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The mirror of life and death

Palmistry speaks with the voices of medicine & the unknown

My first encounter with chiromancy happened by accident. I was staying for a few days at a friend's house in a small town on the Danube. And on a quiet autumn evening I was standing at the gate, waiting for the host and gazing at the sunset over the river. Two gypsy women: one older, and one young came out from the forest across. They approached, we greeted each other, as is customary in these small patriarchal towns, and then they went on their way. But after just a few steps, the elderly gypsy stopped. She came to me and said 'Now, give me your hand, son! Let me see it!'

I don't have any money on me,' I said.Actually, I wasn't exactly in the mood for a palm reading session.'I don't read for money!' replied the gypsy lady. 'Give me your hand!'
I became interested, so I did. She looked at my palm and stuttered: 'Sve… Sve… Sveto…'
Then she dropped my hand and said angrily:
'You got such a long name! I can do only so much, bye…' and then she added something in Gypsy, which was not intended to be said in civilized society. I laughed and she went away. Angry.
I was sure I had become a subject of some scam. Quite possibly, but then I began thinking. What was the chance of a fraud? I had never been to that town before, so where could she have known me from? And she hadn't taken any money… I also did some research on palmistry. It made me even more curious. I remembered our distinguished diagnostician, Professor Stoyan Kirkovic, who used to say:
"Colleagues, even when you shake the hand of the patient, you should already know the
And I got more and more convinced that the ancient art of palm reading has many grounds. And that I was not the first person to reach that conclusion by far.


It was probably while he still lived in caves that man looked with curiosity at his hand. He
looked, because he realized that it set him apart from animals; it determined life and death. The first palm readers appeared in the civilizations of the East. The connection between the palm and sickness was described in the most ancient Chinese medical treatise, Pen T'sao, dating from 5000 years ago. The ancient Indian Vedas mentioned palm reading 3000 years ago. Around 550 BC, the philosopher Pythagoras claimed that the lines on the human hand weren't coincidental, but were drawn there by the gods themselves. Because palmistry has been a sacred science ever since the concept was created. In ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome there were special chiromancy priests. Even the term chiromancy is Greek from χεῖρ – 'hand' and μαντεία - 'divination'. Aristotle also wrote about palmistry and showed his student Alexander the Great how to recognize the character of his enemies by reading their palms. Now, how did he ever mange to read those… Palmistry persisted through Antiquity, reached the Middle Ages, hid from the watchful eyes of the Inquisition – all that because all its treatises were included in Index librorum prohibitorum – the Index of Forbidden Books.
The first ever palmistry book to be printed, The Art of Chiromancy, published in Augsburg in 1475, also on this list.


Its author, the healer Johannes Hartlieb, died before printing began. Thus he didn't "enjoy" being persecuted as a heretic. The Inquisition persecuted people such as Hartlieb, but looked the other way when powerful monarchs kept palmists in their courts, because inquisitors were human too and feared the monarchs' wrath. They feared Philip II of Spain, because they knew his evil temper. That is why they turned a blind eye to the frivolities of Andreas Vessalius, his court physician – a well-known anatomist, but also a chiromant. They also feared Catherine and didn't attack Nostradamus – the most famous Renaissance diviner, who was her doctor, court astrologer and palm reader. He told the queen that three of her sons would become kings, but probably spared her the detail, that they were not going to be kings for long because they would all die soon after.
The era of bans passed and palmistry – sworn at and praised - bloomed as a court art in the 18th century. Even the skeptical Napoleon believed his court palmist, Madame Lenorman, friend of his wife Josephina. Palmistry acquired its astrological terminology during the Renaissance, when interest in Antiquity experienced a revival and Hellenistic and Roman gods made a majestic entrance in art. Dozens of books were written, and hundreds of palmists appeared in both the Old and the New Testament, most of whom were frauds.


In 1880, the renowned scientist Dimitri Mendeleyev, discoverer of the Periodic Law, researched telepathy and divination out of personal curiosity. In one of his letters he noted: .....

Find out the secrets of Napoleon's palm and learn easy tips to do palmastry for beginners. All of that in issue 2/2013 of Magazine Ossem!