Or write blog posts.
Following my bout with hand fetishism (see The hand is the whole), I happened to read C.J Samson's Dissolution, a historical crime novel set against the backdrop of the dissolution of the monasteries in the time of Cromwell.
It follows the adventures of a hunchback named Shardlake, sent to investigate the murder of a commissioner in a fictitious Benedictine monastery. Along with the murder, the monastery church has been desecrated, which includes the sacrifice of a black cock upon the altar and the theft of a sacred relic: the hand of the repentant thief crucified at Jesus' side. This hand was nailed to a piece of wood and set in an emerald-studded casket.
Roman Catholic tradition calls the thief Saint Dismas. His repentance is described in only one gospel, Luke (23:39-43), and he isn't named until the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which came together some time in the 4th century. His name comes from a Greek word which can mean "sunset" or "death". His feast day, March 25th, is also that of the Annunciation, when Gabriel announced to Mary she would miraculously conceive a child. Thus he is linked both with Jesus's death (sunset) and inklings of his birth (sunrise?) The sun set and rises again....as does the son.
The sun just just keeps popping up as a symbol of rebirth and and an emblem of "illumination".
Also, you may recall from our previous post that a "Hand of Glory", the hand of a hanged man, was a tool used by thieves to unlock doors and cause paralysis. As for relics, the hand of St. John Kemble is still kept in a reliquary at St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church in Heresford. Also, today (3/3), I stumbled across a blog entry in which a guy describes making a steampunk-flavored lamp using a severed animal paw; he links his macabre contraption to the Hand of Glory and calls it...the Torch of Saint Dismas!
I've also just remembered that last night I watched Simon of the Desert (Luis Buñuel, 1965) and there's a scene where a thief holds up his stumps--hacked off for his crimes--and our eponymous hero Simon prays from atop his pillar and the thief's hands miraculously reappear....
Simeon (390-459 CE) was an actual saint who lived 37 years atop a pillar in Syria. Imagine my surprise when I saw this 6th century depiction of the saint, currently to be found in the Louvre. See Jesus was in shape for our rather extensive discussion on the snake/pillar motif. It all ties together somehow. Paranoia or perceptual matrix?
So, I really just wanted to bring up these coincidences/synchronicities. A pair of novels in which the action begins with a severed hand: one discovered in The Lost Symbol and one lost in Dissolution. Handy bookends for a post inspired by the local tale of an actual severed hand (A gruesome discovery) and followed by yet more thief-related hand motifs in quick succession.
I'm sure there's a discourse on perception and meaning to be wrung out of this, but not today.