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What is Palm Reading?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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Palm reading, more technically known as chiromancy, is the art of telling the future or determining something about a person by looking at the palms of their hands. It is an ancient mystic art, with its roots deep in India’s past. In the modern world, it is one of the most common methods of divining, along with astrology.

The earliest known text on palm reading was written by a Hindi sage, Valmiki, in the 3rd millennium BCE. It was entitled “The Teachings of Valmiki Maharshi on Male Palmistry”, and set out many techniques which are used into the modern day. The process then made its way to Egypt, Persia, Tibet, China, and Greece.

It is the palm reading of Ancient Greece, much of it outlined by the philosopher Anaxagoras, which sets the foundation for a great deal of modern palm reading. As a result, in many palm reading sessions, Greek mythological figures will be invoked as representative of various parts of the palm, with that part of the palm reflecting characteristics associated with that god or goddess.

For example, the middle finger is said to represent Athena, and therefore logic and rationality. The tip of the thumb is said to represent Rhea, the Earth goddess, who defied her husband, and therefore one looks to the thumb for a clue to a person’s willpower. The mound near the thumb is represented by Venus, and it indicates a great deal about love. Other areas are said to be ruled by Vulcan, Mercury, Mars, and Apollo.

Most traditions of palm reading focus only on the shapes and lengths of various features of the hands. The two main features looked at are lines and bumps. These lines are usually given names, such as life line or heart line, which indicate their meaning. Intersections of lines and bumps, relationships between their lengths or widths, and depths of creases are all thought to tell the reader different things about the person or their future. In some traditions other features, such as the fingernails, the texture of the skin, the flexibility of various joints, and the patterns marked on the skin, are all looked at as well.

The most basic way to appraise a hand in a palm reading session is to determine which of the elements it is associated with. Fire hands generally are rectangular, have short fingers, and have red or pink skin. Water hands have an ovoid palm, long, and long round fingers. Earth hands are broad and square, with thick and rough skin. Air hands are rectangular, have long fingers, and generally have drier skin. The temperament of the person is thought to correlate roughly with the element of their hand, with fiery people having short tempers, high creativity, etc.

There are three major lines looked at in a palm reading session: the life line, the heart line, and the head line. The life line runs from the crease between the thumb and pointer finger down in an arc towards the wrist; it generally gives information on the person’s health, as well as major events that will take place in their life. The heart line runs the length of the top of the palm, from underneath the little finger to above the thumb; it reflects issues of romance, as well as overall happiness or malaise. The head line runs frown beneath the pointer finger towards the opposite edge of the palm; it indicates styles of learning and thinking, and can show whether a person is right- or left-brained.

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Discussion Comments
By Rotergirl — On Jan 28, 2014

Part of being a pragmatist, I suppose, but I've never been able to see how the lines on a person's palm, which are determined by genetics, foretell the future.

Some readers are very good cold readers and they're good at reading people, which helps them at their work. They can make educated guesses that are often pretty accurate.

I am wondering if anyone has ever had a palm reading session that predicted everything correctly, and told the person about themselves with no clues given. I would be interested in hearing how the reading was conducted and what that person found out.

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