To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower: Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.

WILLIAM BLAKE (1757-1827)



The actor should be able to create the universe in the palm of his hand.

MAE WEST (1893-1980)

Give a man a free hand and he'll run it all over you.

Tyromancy is supposedly divination by the patterns formed by the coagulation of cheese.

Secrets of the Palm

Francis Galton invented the science of palm reading. In 1892 as part of his work on fingerprint analysis, he categorized the various types of markings as arches, loops and whorls. Thirty years later, Dr Harold Cummins of Tulane University was the first to note a distinctive pattern in the hands of patients with Down's Syndrome. Soon after, another team, led by Dr Alfred R. Hale, showed that patients with inborn heart defects had palm-ridge abnormalities, whereas those whose problems were acquired after birth usually had normal prints. By the end of 1965, researchers had linked abnormal palm prints with 19 disorders. Disorder number 20 was discovered after a German Measles outbreak in America in the mid-sixties which, when caught by pregnant mothers, could cause hidden problems in children - these problems could be identified thanks to the babies' palm prints.

The ridges on a palm are created in the third and fourth month of a fetus's development and do not change from then until well after you die. As such, they can be a tell-tale sign of growth or chromosomal problems in utero. Just above your wrist, there is an upside-down ‘Y’; this is the axial triradius and it should be at an angle of around 48 degrees. In chromosomal abnormalities this can be up to 80 degrees. Your palm-prints can also betray a superfluous digit that was amputated at birth. Ridges are on the whole wider in males than in females and are generally similar in local populations.

Palm diagnosis is not an exact science; rather it can be used as a relatively easy start-point in order to screen for possible problems. Prints have been shown to be an indicator of schizophrenia, allergies, congenital heart defects, various cancers and even the levels of pollution that a fetus is subjected to.

Podomancy is divination by means of examining the feet.

Telling the Future

The pseudoscience of palmistry began in China around 3200 bc and gradually progressed along the silk routes into Europe. It was practised by Aristotle, Pythagoras and Anaxagoras but its heyday in Europe was the 15th and 16th centuries when nomads wandered around Europe plying their trade. In the late 19th century it resurfaced thanks to an Irish astrologer, born William Warner but known as Count Louis von Hamon or Cheiro (pronounced Ki-ro) whose occult ‘Indian Room’ became popular in London society. His clients included Mark Twain, Mata Hari, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Edison, Gladstone and the Prince of Wales.

Your life line is the one that curves downwards around your thumb – this is not, as is often supposed, an indicator of how long you have left to live, but supposedly tells about your family and work life; any lines crossing this line describe obstacles that need to be crossed in life. If it's near the thumb then you have close family ties, if it's near the middle of the palm then you're a go-getter who wants to break new ground. Any stops or breaks in the line don't mean you're going to die - just that a relative will. It is actually the lines below your wrist, known as bracelets or rascettes that indicate length of life; each is supposed to be worth around 20 years.

The main line across the centre of your hand is your head line, which supposedly deals with your mind and tells if you have a strong personality or not. If it crosses your life line then you are self-centred, if it stops before then you are independent, and if the two stop together you are beset with doubt. If the head line divides into two forks at the end you may work in entertainment. Above the head-line is the heart-line; if it begins low in the hand then you're a lover (and effeminate), if high then you are a self-critic.

A chiromancer is another word for a palm-reader.