The art of divination by means of lines and marks on the human hand. It is said to have been practiced in very early times by the Brahmins of India and to have been known to Aristotle, who discovered a treatise on the subject written in letters of gold. He presented the treatise to Alexander the Great and was afterward translated into Latin by Hispanus. There are also extant works on the subject by Melampus of Alexandria, Hippocrates, and Galen; several Arabian commentators have also dealt with it.
In the Middle Ages the science was represented by Cocles (ca. 1054) and Hartlieb (ca. 1448). In the early modern period, by which time its practice was identified with the Gypsies, Robert Fludd (1574-1637), Indigane, Rothmann, and many others wrote on "cheiromancy," as the subject was then known. D'Arpentigny, Desbarolles, Carus, and others kept the subject alive in the earlier half of the nineteenth century. Since 1860, or thereabouts, palmistry's popularity has grown steadily and has experienced a revival.
Palmistry is subdivided into three lesser arts— cheirognomy, the art of recognizing the type of intelligence from the form of the hands; cheirosophy, the study of the comparative value of manual formations; and cheiromancy, the art of divination from the form of the hand and fingers, and the lines and markings thereon.
The palmist, first of all, studies the shape and general formation of the hand as a whole; afterward she regards its parts, details, lines, and markings. From cheirognomy and cheirosophy, the general disposition and tendencies are ascertained, and future events are foretold from the reading of the lines and markings.
There are several types of hands: the elementary or large-palmed type; the necessary, with spatulated fingers; the artistic, with conical-shaped fingers; the useful, the fingers of which are square-shaped; the knotted or philosophical; the pointed, or psychic; the mixed, in which the types are blended.
The principal lines are those that separate the hand from the forearm at the wrist, which are known as the rascettes, or the lines of health, wealth, and happiness. The line of life stretches from the center of the palm around the base of the thumb almost to the wrist and is joined for a considerable part of its course by the line of the head. The line of the heart runs across two-thirds of the palm, above the head line; and the line of fate between it and the line of the head runs nearly at right angles extending towards the wrist. The line of fortune runs from the base of the third finger towards the wrist parallel to the line of fate. If the lines are deep, firm, and of narrow width, the significance is good—excepting that a strong line of health shows constitutional weakness.
At the base of the fingers, beginning with the first, lie the mounts of Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo, and Mercury; at the base of the thumb the mount of Venus; opposite to it, that of Luna. If well-proportioned they show certain virtues, but if exaggerated they indicate the vices that correspond to these. The first displays religion, reasonable ambition, or pride and superstition; the second wisdom and prudence, or ignorance and failure; the third when large, makes for success and intelligence, when small for, meanness or love of obscurity; the fourth desire for knowledge and industry, or disinterestedness and laziness. The Lunar mount indicates sensitiveness, imagination, morality or otherwise, and self-will; the mount of Venus, charity and affection, or if exaggerated, viciousness.
The phalanges of the fingers are also indicative of certain faculties. For example, the first and second of the thumb, according to their length, indicate the value of the logical faculty and of the will; those of the index finger in their order— materialism, law, and order; of the middle finger—humanity, system, intelligence; of the third finger—truth, economy, energy; of the little finger—goodness, prudence, and reflectiveness.
There are nearly a hundred other marks and signs, by which certain qualities, influences, or events are believed to be recognized. The length of the line of life indicates the length of existence of its owner. If it is short in both hands, the life will be a short one; if broken in one hand and weak in the other, a serious illness is denoted. If broken in both hands, it means death. If it is much chained it means delicacy. If it has a second or sister line, it shows great vitality. A black spot on the line shows illness at the time marked. A cross indicates some fatality. The line of life coming out far into the palm is a sign of long life.
