The Arcane and You: Sussing out the Fun from the Hokum
Many people consider the branches of the occult to be a lot of bunk, and in some ways they are. While long ago considered on par with their scientific counterparts at the time, they are all but scoffed at now. Today, people who believe in them may be shunned and ridiculed. However, most of the people who believe in them in some degree are only interested in the novelty and fun they provide; those who wholeheartedly believe and are practitioners themselves probably have gifts far beyond that of the average person. No matter how deep the interest in it, everyone needs to approach or at least treat these arcane arts with respect.
Chinese and western zodiac signs are the most common iconography for astrology. Both have twelve signs, which suggests their original purpose as time-keeping systems. They are also popular in countless media, especially for creating characters based on them (Fruits Basket, Digimon, Homestuck, etc.). Constellations are assigned to months (or month-long periods of time) in western astrology, and animals are assigned to years. Elements and colors are also associated with these signs. Each astrologer will write something different, though core characteristics may remain the same. Just keep in mind that while these people can give advice and sometimes even be accurate, they cannot tell you what to do.
The lines (or lack thereof) on your hands can tell you a lot about yourself, though not necessarily your future. After all, the length of your lifeline, while used to chart events, does not indicate your lifespan. They also may not be taken literally, as lines meant to indicate children do not refer to only biological children but rather children you are close to. Stress and worry lines indicate hypertension, neurosis, or general anxiety, so the fewer lines you find the better, really. While there are certain types of hands that supposedly correlate with different elements or dispositions, I think you'll find that most people will have a mixed structure, making the distinctions almost pointless. The most fun comes from finding which of the minor lines you have, which can be positive or negative depending on what they are. Popular lines include the Ring of Solomon, the Girdle of Venus, and well-placed squares, stars, and crosses. Analysis of fingerprints can even help with the psychoanalysis of criminals.
You may have heard that the letters in your name or the numbers in your birthdate can add up to a certain number or numbers that can tell you what kind of person you are. This is both true and misleading, for there isn't one absolute number but several for different purposes. While no math skills are required past basic addition and subtraction, filling in a detailed numeroscope can quickly become tedious and nonsensical. A belief in past lives may also be required but isn't necessary, as only three numbers are important: expression (what you are capable of doing), motivation (what you want to do), and destiny (what life and society will let you do). If you know the full birth names of famous people as well as their birthdays, you can complete charts for them, too (the authors of the book I read did this for the Kennedys and the Beatles, among others). The numbers also determine compatibility, judging the odds for harmonious or and/or conflict-ridden relationships with other people.
Fortune-telling can be done with a plain bicycle deck, trading cards, and any of a number of Tarot decks. Its interpretation can vary greatly depending on the source material, but the major and minor arcana of the Tarot decks are traditional and more consistent than those made up for popular fiction today. It's pretty similar to rolling the dice and making decisions based on the outcome, except there's much more to the cards' lore than that. The designs themselves get redesigned every so often both officially and unofficially. In Alexa Rosean's book I cited in a previous hub, she details uses for the cards beyond fortune-telling. Combined with spell ingredients, they can be used for anything from decision-making to protective charms to consorting with the dead. It's still worth a read even if you don't believe in that.
We are not bound by numbers or signs. They just tell us a little bit more about ourselves, whether we like the outcome or not. These parlor games are fun to play at birthday parties and such, but they cease being fun the more involved you get. To the layperson, Tarot spells and detailed numeroscopes are ridiculous and over-the-top. They won't be able to memorize it all, only enough to get the general idea as well as key points that are relevant to them. While you shouldn't take these practices too seriously, you also shouldn't judge them without learning about them first. However, spirit boards are nothing but trouble (as seasoned ghost hunters will tell you) and should be burned like the spinning wheels in a certain fairy tale.
Johnson, Vera Scott and Thomas Wommack. The Secrets of Numbers. The Dial Press: New York, 1973.
Webster, Richard. Palm Reading for Beginners. Llewellyn Publications: Minnesota, 2004.