History of palmistry (notes)


Chiromancy (gr. Χείρ, hand; μαντεία, divination) is not exclusive to any part of the world, but it is true that it can be glimpsed that its almost popular acceptance has its roots in traditional Eurasian medicine where the reflex zones and the body as mirror of the world play an important role in the body map, which divides each zone with a unique value. Since the hands are practically the human instrument par excellence, together with the face and the feet, it was necessary to save a special place for them and submit them to a more complex analysis, to the point of considering that the entire vital course of a person is traced in them. Some even use other elements of nature as an argument: if the life of a tree can be known by its veins and internal rings, aren't the signs on our skin also indicative?

- Palmistry and Physiognomy. 

It is a divinatory practice that is closely related to physiognomy (not physiology), which is an intuitive practice and in its medical origins, consisting of the interpretation of bodily shapes and features to determine the life and personality of an individual. Within physiognomy there is a branch that ensures the total reliability of its methods, taking it as a guess, while another branch has tried not to stray from its scientific part, and does not associate the features with astrological or spiritual issues, but purely physical ones; although it sounds curious, something like the deductions of Sherlock Holmes: deducing the character through facial expressions, the job he performs through his eyes and his hands, the intentions through the way he walks... or through the color and texture of the face and skin, for example. Palmistry is perhaps the system that most intermingles both forms of study, - despite the fact that there is also palmistry, which tries to move away from all forms of divination, future or past, and fulfill a more scientific purpose. But palmistry does not generally study the whole of the hand, rather, mainly the palm: that is why those who read the hand are commonly called palmists.

Palmistry has had, like everything else, admirers and detractors. We have examples of physiognomic application in the first place, among the Hindus, in their treatises on Aṅgavidyā (divination by the extremities) where not only the hands were observed, but also the arms or even the eyes. The hand signals were, however, related to future acquisitions or jobs, as well as health (see also the article on Mudras), which we also find among the Chinese, and among the Babylonians, with a notable astrological relationship, together with the characteristics of their logograms for the possible comparison of skin lines, as well as in eastern Europe, through which they arrived both in Greece and Rome, where we have the physiognomic examples of Suetonius in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, where based on their physical characteristics, the reader can deduce what personality the character narrating will have. In the Mediterranean there existed among the Pythagorean circles, oneirocritia focusing on the marks of the one or that with which one had dreamed. But it should not be considered something strange or extravagant for the Greco-Roman culture, since, as in Babylonia, in the sacrifices the analysis of the Exta or viscera of the offered victims was common to know aspects about the future or the divine disposition. Although it already existed in North Africa, palmistry gained a lot of popularity with the arrival of Islam, which also has its own way of reading, and probably from where, due to the importance given to the palm, the palmist technique spread throughout the medieval world.

His relationship with astrology and physical evidence, common in societies guided by signs as divine messages, offered him a place of honor among the divinatory arts. But with an uneven rhythm, in the West it was associated with paganism and superstition, also linking it with certain groups and foreign ethnic groups, as was the case with the Jews and the gypsies, to whom much conservation of esoteric traditions of this style is due, and probably even more is owed to them than to all the scholars who have written about palmistry, but never actually put it into practice or taught it, no matter how truthful we want to give the matter. It is in this moment of separation in which the hypotheses locate the division between pure divination and deductive medicine, at least in the Western world. However, nothing could be further from the truth: due to its link with astrology, it was not until just a couple of centuries ago that issues that previously no one dared to completely rule out began to be systematically denied; moreover, members of all classes and social orders came to her with some frequency. This does not mean that it must not be recognized that there was also a real underlying medical interest, identifying somatizations, which unfortunately was always quite eclipsed.

- Western palmistry. Europe and the Judeo-Arab world.