The line of the head, if long and well-colored, denotes intelligence and power. If descending to the mount of the Moon it shows that the head is much influenced by the imagination. Islands on the line denote mental troubles. The head line forked at the end indicates subtlety and a facility for seeing all sides of the question. A double line of the head is an indication of good fortune. The line of the heart should branch towards the mount of Jupiter. If it should pass over the mount of Jupiter to the edge of the hand and travel round the index finger, it is called "Solomon's ring" and indicates ideality and romance; it is also a sign of occult power. Points or dots in this line may show illness if black, and if white love affairs, while islands on the heart line indicate disease. If the line of fate or Saturn rises from the Lunar mount and ascends towards the line of the heart, it is a sign of a rich marriage. If it extends into the third phalange of Saturn's finger it shows the sinister influence of that planet. A double line of fate is ominous. There are also numerous other lesser lines and marks the hand contains, which are detailed in a number of books on the subject.
Many practitioners of palmistry have their own special interpretations. A few of these works are on scientific lines, but others are merely empirical, and their forecasts of events to come are on a par with newspaper astrology columns.
The popularity of palmistry was raised to a new height, especially in the English-speaking world, by "Cheiro," the public name of Count Louis Hamon (1866-1936), who was patronized by royalty and distinguished individuals of his time. He wrote a number of books on palmistry, which were frequently reprinted in both England and the United States and taught and inspired a generation of palmists. Modern palmistry is largely an outgrowth of his efforts.
Abayakoon, Cyrus D. F. Astro-Palmistry: Signs and Seals of the Hand. New York: ASI Publishers, 1975.
Anderson, Mary. Palmistry—Your Destiny In Your Hands. London: Aquarian Press, 1973.
Bashir, Mir. Your Past, Your Present, and Your Future Through the Art of Hand Analysis. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974.
Broekman, Marcel. The Complete Encyclopaedia of Practical Palmistry. Englewood, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972. Reprint, London: Mayflower, 1975.
——. Cheiro's Guide to the Hand. London: Nichols, 1900. Reprint, London: Corgi, 1975.
——. Cheiro's Language of the Hand; A Complete Practical Work on the Science of Cheirognomy and Cheiromancy. 28th ed. London: H. Jenkins, 1949. Reprint, London: Corgi, 1975.
——. Cheiro's Memoirs: The Reminiscences of a Society Palmist. London: William Rider, 1912.
——. You and Your Hand. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1935.
Jaquin, Noel. The Hand of Man: A Practical Treatise of the Science of Hand Reading. London: Faber & Faber, 1933.
——. Man's Revealing Hand. London: Routledge, 1934. Niblo. The Complete Palmist. 1900. Reprint, North Hollywood, Calif.: Newcastle, 1982.
Saint-Germain, Comte C. de. The Practice of Palmistry for Professional Purposes. 2 vols. 1897-98. Reprint, Hollywood, Calif.: Newcastle, 1973.
Steinbach, Marten. Medical Palmistry: Health & Character in the Hand. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1975. Reprint, New York: New American Library, 1976.
Wilson, Joyce. The Complete Book of Palmistry. New York: Bantam Books, 1971.
Wolff, Charlotte. The Human Hand. London: Methuen, 1942.
Palmistry, most often associated with carnival fortune-telling booths and gypsy caravans, has been a popular means of divination for centuries. Some traditions state that the Brahmins of ancient India practiced the occult science as a means of determining the potential of their students. An old story has it that Aristotle (384–322 b.c.e.) discovered a treatise on the subject of palmistry that was written in letters of gold, which he then presented to Alexander the Great (356–323 b.c.e.), who took great interest in examining the character of his officers by analyzing the lines on their hands. Many years later, this magical volume was translated into Latin and found its way to Arabian magi and to magicians in Europe.
Essentially, those who read palms envision the human hand as a microcosm on which the individual's life path can be foreseen on the lines that crisscross the palm. Palmistry is subdivided into three parts: chirosophy, the determination of the mystical significance of the various lines; chirogonmy, analyzing the overall shape of the hand itself; and cheiromancy, divining the future and/or past from the form of the hand and fingers and the lines and markings thereon. Some palmists concentrate on reading only the lines of the hand. Others include the fleshy mounts, fingernails, fingers, and even the wrist lines for clues to an individual's life patterns.
