Chiromancy is the practice of divination and characterization performed through the reading of a person’s hand, especially the lines and mounts found on an individual’s palm. People who practice chiromancy art are normally called hand readers, palmists, palm readers, hand analysts, chirologists or chiromancers.
However, we must relate at the outset that although these terms are often used interchangeably, they do not always mean the same thing. The fact is that there are various schools of palmistry or hand-reading and variations abound as to the practices carried out by the proponents of these different schools. For example, although most palmists will put greatest emphasis on the interpretations suggested by the various “lines” and “mounts” of a subject’s hand, still in many traditions of palmistry or hand-reading, the practitioners will also examine hand shapes, fingerprints, fingernails, shapes of the different fingers, flexibility of the hand and, in some cases, skin patterns (texture, color, etc.) as well.
Many palmists and chiromancers also combine traditional hand-reading techniques with alternative methods of divination to arrive at their predictions and advice. Moreover, many modern practitioners of palmistry also employ dialogue therapy, holistic healing or other psychological tools to arrive at their conclusions. Accordingly, a majority of these practitioners do not look at chiromancy merely as a tool for predicting the subjects’ fate or providing them with clues regarding their destiny. For them, it is as much a counseling tool as a form of divination.
This, however, isn’t entirely new. Many so-called ‘fortune-tellers‘ or ‘psychics’ of the past are known to have used hand-reading techniques in concert with other forms of divination to arrive at accurate predictions about future. Examples abound.
The famous 20th century clairvoyant William John Warner or Cheiro, as he was more popularly known, was in the habit of making astonishingly accurate predictions using (and combining) his knowledge of astrology, chiromancy and Chaldean numerology. He is famous for making numerous precise predictions concerning world events and events in the lives of many contemporary celebrities. He predicted correctly the date of Marilyn Monroe’s death, for instance, as well as the date of his own death!
However, he was not alone. Marie Anne le Norman, the renowned psychic and fortune-teller from the 18th century and famous for her predictive successes at Napoleon’s court (sometimes even dark ones that made her not so popular with the emperor himself!), also used the techniques of hand-reading in combination with other divination methods to reach her prediction.
In fact, De Philsiognomia, (a book written by Michael Scotts in 1477 and often considered as the first comprehensive treatise written on the subject of palmistry as it was practised in Classical times), regards the whole physiognomy of the human body as revealing aspects of person’s character and his possible destiny.
In that book, Scotts devotes a full (and a big) chapter on the human hand and its various aspects. The book contains the reflection that just as ripples are created in water when a pebble is thrown into it, so do our thoughts create different patterns on the palms. And this reflection gives us a good insight in one of the two main aspects of chiromancy—that of ‘characterization’. In other words, a chiromancer or a palmist believes that the lines, mounts and the bumps on one’s hand reveal various clues (through their qualities, relative sizes and intersections) as to the person’s character, temperament, inclinations, personality, level of intelligence, etc.
The Art of Chiromancy
So, now is as good a time as any to provide a brief round-up of the techniques involved in the chiromancy art. Most of these techniques are closely related to the “Classical” palm-reading or palmistry that evolved in Greece and was deeply rooted in Greek mythology.
Which Hand: Right or Left?
Normally, a chiromancer would read both hands during a reading session. It is believed that the dominant hand (i.e. the right hand, commonly) reflects your actual self whereas the left hand shows the potentials. According to this belief, the markings on the left hand reflects your anima, you creative potentials, your natural self and your ability for lateral thinking whereas the right hand is reflective of a person’s objective self, his experience, education and influence of social environment.
As to the lines, classical palmistry makes a division between the Major Lines and the Minor Lines. More importance is given to the major lines—their relative sizes, the nature of their intersections as well as the combined length of the lines.
There are three major lines found on every person’s palm: the Heart Line, the Head Line and the Life Line. (In some traditions, the Fate Line is also considered as a major line, although most palmists consider the fate line as one of the minor lines)
NOTE: In some hands, the head and the heart line are fused into one single line which is called a Simian Line. Cheiro believed that this line, found in rare occasions, indicates single-mindedness and a strong intensity of purpose on the person’s behalf.
Then, there are minor lines which include Sun Line, Apollo Line or Ring of Apollo, Girdle of Venus, Money Line, Mercury Line or Ring of Mercury, Mars Line, Bracelet Line, Travel Line and more (depending on traditions).
During interpretation, a palmist will put greatest emphasis on the major lines of the subject’s palm, but he/she will also take into account the meanings or interpretations suggested by minor lines. Similarly, various markings on the palm such as grilles, dots, crosses, “M” mounts, tridents, triangles, splits or branching offs and others may also provide the reader with some or other valuable insight that can help make the reading more accurate.
Chiromancers and palmists also seek to gain important information from the shape of a person’s hand. Hand shapes, according to most palm-reading schools, are divided into four major types (although in some traditions, they are divided into five or ten major types): Earth, Air, Water and Fire. And these shapes seemingly correspond to different character traits or personality types. For example, a Fire Hand (characterized by shorter fingers, flushed skin and a rectangular or square palm) is thought to be indicative of high ambition, creativity, short temper, high energy, an overbearing personality and so on.
Palmistry and Chiromancy Difference
Chiromancy and palmistry are often used as synonymous terms and it actually depends on the practitioner (and the hand reading tradition or school he/she subscribes to) whether there is a difference or not. As the etymology goes, chiromancy will mean a form of divination achieved through the reading of a person’s hand (cf. cleromancy, psychomancy, etc.). However, as we’ve discussed above, modern chiromancy is seldom seen merely as a divination practice.
On the other hand, a palmist is not only someone who only reads the subject’s palm to achieve a reading. Many palmists will take into account the shapes of fingers, fingernails, fingerprints as well as skin patterns when performing a reading session. Generally though (although some may tend to disagree), we can maintain that a chiromancer is someone who takes a broader view regarding hand reading than a palmist. Sometimes, hand readers who embrace a number of modern developments (such as dermatoglyphics, psychology or counseling tools) prefer to separate themselves from traditional palmistry techniques by calling themselves chiromancers or chirologists.