The art of divination by means of lines and marks on the
human hand. It is said to have been practiced in very early
times by the Brahmins of India and to have been known to Aristotle,
who discovered a treatise on the subject written in letters
of gold. He presented the treatise to Alexander the Great and
was afterward translated into Latin by Hispanus. There are also
extant works on the subject by Melampus of Alexandria, Hippocrates,
and Galen; several Arabian commentators have also
dealt with it.
In the Middle Ages the science was represented by Cocles
(ca. 1054) and Hartlieb (ca. 1448). In the early modern period,
by which time its practice was identified with the Gypsies, Robert
Fludd (1574–1637), Indigane, Rothmann, and many others
wrote on ‘‘cheiromancy,’’ as the subject was then known.
D’Arpentigny, Desbarolles, Carus, and others kept the subject
alive in the earlier half of the nineteenth century. Since 1860,
or thereabouts, palmistry’s popularity has grown steadily and
has experienced a revival.
Practicing Palmistry
Palmistry is subdivided into three lesser arts—cheirognomy,
the art of recognizing the type of intelligence from the form of
the hands; cheirosophy, the study of the comparative value of
manual formations; and cheiromancy, the art of divination from
the form of the hand and fingers, and the lines and markings
The palmist, first of all, studies the shape and general formation
of the hand as a whole; afterward she regards its parts,
details, lines, and markings. From cheirognomy and cheirosophy,
the general disposition and tendencies are ascertained,
and future events are foretold from the reading of the lines and
There are several types of hands the elementary or largepalmed
type; the necessary, with spatulated fingers; the artistic,
with conical-shaped fingers; the useful, the fingers of which are
square-shaped; the knotted or philosophical; the pointed, or
psychic; the mixed, in which the types are blended.
The principal lines are those that separate the hand from
the forearm at the wrist, which are known as the rascettes, or
the lines of health, wealth, and happiness. The line of life
stretches from the center of the palm around the base of the
thumb almost to the wrist and is joined for a considerable part
of its course by the line of the head. The line of the heart runs
across two-thirds of the palm, above the head line; and the line
of fate between it and the line of the head runs nearly at right
angles extending towards the wrist. The line of fortune runs
from the base of the third finger towards the wrist parallel to
the line of fate. If the lines are deep, firm, and of narrow width,
the significance is good—excepting that a strong line of health
shows constitutional weakness.
At the base of the fingers, beginning with the first, lie the
mounts of Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo, and Mercury; at the base of
the thumb the mount of Venus; opposite to it, that of Luna. If
well-proportioned they show certain virtues, but if exaggerated
they indicate the vices that correspond to these. The first displays
religion, reasonable ambition, or pride and superstition;
the second wisdom and prudence, or ignorance and failure; the
third when large, makes for success and intelligence, when
small for, meanness or love of obscurity; the fourth desire for
knowledge and industry, or disinterestedness and laziness. The
Lunar mount indicates sensitiveness, imagination, morality or
otherwise, and self-will; the mount of Venus, charity and affection,
or if exaggerated, viciousness.
The phalanges of the fingers are also indicative of certain
faculties. For example, the first and second of the thumb, according
to their length, indicate the value of the logical faculty
and of the will; those of the index finger in their order—
materialism, law, and order; of the middle finger—humanity,
system, intelligence; of the third finger—truth, economy, energy;
of the little finger—goodness, prudence, and reflectiveness.
There are nearly a hundred other marks and signs, by which
certain qualities, influences, or events are believed to be recognized.
The length of the line of life indicates the length of existence
of its owner. If it is short in both hands, the life will be
a short one; if broken in one hand and weak in the other, a serious
illness is denoted. If broken in both hands, it means death.
If it is much chained it means delicacy. If it has a second or sister
line, it shows great vitality. A black spot on the line shows
illness at the time marked. A cross indicates some fatality. The
line of life coming out far into the palm is a sign of long life.