There are a variety of opinions regarding which hand to read, left or right. Most commonly, the right hand is read in a right-handed person, and the left for a left-handed person. Traditionally, in a right-handed person, the left hand represents future potential, whereas the right hand depicts the actuality of their personality as it presently exists. For a left-handed person, this would be reversed. Other schools of palmistry state that in a right-handed person the subjective hand, the left, should be read first, for it indicates the natural inclinations and abilities of the subject. The right hand, the objective hand, predicts how far the individual will follow the pattern of life indicated by the subjective hand. In left-handed people, the right hand is subjective and the left is the objective.
For a palmist, each part of the hand is associated with a planetary spirit. The mount or mound of Jupiter is located at the base of the finger of Jupiter, the forefinger. The mount of Saturn is located at the base of the finger of Saturn, the second finger. The mount of the Sun is found at the base of the finger of the Sun, the third finger. The mount of Mercury rests at the base of the little finger, the finger of Mercury. The mount of Venus is the fleshy part of the palm at the base of the thumb. The mount of the Moon is located in the thicker part of the side of the hand, directly beneath the mount of Mercury below the little finger.
The major lines of the palm are the Life, Head, and Heart, which describe the basic personality traits as laid out in the palm. The Life line is the prominent line that begins at the base of the thumb (the mount of Venus) and runs up toward the finger of Jupiter—or, in other terms, the line that starts about halfway between the thumb and the forefinger and curves around the area of the thumb, ending usually near the base of the thumb, nearly at the wrist.
The Head line begins at the start of the Life line, and the two lines should be joined together, just touching. Once palmists locate the beginning of the Head line about midway between forefinger and thumb, they trace its course across the palm toward the outside of the hand.
The Heart line begins in the area of the mount of Jupiter at the base of the forefinger, then runs across the base of the other mounts to the edge of the hand. It is the first horizontal line in the palm.
The line of Mercury, found beneath the little finger, is not present in many people's hands. The line of the Sun is located underneath the third (ring) finger. The line of Saturn, the so-called Fate line, is only found in about 40 percent of the population. This vertical line (s) runs from the wrist up towards the middle finger. The Girdle of Venus is composed of curved lines that will appear underneath the middle and ring fingers. The line of Intuition is a curved, crescent-like line that extends from the lowest part of the mount of the Moon to the mount of Mercury, located directly below the little finger. The lines of Affection or Marriage are located on the side of the hand under the little finger in the area called the mount of Mercury.
The longer one spends studying the human palm, the more lines and markings one is likely to discover. There are "bars," short lines that cross major lines, indicating warnings of serious interference. There are "crosses" that represent periods of ill health, unhappiness, or problems at work. There are even small "stars" consisting of several little crosslines that reveal something extremely rare or unusual. One may also see "triangles" (ingenuity), "squares," or "rectangles" (signs of protection).
Although few scientists have taken palm reading seriously, on December 9, 2001, the Ananova Internet News Service reported that researchers at Barcelona University in Spain had announced the preliminary results of extensive research that indicated that intelligence can be predicted by palm reading. According to these scientists, people with learning disabilities have distinctive patterns of lines on their palms. Other research indicated that the lines on the palm can reveal a person's susceptibility to heart disease, autism, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
Fairchild, Dennis. Palm Reading: A Little Guide to Life's Secrets. Philadlephia: Running Press, 1995.
Gibson, Walter B., and Litzka R. Gibson. The Complete Illustrated Book of the Psychic Sciences. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1966.
Hazel, Peter. Palmistry Quick & Easy. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2001.
Karcher, Stephen. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Divination. Rockport, Mass.: Element Books, 1997.
"Palm Reading Shows Intelligence: Research." Ananova, December 9, 2001. [Online] http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_469117.html. 9 March 2002.
Petrie, Joda. 7 Ways to Tell Fortunes & Predict the Future. New York: Award Books, 1968.
Spence, Lewis. An Encyclopedia of Occultism. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.
Hand reading is found in many cultures; Greek, Roman, Arabic, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese among others. In the Orient palmistry is still highly respected and openly practised on the street. By contrast, within European culture the practice is much more subdued; formerly the practice was suppressed by the Church due to its links with astrology, while latterly science has largely spurned it as a subject unworthy of serious investigation.
The premise of hand reading rests upon the outer form and structure of a person's hand being visualized as the expression of the inner temperament and psyche. The skill of hand reading lies in being able to observe the minutiae of each hand and to interpret what the specific formations mean in the life of its owner.
