(Investigator 60, 1998 May)

Cheiromancy (derived from the Greek word "Cheir" meaning hand) more popularly known as Palmistry, dignifies the study of the lines or flexion folds on the palm of the hand which, together with the shape and size of the hand and the lengths of the fingers, are used to read the character, past and future events in the life of the subject.

Palmistry, as a divinatory system has the charm of simplicity and definiteness, as during the ages every detail has been brought under a set of formal rules which need only perfunctory application.

Basically there are four major lines used by the Palmist, they are the Line of Life, which runs in an arc from between the thumb and forefinger around the base of the thumb, and from which it is alleged, can be judged the vitality and length of life. The Line of Heart laying across the centre of the palm, relates to the mental outlook of the affections. The Line of Head, also running across the palm, relates to everything concerning the intellect, education, improvement and mental attitude, and the Line of Fate or Destiny, starting at the wrist and extending to the base of the second finger is held to relate to the success or failure of one’s worldly affairs.

Many other subsidiary lines and features are also taken into consideration by the Palmist such as where a line begins and ends, whether it joins or crosses another, the breaks in a line, the forks, and the depths and irregularities such as "chain" formations. Frequently, the characteristics interpreted by the Palmist are augmented with an infusion of astrology and numerology.

Count Louis Hamon, or Cheiro, (1866-1936), former lecturer and editor, was considered the most successful palmist of modern times and posthumously his basic principles are still followed by palmists today.

Shortly after my fortieth birthday, an amateur palmist friend of mine offered to read my palm. Out of curiosity and despite any misgivings I may have had about the Validity of palmistry, I told him to go ahead. As he was familiar with my past and a shrewd judge of character, I was not unduly surprised at what he purportedly read in the creases of my palm – until he came to the Line of Life. According to his reckoning I would not live to see my 53rd birthday. Having lived an active life, and being in excellent physical and mental health at the time, I dismissed this with an unconvincing laugh, unconvincing, because despite my scepticism, to hear any prediction of that nature is disconcerting and hard to shake off. Over the next few months, no matter how determined I was to dismiss it from my mind, the thought kept re-occurring until finally in desperation, I successfully psyched myself into substituting another thought, "I will live to be 105."

The experience served to demonstrate one of the dangers inherent in "fortune telling." To a believer, the ramifications of such a revelation could have had a disastrous effect on both the individual and his family, and in an extreme case, even lead to the self-fulfillment of the prophecy, as with the "pointing of the bone" in the Aboriginal culture.

Coincidentally, using Cheiro’s charts to interpret the lines on my palm, I discovered that I had been dead for some years!

Cognizant of the possible deleterious effects of predictions based on irrational premises, motivated me to take a more active part in critically examining those claims and reporting my findings. Using Cheiro’s textbook, I embarked on a deliberate and impartial evaluation of my character, with meticulous regard to each and every word in an endeavour to be fair to the author. The result was less than 50 per cent accurate, (no more than fair guesswork) even allowing for the ambiguity and patronising generalities.

Specifically, one point which adequately invalidated the Line of Life.

Cheiro says, "If the beginning of the Line of Life commences with a chain formation [which mine does and I suspect most others do] delicate health in the early years is clearly foreshadowed." Given the prevalence of ailments to which the children of my generation and those preceeding it were subject – diptheria, scarlet fever, German measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, mumps, ringworm, impetigo, rickets and tuberculosis, most of which have now been eradicated in the western world by improved living conditions and health standards – "delicate health" in infants was not an unusual feature in those times. You will recall that this period was also Cheiro's hey-day, his deductions therefore would have been influenced by the prevailing conditions.

If Cheiro's interpretation was correct, then logically, with the improvement in health standards since his time, the chain formation should have all but disappeared from our palms. Has it? (The Line of Life runs from between the thumb and forefinger, and around the base of the thumb – check it). Cheiro goes on to say, "but if the line becomes clear of this link or chain formation as it proceeds, it shows that complete recovery from these earlier illnesses may be promised." It should be patently obvious, that an adult who is having his palm read and has had an illness of this sort as an infant, has made a complete recovery – hardly a startling revelation!

Further evidence of the erroneous correlation between the lines on the palm and destiny, is the claim often made by palmists that "the lines in the hand begin to break down…at the moment of death." A check with the Connecticut State Medical Examiner's Office by Michael A. Park (1982), an associate professor of anthropology at Central Connecticut State College, New Britain, indicated that this claim was unfounded, the crease lines remain after death. Furthermore, to attempt to divine longevity from this furrow is equally spurious according to British pathologists who examined the hands of 100 cadavers in a hospital mortuary which revealed that "the lifeline appeared to have no bearing on how long the patient lived."

Examinations of palmistry (Park, 1982), (Bopari, 1992), (Edwards, 1993), show conclusively that there is no correlation between the lines on one's hand and future or past events. Any success or accuracy accorded a palmist or perceived by a client can be attributed to the astuteness of the palmist in judging character by observation, a general knowledge of the common situations we all experience in life, the use of "cold reading" techniques, and the proclivity of the client to believe.

From: Skeptoon an illustrated look at some New Age Beliefs, 1994.
Harry Edwards. Published by Harry Edwards Publications.

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