What is the Divination Practice of Palmistry?

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Chiromancer reading lines on man's palm at table, closeup

Palmistry Divination, also known as chiromancy is from the Greek word “kheir” meaning “hand”, and the Greek word “manteia” which means “divination”. Known today as “Palm-Reading”, this is divination, or fortune-telling method of reading the querent’s palm, to gain insight of past and future paths in life, health, love, and success, just to name a few. 

Chiromancy or Palm Divination was one of the “seven forbidden arts”, named in Renaissance magic, as the Catholic Church tried desperately to suppress any pagan rituals, beliefs, and practices. Also contained in this list of forbidden arts were geomancy – sand and stone divination, pyromancy – flame reading, necromancy – communing or conjuring the dead, hydromancy – water scrying, spatulamancy – bone divination, and aeromancy – cloud reading and weather witching.

What is Palm Reading and where did it come from?

Palmistry is the visual observation of specific features and locations of the hand, as to determine various traits in personality and physical future events. The esoteric axiom of most occult traditions was “as above – so below”.  The astrologers correlated the macrocosm; the movement of the stars and planets with the microcosm; the lines and features of one’s hand in palmistry divination.

The Divination Art of Palmistry has found its way into many cultures all over the world, and throughout time.  Palm Readers are also called Palmists, Chirologists, Hand Analysts and Hand Readers, depending on where you happen to be.

Academics view palmistry divination as a pseudo-science (as they do most every form of ancient divination) due to the lack of scientific proof, and, as with almost every form of divination practice throughout time, conflicting schools of thought with interpretations of methods and meanings.

The History of Palmistry Divination

Valmiki, a Hindu sage from several thousand years ago wrote about Male Palmistry, as probably being the first to document the art of Palmistry Divination. From India, the practice organically spread throughout Tibet and China, into Egypt, Persia, Babylonia, Ancient Sumeria, and Europe and across the world. Fortune tellers in Ancient Rome speak of it, as does it appear in the Chinese I-Ching Book of Changes. 

In ancient Greece, Aristotle found writings of the art on the altar of Hermes, which he offered to Alexander the Great, who in turn used it to gain insight into his military officers. Over two and a half centuries ago Aristotle had this to say about Palmistry in his famous work “De Historia Animalium”, “History of Animals” were he writes, “Lines are not written into the human hand without reason.”

As with most every divination practice from time immemorial, Palmistry fell into shadow, as the Catholic Church deemed the seven most popular divination practices as “forbidden arts”. A revival of interest in the occult grew in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, with the Church lessening its grip on non-Christian beliefs. This re-discovery and newfound interest in palm reading exploded across the UK and the US, with the creation of Chirological Societies. By the 1950s, Palmistry Divination was part of the American and British Pop-Cultures.

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