Palmistry is often thought of as the art of reading the lines in the
hand. The lines tell only one part of the story that is etched into the
hands. A skilled Palmist looks at palmar lines and ridges, the shape and
length of each finger, the mounts and bumps on the hand as well as skin
color, warts, cuts, blisters, scars and the subject's own unique calling
card, the fingerprints.
Recognition of the shape of the palm and the
to the mounds and fingers provides a grounding in the study of the map
of the hand. Once this mapping is understood, it becomes much simpler to
learn to read the hand by viewing the lines, bumps, wounds and other
unique markings as an 'overlay' on top of the map.
study of hand shapes, including the size and shapes of the fingers and
mounds. This section contains information about the four basic hand
shapes. To learn about the map of the hands, visit the
Meaning & Myth
study of the lines in the hands. This word is also often used to
describe the entire study of palmistry. This section gives a basic
overview of the three major lines found in the hand as well as commonly
found vertical lines.
study of the skin ridges of the hand. In the section you will find an
summary of the four basic types of fingerprints.
History of Palmistry
have wondered where our present day knowledge of palmistry comes from.
The study of the human hand's as old as mankind itself, probably older.
It's principles can even be applied to non-human species.
where did the idea of palmistry originate? All mammals, marsupials,
reptiles and birds take extensive pains grooming themselves, and know
their own body parts perhaps better than we do. Watch young animals,
particularly birds, and you'll see them examine and poke at their feet
or paws with great interest. This is mirrored by the action of human
babies, who often move their fingers around and watch them for hours.
questioning consciousness dawned in early humans, causing them to wonder
why things are as they are, the study of the hand was not far behind.
People of the Old Stone Age decorated their sacred caves with
unsurpassed artwork, and hundreds of hand prints. The hand print
signified 'I have been in this cave and witnessed these sacred
mysteries'. The association of the hand with individuality had begun,
and it's not a great mental leap to work backwards and assess an
individual by their hand.
During those many centuries of innocence, when humanity lived as part of
nature in the gardens of Eden, before any plough had raped the earth,
the hunting communities had their witchdoctors who healed and
communicated with the spirit world. Palmistry was doubtless part of
their stock in trade, but it's only with the advent of literate cultures
that we can begin a documented history.
practice of palmistry's recorded in China, Babylon, Egypt, Persia,
Greece, Rome and Tibet, so it can be assumed that it was common to most
of the human race, and that most cultures had their own traditional
methods of hand reading. The question of whether palmistry was a science
or a sorceress art in ancient times, can be answered by reference to the
Nowadays, most palmists follow the tradition of reading the lines of the
hand and letting their intuition aid the process. At the extremes, some
practitioners will have no truck with the occult and claim palmistry as
a pure science, while others know nothing of the science and claim to
read the hand intuitively.
same would have applied in the ancient world, the fortune tellers and
witches would have mixed the art with the science, while the
philosophers would have carved a system out of logic.
palmistry system used by the classical Graeco-Roman civilization, is the
foundation of the one still used throughout the Western world. At first,
palmistry was transmitted orally, down through the centuries, then more
latterly in writing. The Chinese system's quite different, but equally
ancient and accurate.
philosopher Aristotle (384-348/9 BC), tutor to Alexander the Great was a
devoted palmist, who passed his enthusiasm on to his pupils. Legend
tells that he found an ancient palmistry scroll on an Arabic altar
dedicated to Hermes, which he presented to Alexander.
Aristotle wrote on physiognomy, the art of judging character from the
outward appearance, and mentioned the lines of the hand in his 'De
Historia Animalium', stating that long lived people have longer palm
lines than short lived people. It's believed that he wrote a major
treatise on palmistry which is now lost. Many later writers passed their
work off as his, hoping to give it the seal of ancient wisdom.
story of Aristotle tells that when he had his hand read for the first
time, his pupils were surprised that it showed so many signs of
personality weakness. Aristotle accepted the palmist's judgment,
explaining that the faults shown were exactly the ones he'd striven all
his life to conquer.
Galen of Pergamum (born 129AD), physician to Roman Emperor Marcus
Aurelius wrote on physiognomy, including material on the hand, and Roman
satiric poet Juvenal (born 55-60AD) explained how aristocratic ladies
favored astrologers while middle class women consulted hand readers.
link between palmistry and astrology has always been strong, with both
planets, lines and mounts named after the same gods. This system of
planetary gods, and the palmistry based on it, spread from Greece to
Rome, and may have reached Greece from Babylon, the reputed birthplace
the ascendance of Christianity, the occult arts were persecuted as pagan
leftovers, which of course they were, as all divination systems are
founded on belief in fate, a doctrine not part of the Christian world
During the Middle Ages palmistry was the work of witches and herbalists.
However, it was championed by many pioneers of science, such as
Paracelsus (1493-1541), a medical reformer and innovator, who used
astrology and palmistry.
nomadic gypsy tribes that wandered into Europe in the early 15th century
did much to popularize the art, but it was the invention of the printing
press which made knowledge of the subject more readily available. The
first printed palmistry book was 'Die Kunst Chiromantie' by Johann
Hortlich, published 1475.
