Palmistry

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The Fortune Teller, by Caravaggio (1594–95; Canvas; Louvre), depicting a palm reading
The Fortune Teller by Enrique Simonet (1899)

Palmistry, or chiromancy (also spelled cheiromancy; from Greek kheir (χεῖρ, ός; “hand”) and manteia (μαντεία, ας; “divination”)), is the claim of characterization and foretelling the future through the study of the palm, also known as palm reading or chirology. The practice is found all over the world, with numerous cultural variations. Those who practice chiromancy are generally called palmists, palm readers, hand readers, hand analysts, or chirologists.

The information outlined below is briefly representative of modern palmistry; there are many ― often conflicting ― interpretations of various lines and palmar features across various schools of palmistry. These contradictions between different interpretations, as well as the lack of empirical support for palmistry's predictions, contribute to palmistry's perception as a pseudoscience among academics.

History[edit]

Ancient Palmistry[edit]

Palmistry is a practice common to many different places on the Eurasian landmass;[1] it has been practised in the cultures of India, Tibet, China, Persia, Sumeria, Ancient Israel and Babylonia.

According to some, it had its roots in [2]Hindu) Astrology (known in Sanskrit as Jyotish), Chinese Yijing (I Ching), and Roma (Gypsy) fortune tellers.[2] Several thousand years ago, the Hindu sage Valmiki is thought[3] to have written a book comprising 567 stanzas, the title of which translates in English as "The Teachings of Valmiki Maharshi on Male Palmistry".[3][4] From India, the art of palmistry spread to China, Tibet, Egypt, Persia and to other countries in Europe.[2][5] From China, palmistry progressed to Greece where Anaxagoras practiced it.[2] Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) discovered a treatise on the subject of palmistry on an altar of Hermes, 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.[6] Aristotle stated that "Lines are not written into the human hand without reason. They emanate from heavenly influences and man's own individuality."[this quote needs a citation] Accordingly, Aristotle, Hippocrates and Alexander the Great popularized the laws and practice of palmistry.[citation needed] Hippocrates sought to use palmistry to aid his clinical procedures.[citation needed]

During the Middle Ages the art of palmistry was actively suppressed by the Catholic Church as pagan superstition. In Renaissance magic, palmistry (known as "chiromancy") was classified as one of the seven "forbidden arts," along with necromancy, geomancy, aeromancy, pyromancy, hydromancy, and spatulamancy (scapulimancy).[7]

Modern Palmistry[edit]

It experienced a revival in the modern era starting with Captain Casimir Stanislas D'Arpentigny publication La Chirognomie in 1839.[5]

Cheiro, an influential exponent of palmistry in the late 19th century.

The Chirological Society of Great Britain was founded in London by Katherine St Hill in 1889 with the stated aim to advance and systematise the art of palmistry and to prevent charlatans from abusing the art.[8] Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont (Comte de St Germain) founded the American Chirological Society in 1897.

A pivotal figure in the modern palmistry movement was the Irish William John Warner, known by his sobriquet, Cheiro. After studying under gurus in India he set up a palmistry practice in London and enjoyed a wide following of famous clients from around the world, including famous celebrities like Mark Twain, W. T. Stead, Sarah Bernhardt, Mata Hari, Oscar Wilde, Grover Cleveland, Thomas Edison, the Prince of Wales, General Kitchener, William Ewart Gladstone, and Joseph Chamberlain. So popular was Cheiro as a "Society Palmist" that even those who were not believers in the occult had their hands read by him. The skeptical Mark Twain wrote in Cheiro's visitor's book that he had "...exposed my character to me with humiliating accuracy."

Edward Heron-Allen, an English polymath, published various works including the 1883 book, Palmistry - A Manual of Cheirosophy which is still in print.[5][9] There were attempts at formulating some sort of scientific basis for the art, most notably in the 1900 publication “The Laws of Scientific Hand Reading" by William G. Benham.[10]

Techniques[edit]

Chiromancy consists of the practice of evaluating a person's character or future life by "reading" the palm of that person's hand. Various "lines" ("heart line", "life line", etc.) and "mounts" (or bumps) (chirognomy) purportedly suggest interpretations by their relative sizes, qualities, and intersections. In some traditions, readers also examine characteristics of the fingers, fingernails, fingerprints, and palmar skin patterns (dermatoglyphics), skin texture and color, shape of the palm, and flexibility of the hand.

A reader usually begins by reading the person's 'dominant hand' (the hand he or she writes with or uses the most)(sometimes considered to represent the conscious mind, whereas the other hand is subconscious). In some traditions of palmistry, the other hand is believed to carry hereditary or family traits, or, depending on the palmist's cosmological beliefs, to convey information about past-life or karmic conditions.

