards and applied to votive candles. In the modern Catholic version, the fingers are all stretched upright, as is the thumb, and various saints and angels are standing on and around the digits.

The upright-facing Hand of Power is generally considered to be benedictive in nature, but it also conveys magical protection to the household. When the hand is shown making the gesture known as the mano fico ("fig hand" in Italian), it acquires the apotropaic evil eye repelling quality of that gesture.

Life-size Hand of Power statues, loosely modelled on the one shown on this card, are offered for sale by several modern Pagan/Wiccan supply sources. One has a socket for a candle in the palm.

For other hand charms, see:

hands
Hand of Power, Roman
eye-in-hand amulets
Helping Hand, hoodoo
Helping Hand on hoodoo votive candle
Helping Hand on Lucky Mon-Gol Curio Number XI
Lucky Hand root
Lucky Hand Alleged Indian Grandma formula in Sonny Boy Products
mano cornuto [horned hand]
mano fico [fig hand]
mano fico hand on a South American package amulet
mano fico (called mano poderosa) in South American charm vial
Mano Poderosa, the Powerful Hand, Catholic
Mano Poderosa, the Powerful Hand, on Catholic votive candles
milagro hand in Mexican snow-globe pyramid of luck

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Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by cat yronwode: a materia magica of African-American conjure
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
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Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
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Gospel of Satan: the story of Jesus and the angels, from the perspective of the God of this World
Hoodoo Psychics: connect online or call 1-888-4-HOODOO for instant readings now from a member of AIRR
Missionary Independent Spiritual Church: spirit-led, inter-faith; prayer-light services; Smallest Church in the World
Mystic Tea Room: tea leaf reading, teacup divination, and a museum of antique fortune telling cups
Satan Service: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including ex-slave narratives & interviews
Spiritual Spells: lessons in folk magic and spell casting from an eclectic Wiccan perspective, plus shopping
Yronwode Home: personal pages of catherine yronwode and nagasiva yronwode, magical archivists
Yronwode Institution: the Yronwode Institution for the Preservation and Popularization of Indigenous Ethnomagicology

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