urope of the 1600s had a rich tradition of cautionary tales - commit violence (especially against parents), and you would surely die, and your violent hand would emerge from the grave as a grim reminder to others.
In the village church at Groß-Redensleben, one hour from Seehausen, immediately inside the entrance, on the left side of the door hanging on a stone pillar there is a wooden tablet, painted black, and with the following inscription:
Behold, thou wicked child
What is here displayed:
A hand that does not decay,
For he, whose hand it was,
Was a wayward child,
Such as exist even today.
This son struck his father,
And he has as a reward,
That his hand is hanging here.
Guard thyself from such shame.
On the tablet's edge, encircling the inscription, are the words:
Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Beneath the tablet there is an iron chain, about a half yard long, from which is hanging a human hand, which was cut off at its root. Its color is ashen gray; its skin and flesh are totally dry. The following legend is told about it:
Before the Thirty Years' War there lived in Groß-Rebensleben a pious man who had a very wayward son. This son not only ridiculed his father's admonitions, but his belligerence went so far that he abused his own father. Once he even lifted his hand against him as the father was praying to God for his repentance.
And it came to pass that the wayward son suddenly fell dead to the earth, as a visible sign that Heaven would not allow his wickedness to go unpunished.
He was buried the next day, and then an even greater miracle occurred. Suddenly a hand appeared from the grave, the same hand with which he had struck his father, as if it could find no rest beneath the earth.
All who saw this happen fled in terror, and no one dared return to the churchyard, for the hand did not return to beneath the earth. It was a gruesome sight, the way it extended from the grave, stiff, pale, cold, and silent, but still an articulate witness as to how the Lord punishes sin.
At last the authorities ordered that the hand be whipped with switches, in the belief that such a punishment would suffice and would lead to redemption. The order was carried out, and the hand bled until the earth turned red, but it would not return to the grave.
Then they had it chopped off and hung it in the church with the tablet described above so that it could serve as a lesson for future generations.
In the church at Lunow, three quarters of a mile from Oderberg, there is a chopped off, dried up hand on display. It is clenched into a fist and holds a switch between its fingers. It comes from a son who in a godless manner had once struck his father. God himself punished him, for when he died and was buried, his hand emerged from the grave.
However often they reburied it, it always reappeared. Finally they beat it with a switch, thinking that it would then return to beneath the earth, but that did not help. Therefore they chopped off the hand, put the switch in its fist, and placed it in the church at Lunow as an eternal warning to godless children.
In Mellenthin there was once a girl who, while she was still alive, always struck her mother, and after she died, her hand came out of her grave. However often the Mellenthin peasants reburied it, it came out again. Finally they cut it off, and since the Mellenthin church was just being built, they put a stone behind the altar, and laid the hand under it, and it is lying there still.