The basic framework for "Classical" palmistry (the most widely taught and practiced tradition) is rooted in Greek mythology. Each area of the palm and fingers is related to a god or goddess, and the features of that area indicate the nature of the corresponding aspect of the subject. For example, the ring finger is associated with the Greek god Apollo; characteristics of the ring finger are tied to the subject's dealings with art, music, aesthetics, fame, wealth, and harmony.

Significance of the left and right hand[edit]

Though there are debates[by whom?] on which hand is better to read from, both have their own significance. It is custom[weasel words] to assume that the left hand shows potential in an individual, and the right shows realized personality. Some sayings about the significance include "The future is shown in the right, the past in the left"; "The left hand is the one we are born with, and the right is what we have made of it"; "The right hand is read for men, while the left is read for women"; "The left is what the gods give you, the right is what you do with it"; "The right hand is read for right-handed people, while the left is read for left-handed people"[citation needed]. The choice of hand to read is ultimately up to the instinct and experience of the practitioner.

Hand shape[edit]

Depending on the type of palmistry practiced, and the type of reading being performed, palmists may look at various qualities of the hand, including the shapes and lines of the palm and fingers; the color and texture of the skin and fingernails; the relative sizes of the palm and fingers; the prominence of the knuckles; and numerous other attributes of the hands.

In most schools of palmistry, hand shapes are divided into four or 11 major types, sometimes corresponding to the Classical elements or temperaments. Hand shape is believed to indicate character traits corresponding to the type indicated (i.e., a "Fire hand" would exhibit high energy, creativity, short temper, ambition, etc. - all qualities believed to be related to the Classical element of Fire).

Although variations abound, the most common classifications used by modern palmists:

The number and quality of lines can also be included in the hand shape analysis; in some traditions of palmistry, Earth and Water hands tend to have fewer, deeper lines, while Air and Fire hands are more likely to show more lines with less clear definition.

Lines[edit]

Some of the lines of the hand in Palmistry
1: Life line - 2: Head line - 3: Heart line - 4: Girdle of Venus - 5: Sun line - 6: Mercury line - 7: Fate line

The three lines found on almost all hands, and generally given most weight by palmists:

Additional major lines or variations include:

The mounts in Palmistry
Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo, Mercury, Mars positive, Mars negative, plain of mars, Luna mount, Neptune mount, Venus mount.[12]

Other minor lines:

Criticism[edit]

Criticism of palmistry often rests with the lack of empirical evidence supporting its efficacy. Scientific literature typically regards palmistry as a pseudoscientific or superstitious belief.[13] Skeptics often include palmists on lists of alleged psychics who practice cold reading. Cold reading is the practice that allows readers of all kinds, including palmists, to appear psychic by using high-probability guessing and inferring details based on signals or cues from the other person.[14]

In films and television[edit]

Palmistry has been shown in a number of films and television shows, including:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dwivedi. Wonders of Palmistry pp. 16-20
  2. ^ a b c d Omura.Acupuncture. pp.172 -174. According to this theory, palmistry developed in India and then extended across the world.
  3. ^ a b Dwivedi. Wonders of Palmistry p. 25-26
  4. ^ Sharma. The A-Z of Palmistry. p. 95
  5. ^ a b c Chinn. Technology. p.24...it was not until the mid- to late nineteenth century that palmreading took off in Britain, France and the United States thanks to three major figures: Casimir Stanislas d'Arpentigny, Edward Heron-Allen and ..Cheiro.
  6. ^ James, Brandon. "PALMISTRY". Retrieved 20 February 2012. 
  7. ^ Johannes Hartlieb (Munich, 1456) The Book of All Forbidden Arts; quoted in Láng, p. 124.
  8. ^ "The London Cheirological Society". 
  9. ^ Heron-Allen. Palmistry
  10. ^ "PALMISTRY ~ ORIGINS & HISTORY". 
  11. ^ "Palmistry". Mystic Scripts. Retrieved 20 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Sara Sirolli - Palmistry diagram of hand 2008
  13. ^ Preece, P. F., & Baxter, J. H. (2000). Scepticism and gullibility: The superstitious and pseudo-scientific beliefs of secondary school students. International Journal of Science Education, 22(11), 1147-1156.
  14. ^ David Vernon in Skeptical — a Handbook of Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, editors: Donald Laycock, David Vernon, Colin Groves, Simon Brown, Imagecraft, Canberra, 1989, ISBN 0-7316-5794-2, p. 44.

Further reading[edit]