'Canon of Medicine' by Iranian physician Avicenna (980-1037AD), was
translated for use in European medical colleges, complete with it's hand
and palm section. Science parted ways with palmistry in the 18th
century, but from 1650-1730 it was still taught at the German
universities of Leipzig and Halle.
the 19th century, two Frenchmen, Captain Stanilas d'Arpentigny and
Adolphe Desbarrolles, provided the impetus for a palmistry renaissance,
lifting it from the disrepute into which it'd fallen.
D'Artpentigny made a life study of hand shapes, and formulated their
classification into seven main types. It's his system that I've explored
in Horoscope magazine. His friend Desbarrolles actually worked as a
practising palmist, reading for such luminaries as Napoleon III and
Alexandre Dumas. He used d'Arpentigny's hand shape system and his own
knowledge of the lines. His major contribution was sorting out which
palmistry traditions held truth and which were superstitions. His 'Les
Mysteres de la Main,' was a turning point, encapsulating the knowledge
that was to be further refined by the next century's great palmists,
such as Cheiro, William G. Benham and Comte C. de Saint-Germaine.
Today the future of palmistry is bright. Palmists are numerous and
scientists are using the study of the hand as a tool in psychology and
as part of dermatoglyphics, the study of skin patterns, which can
pinpoint inherited diseases and even mental difficulties from the study
of the hand.
Meaning & Myth
astrological map of the hand is key to palm reading. Without an
understanding of the qualities that correspond to each part of the hand
and each finger, the lines, dots, squares, cuts, hollows and bumps are
meaningless. A star on the mound of Apollo has a very different meaning
than a star on the mound of Mars. A person with a large thumb and a
long, straight Jupiter finger will behave very differently than a person
with a large thumb and a short, twisted Jupiter.
astrological map of the hand is the base upon which the highways and
byways of the nervous system become etched. A firm grasp of the meanings
and myths associated with each area is the basis for the study of
mounds and fingers were named for the seven planets that were recognized
by astronomers and astrologers at an earlier time in our history. Some
modern palmists have added the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto,
to the map. As these are not personalized planets, I prefer to work with
the classic diagram.
- The pointer finger and the mound below it
Saturn - The
middle finger and the mound below it
- The ring finger and the mound below it
Mercury - The
little finger and the mound below it
Mars - The
upper mound inside the life line
Venus - The
lower mound inside the life line
Moon - The
mound on the heel of the hand
Chirognomy is the study of the size, shape and appearance of the hand,
including analysis of the color, texture and resiliency of the skin. A
good place to start the study of Chirognomy is by getting to know the
basic hand shapes. Assessment of the shape of the hand provides insight
into the essential character of the individual.
Throughout history palmists have developed various systems of
categorization for hand types. One popular system classifies the hand
into 7 types: Elementary, Square, Spatulate, Philosophic, Conic, Psychic
and Mixed. In traditional Chinese Palmistry there are 5 hand types that
correspond to the 5 elements of Water, Fire, Wood, Earth and Metal.
simplest type of classification, and the one that I favor, reflects the
4 elemental categories used in western astrology: Earth, Air, Fire and
elemental type is defined by the shape of the palm in relation to the
length of the fingers. Is the palm square or oblong? Are the fingers
short or long?
Square palm + short fingers = Earth Hand
Square palm + long fingers = Air Hand
Oblong palm + short fingers = Fire Hand
Oblong palm + long fingers = Water hand
Earth hand is square and solid. The fingers are short and the palm
exhibits few lines. Those that do appear are strong and well defined.
Subjects with Earth hands tend to be level-headed, no-nonsense people.
Physical experience may be more important than intellectual pursuits.
Practical in nature, the Earth type may be conservative and probably
prefers spending time outdoors. It has been my experience that the Earth
type is the least likely to seek out a palmist for a reading.
Astrologically, the Earth signs are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.
Air hand has long fingers and tends to have an abundance of clear lines
in the palm. Air types spend their time in the intellecual realms. They
are curious and full of ideas. They thrive on nervous energy and may be
prone to worry and stress. Air types are communicators and are often
good at working with the public. However they may tend to
intellectualize their feelings and can have difficulty with close,
Astrologically, the Air signs are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius.
hand with an elongated palm and short fingers fits into the Fire
classification. The lines in the palm are usually strong and
well-defined and the hand may have a busy or vibrant feel to it. Fire
types are energetic and action oriented. They have a need for variety
and may lack patience. Then tend to be individualistic and often make
Astrologically the Fire signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.
Water hands have many fine, spidery lines and both the palm and the
fingers are long. The Water hand is found on the sensitive, emotional
type of individual. Water types are caring, receptive and artistic. They
are primarily motivated by feelings. They may have trouble coping with
stress and are often happiest in a peaceful environment.
Astrologically the Water signs are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces
lines in the hand can be divided into 3 groups: the major lines, the
minor lines and the personal lines. There are 3 major lines to be found
in the hand. These are the Life Line, the Heart Line and the Head Line.
