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What is Palmistry?

Updated on November 18, 2010

Palmistry is the practice of telling fortunes and describing personal character by examining the palm of the hand. Also known as chiromancy, the art of reading palms is based on a system in which special meanings are attached to certain features of a person's hand. The palmist, or reader, usually examines the size, shape, firmness, and moisture of the right hand, and the number, length, and depth of the folds, or lines, in the palm. Palmistry is not regarded as a science, but as a form of superstition or amusement.

In palmistry, which is somewhat related to astrology, the fleshy elevations, or "Mounts," of the palm are given the names of heavenly bodies. There are seven Mounts, each referring to certain traits of character. These Mounts are Jupiter, at the base of the index finger, signifying love, honor, and ambition; Saturn, below the middle finger, standing for wisdom and success; the Sun, below the ring finger, showing intelligence and love of the arts; Mercury, below the little finger, representing love of science and industry; Mars, below Mercury, standing for courage and love of war; the Moon, at the base of the wrist, showing courage and moral strength; and Venus, at the base of the thumb, indicating an amorous temperament.

Analyses of character and predictions of the future depend on the prominence of each Mount. For example, a well-developed Mount of Saturn indicates that a person is wise, while a poorly developed Mount shows that he is ignorant or foolish. The Mounts on the fingers are also associated with personality traits. In addition to the Mounts, there are several lines in the palm which are considered important by the palmist.

These include the line of Life, a semicircular fold around the thumb, signifying a person's life-span. A long, unbroken line symbolizes a long life, while breaks in the line are an omen of illness or death. The other important folds are the line of Fortune, revealing the degree of success in one's career; the line of Head, signifying intelligence; and the line of Heart, standing for sensitivity and affection.

Palmistry probably began in primitive tribes, where priests and medicine men looked for physical signs by which to predict future events. It was also used by the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, and was widely practiced in Oriental countries. At one time, palmistry was taught in European universities, but with the advance of science it was rejected by educated people. In modern civilized countries, palmistry remains as a form of fortune-telling practiced mainly at sideshows and carnivals.

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