For many people palmistry is thought to be solely linked to interpretation and prognostication from the lines on the palm, but this is not strictly true. A complete reading of the hand considers its overall shape, the texture of the skin, the divisions of the palm into four quadrants, and the development of the thumb and each individual finger in turn, as well as an intricate inspection of all the palmar lines.
In all main traditions of hand reading the lines are seen as formations resulting from the flow of vital energy passing through the skin. This flow of vital energy is visualized as being synonymous with the flow of energy through the psyche, that fluctuates with every emotional experience. The sum total of all emotional experience is thus etched into the palm, resulting in lineal patterns that are unique to each person.
Accordingly every palmar main line is linked to a different area of experience; to use the palmist's nomenclature:
The vitality line, which curves around the thumb, reflects a person's vitality and physical constitution, the influence of the family, and their capacity to earn money and derive security.
The temper line, located in the angle of the thumb within the vitality line, reflects a person's physical strength, their resistance to illness, and their drives and sexual potency.
The heart line, which runs across the palm from underneath the little finger to the index finger, reflects a person's emotionality; their ability to express feelings and share them with others.
The fate line, which runs up the palm from the palmar base to the middle finger, reflects a person's application and concentration on their work or career and consequent achievement of success in life.
The head line, which runs across the palm between the vitality and heart lines, reflects a person's thinking skills and ability to communicate, along with their capacity to make plans and take decisions.
The Apollo line, which runs from the palmar base to the ring finger, reflects a person's creative expression; the brilliance of their talents and the fame achieved through them.
The health line, which runs from the little finger to the palmar base, reflects a person's health, intuition, inventiveness, and business sense.
Ideally a line should have a good length, and be clearly formed and free from markings. Whenever it is well formed it shows that the vital energy is flowing smoothly within the person and indicates that the corresponding area of a person's life is functioning soundly. For example, a clear head line indicates someone who can communicate their ideas well.
By contrast, markings such as islands, chains, bars, crosses, breaks, and forks all show interruption to the energy flow and indicate discord. For example, a head line with several islands indicates someone who is uncertain and has difficulty in communicating their ideas. Markings are often descriptive of particular experiences and can be timed coinciding with specific events in a person's life.
A skilled hand reader seeks to illuminate the sources of conflict as reflected in the markings of the lines, to assist the person to resolve them. Once conflict is overcome then the lines change and show signs of enhancement to the energy flow. Change to the palmar lines is normally gradual, taking months or even years to observe. However, the impact of sudden traumatic events can be reflected in the palmar lines within six weeks.
Despite acknowledging the importance of the development of the hand to our human evolution, science has generally viewed palmistry with great suspicion. This is largely because of the belief that the lines are crease marks in the skin related to the mechanical folding of the hand. The very idea that these ‘crease’ lines could be intricately linked to the consciousness of the person, and therefore relate to specific events and experiences in their life, has been regarded as nonsense. However this is refuted by palmists on the grounds that the lines develop on the fetal palm between the seventh and tenth weeks of embryological development, whereas it is only by the twelfth week that the muscles are sufficiently developed to begin the first primitive movements of the hand; thus the lines are clearly present on the palm two weeks before movement of the hand is possible.
Today, in a world where people are feeling alienated in an increasingly technological environment, more and more are rediscovering the cultural importance of hand reading for providing inner meaning to their lives. At a time when science is increasingly investigating the interrelationship of consciousness with matter, the study of hand reading could significantly enrich scientific investigation.
Due to the suppression of hand reading within European culture, its history is obscure. However, notable palmists include Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great, Homer, Hippocrates, Galen, Paracelsus, and Robert Fludd.
Warren-Davis, D. (2001). The hand reveals. 2nd edn. Chrysalis Books Ltd., London.
See also hand.
palm·is·try / ˈpä(l)məstrē/ • n. the art or practice of supposedly interpreting a person's character or predicting their future by examining the lines and other features of the hand, esp. the palm and fingers. DERIVATIVES: palm·ist / ˈpä(l)mist/ n.
Hence by back-formation palmist XIX.