Thursday, 13 August 2015

hand of glory

With the collapse of the banking system in Greece, a threatened haircut for private accounts and even the strict rationing of access to money, much of the affected population is understandably still wary of entrusting their wealth to any such institution. This lack of confidence and the physical lack of a safe place to park one’s money—the tycoons and magnates can be more resourceful and liquid, as the magnificent BLDGBlog inspects has led many stashing their cash and valuables under the mattress, and burglars are keenly aware of this shift.  Meanwhile, residents are resorting to creative methods of do-it-yourself security-measures in order to stave off or at least discourage break-ins.

I think that this practise and trend won’t stop at the borders and there will be an artistic revival in robbery and defense—skills that have very much atrophied as it was formerly more profitably and less risky to seek out victims virtually and at a distance or to simply exploit and abuse under a legal ægis—that, or just making neighbourhoods more gentrified. This scary and traumatic new landscape reminds me of some of the superstitious rites and rituals that I have encountered in my latest reading assignment: the Golden Bough, which goes into ethnographic detail over some of the totems and talismans that both crooks and potential victims employ.  The so called hand of glory—which sounds like a slumber party game, is a corruption of the word for mandrake root, which was also believed to possess paralyzing magical properties, but evolved into the ceremony of taking a desiccated, dismembered hand of some infamous master-criminal (although, like with the lucky rabbit’s foot not really a charm for the unfortunate rabbit, one wonders how the culprit was caught or lost that hand in the first place) mummified and given a candle to hold, which would supposedly render the inhabitants of the dwelling being burgled immobile. Various other gruesome candles made of the tallows of cadavers that met their fate in specific ways make the thief invisible or otherwise impervious and evade discovery or capture. As a recourse, victims could toss a voodoo doll, an effigy into a bramble bush to ensure that the thief would be caught and justice would be served. I wonder if in this new environment, where abstract things like a store of wealth becomes again made real, a regression that some of the sheltered, privileged classes will regard as positively medieval, new amulets and charms will be invented for the inventory of coping.