Going back to the Middle Ages, physiognomy was widely studied and considered, so that the fact that palmistry was considered a superstition does not mean that it was classified as such because it was practiced by people considered uneducated or heretical, as was the case. with the Jews, in whose Zohar or Book of Splendor this practice was mentioned, or directly in treatises such as that of Hakkarat panni le -Rabbi Ishmael (Palmistry of Rabbi Ishmael) And in the Renaissance, despite the persecutions, in the study of The human body could not miss the development of complete physiognomic studies in all areas, where some were admirers and others detractors. Leonardo Da Vinci himself claimed that physiognomy was a fallacy, except in certain marks on the face, where genius identified personality. Studies of the Bible itself were confused by certain passages such as the one indicated by Gershom Scholem in his Encyclopaedia Judaica (X, 477), about Job 37:7, where it is indicated that God << has sealed the hand of each man so that know His work>>, and even more difficult before texts such as Proverbs 3:16, whose translations have varied considerably to deprive it of the divinatory meaning that the word hand plays in it: << In his right hand there is long life, in his left hand, riches and honor>>. To this were added other cabalistic and numerological interpretations, such as the one that ensures that the main lines of our left hand form the number 81, and those on the left 18, adding 99, a number associated with Divinity.

Arab palmistry was framed from the dawn in the Firasa (discernment) or general physiognomy. Although there are some references to the 9th century BC, the truth is that most of the texts are translations of Greek works, which in turn probably drank from Asian works. Iml ul Kaff is the name given to palm reading that was known throughout North Africa, including Egypt, and seems to have become more widespread during Byzantine times. However, it draws heavily from India, Persia and the Semitic world in general, which it also shares in many other divination techniques. The radical difference deals more with the religious character that divination can have in Arab culture, as opposed to the profane character that it already had in Greece and Rome, and that of course it had later in the West. However, many of the issues that appear in Arab treatises were absorbed by the Europeans, such as the detail of the length of the fingers, the value of the fist or the search for heirs.

Both in this case and in many others, they were talking about predicting the future, and let's remember that palmistry has always played alongside chirognomy, to stay - just like astrology - with the idea of also defining personality traits , which is somehow much more directly provable. And little by little this was gaining more ground, despite the fact that in the popular mind, knowledge of the future has always been more present, perhaps out of simple and plain desire. The comparison of astrology with palmistry was not only evident for those who knew it, but also received complete attention and studies, such as that of Johannes de Indagine (1522), finally prohibited by the Inquisition. There was, in this way, yet another possibility of use for palmistry, and for physiognomy in general: that of choosing people destined for great things, or chosen for an initiation into the religious-esoteric world. In this way, it was undeniable that, for example, if astrology blessed or cursed the birth of a king, a specific mark on his skin would only confirm it.

Nor did these borders end up being defined in the following centuries, and once again, with the rise of European esoteric circles from the 18th century, it is how their "recovery" came about, however, with a new problem: the attractiveness of the magical and the secret, it gave points in favor of its esoteric facet, that is, the future and the spirit, in a more mystical, transcendental, even transmigratory sense... and of the eastern influences, the parts that dealt with astrological influences were more interested or elemental than reflexological or medicinal ideas. Physiognomy, although it has not yet found its place, quickly distances itself from palmistry so that, despite remaining among the pseudosciences, it does not fall into the sack of the so-called occult sciences. On the other hand, there are those who do not doubt that if the physiognomy is unique in each individual, this will also have its physiognomic sample, with exclusive hands. The weight of these affirmations falls before questions about the possible verification of these coincidences in situations of natural disasters or wars, where, in some way, all those affected should show some similar sign in order to be corroborated. However, large groups could be found that sought, without dissociating themselves from one or the other, to defend palmistry as an art against quackery, as occurred with the work of D'Arpentigny (1983) or the creation of the London Chirological Society (1889). The defenses of societies go through considering that destiny is not immutable, in the same way that our morphology is altered with growth, food, or diseases. This would mean that the changes in what was supposedly previously predicted or predestined, would be due to a modification of destiny carried out by the person through their decisions, which would manifest in their features and lines of mantic reading, being able to perform again. a new reading: this implies, implicitly, that in relation to the person his past can be deduced, since it would have been engraved on his skin; however, by that rule of thumb, it would only allow one to predict the near future.

- Oriental palmistry: India and China.