The line of the head, if long and well-colored, denotes intelligence
and power. If descending to the mount of the Moon it
shows that the head is much influenced by the imagination. Islands
on the line denote mental troubles. The head line forked
at the end indicates subtlety and a facility for seeing all sides
of the question. A double line of the head is an indication of
good fortune. The line of the heart should branch towards the
mount of Jupiter. If it should pass over the mount of Jupiter
to the edge of the hand and travel round the index finger, it
is called ‘‘Solomon’s ring’’ and indicates ideality and romance;
it is also a sign of occult power. Points or dots in this line may
show illness if black, and if white love affairs, while islands on
the heart line indicate disease. If the line of fate or Saturn rises
from the Lunar mount and ascends towards the line of the
Palmer, Raymond Alfred Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
heart, it is a sign of a rich marriage. If it extends into the third
phalange of Saturn’s finger it shows the sinister influence of
that planet. A double line of fate is ominous. There are also numerous
other lesser lines and marks the hand contains, which
are detailed in a number of books on the subject.
Many practitioners of palmistry have their own special interpretations.
A few of these works are on scientific lines, but others
are merely empirical, and their forecasts of events to come
are on a par with newspaper astrology columns.
The popularity of palmistry was raised to a new height, especially
in the English-speaking world, by ‘‘Cheiro,’’ the public
name of Count Louis Hamon (1866–1936), who was patronized
by royalty and distinguished individuals of his time. He wrote
a number of books on palmistry, which were frequently reprinted
in both England and the United States and taught and inspired
a generation of palmists. Modern palmistry is largely an
outgrowth of his efforts.
Abayakoon, Cyrus D. F. Astro-Palmistry Signs and Seals of the
Hand. New York ASI Publishers, 1975.
Anderson, Mary. Palmistry—Your Destiny In Your Hands. London
Aquarian Press, 1973.
Bashir, Mir. Your Past, Your Present, and Your Future Through
the Art of Hand Analysis. Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday, 1974.
Benham, W. G. Laws of Scientific Hand Reading. Rev. ed. New
York G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1928. Reprinted as The Benham Book
of Palmistry. North Hollywood, Calif. Newcastle, 1988.
Broekman, Marcel. The Complete Encyclopaedia of Practical
Palmistry. Englewood, N.J. Prentice-Hall, 1972. Reprint, London
Mayflower, 1975.
Cheiro [Louis Hamon]. Cheiro’s Complete Palmistry. New
Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1968. Reprint, New York
Dell, 1969.
———. Cheiro’s Guide to the Hand. London Nichols, 1900.
Reprint, London Corgi, 1975.
———. Cheiro’s Language of the Hand; A Complete Practical
Work on the Science of Cheirognomy and Cheiromancy. 28th ed.
London H. Jenkins, 1949. Reprint, London Corgi, 1975.
———. Cheiro’s Memoirs The Reminiscences of a Society Palmist.
London William Rider, 1912.
———. You and Your Hand. Garden City, N.Y. Doubleday,
Doran, 1935.
Desbarolles, A. Les Mysteres de la Main. Paris, 1860.
Hipskind, Judith. Palmistry The Whole View. St. Paul Llewellyn
Publications, 1977.
Jaquin, Noel. The Hand of Man A Practical Treatise of the Science
of Hand Reading. London Faber & Faber, 1933.
———. Man’s Revealing Hand. London Routledge, 1934.
Niblo. The Complete Palmist. 1900. Reprint, North Hollywood,
Calif. Newcastle, 1982.
Saint-Germain, Comte C. de. The Practice of Palmistry for Professional
Purposes. 2 vols. 1897–98. Reprint, Hollywood, Calif.
Newcastle, 1973.
Steinbach, Marten. Medical Palmistry Health & Character in
the Hand. New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1975. Reprint,
New York New American Library, 1976.
Wilson, Joyce. The Complete Book of Palmistry. New York Bantam
Books, 1971.
Wolff, Charlotte. The Human Hand. London Methuen,