The minor lines run vertically in the hand and each is named for the
finger under which it terminates. Everything else is considered a
personal line. The personal lines may have names and fit into categories
though there may be some lines that are quite unique to the individual.
It is through practice and experience that the palmist can learn how to
interpret these lines.
Though most hands will have the 3 majors and at least one or two of the
minors, every hand is unique and many of these lines will be absent from
a number of the hands you observe.
lines in the hand change all during the life and reflect the changes in
behavior, attitude, lifestyle and experience of the individual. Taking
dated prints of the hands provides a record of what the hands reveal at
a particular point in time.
The Major Lines
- The Life Line begins at the edge of the hand between the thumb and
forefinger and arcs downward around the thumb area. Contrary to popular
belief, this line does not indicate length of life. It does identify
vitality, robustness or weakness, enthusiasm for living and state of
- The head line begins at or near the beginning of the Life Line and
moves horizontally across the hand. It represents mental capacity and
the intellectual style. The length of the line indicates amount of time
spent in the realm of thoughts. A curvy Head Line is a sign of an
intuitive thinker while the very straight line indicates a logical
- The Heart Line begins under the little finger (Mercury) and moves
across the upper palm. The Heart Line reveals the style of relating, the
degree of sensitivity of an individual and the emotional history. If the
Heart Line sits low in the hand, it is an indication that the heart
rules the head. If the line is very straight it shows a person who
intellectualizes the emotions.
- Some hands have only 1 line moving horizontally across the upper hand,
a combination of the usual 2 lines representing head and heart. This
marking is known as the Simian Line. With the Head and Heart lines
running together, the emotional and mental functions do not operate
separately. Those who possess this line exhibit intensity of
The Minor Lines
Line of Saturn
- The Saturn Line begins just above the wrist and moves up the hand to
the middle finger. It is commonly known as the Fate Line. This line
represents the measure of personal success and the subject's attitude
toward handling responsibility.
Line of Apollo
- This line is also known as the Line of the Sun. It appears under the
finger of Apollo, the ring finger. The presence of the Line of Apollo
indicates artistic talent. This line is often short, rising just above
the Heart Line and may not appear on the hand at all.
Line of Mercury
- The Line of Mercury may sometimes be referred to as the Line of Health
or the Line of Inner Dialogue. It may not appear on the hand but when it
does it rises from the base of the hand and angles up to the Mound of
Mercury under the little finger. When present this line will give
information about the subject's nervous system. It is also an indication
that the individual is seeking a path of self-improvement or spiritual
Dermatoglyphics is the study of the skin ridges in our hands. The
word is made up of two parts -- "derma" meaning skin and "glyphs"
meaning carving. When we talk about Dermatoglyphs we are mainly
concerned with the fingerprints, though on some hands there are
glyphs to be found on the palm itself.
fingerprints are fully formed 16 weeks after conception, a full 5
months before you enter the world, and they will never change.
fingerprint is composed of between 50 and 100 lines. Though no 2
fingerprints are exactly alike, prints can be classified into one
of 4 major types: the whorl, the loop, the arch and the tented
arch. There are also 2 subtypes of the whorl. The peacock looks
exactly as the name suggests, like the eye on a peacock tail
feather. The composite resembles a yin/yang symbol, 2 loops
swirling around each other.
general, a preponderance of a particular type of fingerprint can
tell you about the basic temperament of the subject. A formula for
determining the karmic life purpose by mapping out the number and
type of print along with which finger(s) it falls on was developed
by Richard Unger of the International Institute of Hand Analysis
in Sausalito, CA. To learn more about this process, visit
Richard's Web site at
many whorls on their hands like to be in charge. They are often
deep thinkers and may be dogmatic in their viewpoints. The whorl
can be associated with the element of Fire.
This is the
most common fingerprint. It denotes flexibility and a dislike for
routine. Subjects with many loops may display an emotional nature.
The loop can be associated with the element of Water.
the fingertips can indicate someone who has trouble expressing
their emotions. The owner of these fingerprints can be practical
in nature and may find change to be unwelcome. The arch can be
associated with the element of Earth.
is usually found only on the index finger, though I have seen
hands where they appeared on the middle and ring fingers as well.
This mark is a sign of a sensitive, impulsive nature. People with
tented arches may be seekers of the truth and may tend toward
perfectionism. The tented arch can be associated with the element
Other Glyphs on the Hand
occurrence of a glyph on the palm may be found between the
fingers. A loop between the Mercury and Apollo fingers is called
the Loop of Humor. Having this loop indicates a subject with an
optimistic outlook and a good sense of humor. A loop between
Apollo and Saturn is called the Loop of Seriousness. People with
this loop exhibit common sense and may feel a great sense of
responsibility in their lives.
common is a loop between Saturn and
Jupiter. Called the Rajah Loop, it was once thought that this
marking indicated descent from royal lineage. One author has
renamed this mark the Loop of Charisma. It can be viewed as a mark
of executive ability.