This development also took place, although in a different way, in the East, where despite the popularity and continuity of traditional medicine techniques, divinatory facets of any kind are relegated to those who dedicate themselves to them. In India, palmistry, closely linked to astrology, has a deterministic character and seeks an immovable destiny. Regarding physiognomy issues, a few of these appear in the religious text Bhavishia-purana, among a long series of rites and predictions, a work dated in the S.V BC. , as well as in the Vedic tradition Hastasāmudrikam. There is also a palmistry work attributed to a legendary sage named Valmiki, belonging to the 3rd century BC. I eat very late. Hand reading had two ways, one that distinguished the gender, where the woman had her destiny on the left and the man on the right, and another that gave the reading in the dominant hand, since it is the one with the greatest "intellect and initiative" demonstrates, leaving the left for past habits and things overcome. Since it already has a whole medical tradition associated with certain fingers and areas of the hand, the readings focus on the five most marked lines of the palm, which it shares with Western palmistry.

Except for this, there is not much greater mystery, since, as has been said before, this knowledge spread through Greece and thus reached Europe. Despite everything, he suffered quite a few alterations along the way, along with his medicinal loss. For example, it seems that the left-right linkage of hand readings according to the dominant hand, abandoned along the way the ideas that it did not share, such as the reading of the existence of past lives or karmic issues, or the influences of the chakras, being the hands doors for their expression.

Regarding Chinese palmistry, from its beginnings treatises are known in the S.III BC., and it is associated with the trigrams and hexagrams of the I-Ching, each of which is associated with an area of the body, of the hand and The elements. With this it implied spiritual and universal relationships, very close to other medicinal techniques such as acupuncture. And while each zone is examined separately in medicinal practice, there is a general system for palmistry that divides the hands into eight zones (sometimes eleven, depending on the tradition followed) of influence or palaces, each one determining a different environment: luck, love, work, personality, beauty, family, successes, etc., and it is in these areas where the most meticulous observations are focused.

- Nowadays.

Without the need for much time, the methods, of supposed common origins, varied completely. Palm reading today pays attention to some parts and Western palmistry to others - for example, in the East, especially in the Hindu culture, each part is analyzed separately, and textures, mountains, etc. are taken into account. depressions... even fingerprints!; and in the West, even the layman knows the ideas about the "greater" importance of the lines of the hand, or the length of the fingers, nails, etc. - Combining the two versions exclusively in the most modern and scholarly cases: that is, in compilations and volumes of which very little actually reaches the streets.

It is necessary to note that, at this point, there are even novel techniques and practices, such as runic palmistry, which links the fingers to divinities and looks for runic symbols in the lines of the palms, including the Yggdrassil tree; also the one that links astrology and palmistry through the auxiliary use of the Tarot; Palmistry, which considers that the palm of the hand is the visible part of the brain, where it is possible to locate illnesses as well as feelings and thoughts, as well as predict, not just the future, but how one will react when the time comes.

And also note, as will be seen in subsequent articles, that much of the "general culture" of the palmist in his divinations, are the deductions of which we spoke at the beginning: a scratchy hand belongs to someone who performs manual labor, the fine fingers of who writes on the computer or plays a musical instrument... Many of the charlatans who discredit beliefs of this type are dedicated to asking and observing the reactions of people, extracting information in this way, which is far from physiognomic deduction, as well as from any other tradition.

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada - pietrocarracedo@gmail.com

-Caro Baroja, J. Historia de la fisiognómica. El rostro y el carácter. Ediciones Istmo, Madrid, 1988
-Claus. J.P. Diamond. S. Mills. Ma. A. ; South Asian folklore. An Encyclopedia. Routledge, NY, 2003
-Fadh. T. La divination árabe. Études religieuses, sociologiques et folkloriques sur le milieu natif de l'Islam. E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1966
-Lawrence-Mathers, A., Escobar Vargas, C. Magic and Medieval Society. Routledge, London & NY, 2014.
-Servier J.(ed.) Diccionario crítico del esoterismo. Akal, 2006

Related posts:
>Western astrology. Astrology notions (I)
> The Five Elements: East and West
>Mudras. Introduction. Jñana mudra and Kubera mudra.
Licencia de Creative Commons
Este obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional.