The Flaying of Human Skin

The flaying of human skin, featured in a Whitechapel episode on ITV (18 September 2013), reminded me of the Judgment of Cambyses, an amazing 1498 portrait by Gerard David. It depicted the punishment of a corrupt Persian judge by flaying him alive. Now hanging in the Groeningemuseum in Bruges, the portrait was intended to remind the aldermen of the city to remain uncorrupted.

A different perspective arises in my historical novel, Spellbound by Sibella, where the skin of a human corpse has been flayed to make a powerful love charm. Known as the spancel of death, Alf MacLochlainn has described it as “an unbroken hoop of skin cut with incantations from a corpse across the entire body from shoulder to footsole and wrapped in silk of the colours of the rainbow and used as a spancel to tie the legs of a person to produce certain effects of witchcraft.”