Tales and Legends of the Tyrol | Annotated Tale

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Burning Hand, The

IN THE village of Thaur, near Salzburg, there lived about two centuries ago a good priest, who occupied his time in doing charitable works to all around. In the ruins of the once huge and superb castle of Thaur a hermit had founded his humble little cell, and both priest and hermit were the most intimate of friends, and had vowed to each other that he who should die the first, should appear to the other after death.

               The poor hermit was very clever in making artificial flowers for the altar, and one night when busy with his work a knock came to his little window, and he saw the spirit of his friend who had died a few days before. At first he was greatly terrified, but pricking up his courage, he addressed the poor soul of the priest, who replied to him and said,

               “You see I am dead in the body, but I have still to do penance, although I have faithfully fulfilled the commands of God and the Holy Church, have given alms according to my means, have instituted a perpetual mass in the church of Thaur, and another in the chapel of St. Romedius, and founded an everlasting fund for the poor. For three sins have I this penance to perform, one of omission and two of vanity; out of absence of mind I forgot to say a mass for which I had been paid, and I have been too vain of my fine white hands and beautiful flowing beard, and for this reason am I now compelled to suffer these torments. I pray you therefore to say in my stead the neglected mass,” and the unhappy spirit of the priest recounted to the hermit the names of all those people for whom the mass was to be said, “Then, if out of charity to me you will fast, pray, and flagellate yourself, and help me in that way to do my penance, the time of my redemption will arrive much sooner, as if I had completed them all myself. It will also be a work of conciliation for me, if you will tell all I have just told you to my parishioners, so that they and my successors may take a warning from me, and think of me in their prayers.”

               The hermit answered, “I will most willingly fulfil all you ask of me and take upon myself every penance you desire; but if I tell all these things to your parishioners they will never believe me, and will jeer at me and say like the brothers of Joseph, ‘Here comes the dreamer.’”

               “Well, then, I will give you a sign of proof which will back up your words,” answered the poor spirit to the priest; “Give me something out.”

               The hermit then handed out the cover of a flower-box, upon which the shadow laid his hand, and returned it instantly to him; and lo! to his astonishment he found, deeply branded upon it, the imprint of the hand of the priest as though it had been done by a red-hot iron.

               After this the hermit zealously commenced the charitable work of redeeming the soul of his faithful friend, and continued it many a month in saying masses, repeating prayers, and subjecting himself to the most severe flagellations, whilst from time to time the troubled spirit of the poor priest appeared to him in bodily form, but always lighter and more brilliant than before. The pious hermit almost succumbed under the dreadful effects of his severe penances, which he still carried on for more than a year, when the night of All Saints arrived, and again the poor soul of his friend appeared before him, now no longer poor, but in the splendour of transfiguration, and said, “I thank you, good friend. I am now redeemed; you too shall soon be released from your earthly bondage, and will return to God penanceless. I shall attend you there where there are no more sufferings,” and in saying so he disappeared in the midst of a halo of glory.

               Seven days afterwards the hermit died; and now in the charming little pilgrims’ chapel of the holy Romedius, near Thaur, is to be seen, framed beneath a glass case, the wooden board bearing the brand of the burning hand, and with the duly attested inscription dated from 1679; also the bust of the priest with the beautiful hands and flowing beard.

               The imprint of the Burning Hand took place on the 27th October, 1659, at midnight.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Burning Hand, The
Tale Author/Editor: Günther, Comtesse Marie A. von
Book Title: Tales and Legends of the Tyrol
Book Author/Editor: Günther, Comtesse Marie A. von
Publisher: Chapman and Hall
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1874
Country of Origin: Austria
Classification: unclassified

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