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History of Palmistry aka Palm Reading

Learn the history of palm reading, also known as palmistry, from psychotherapist and palm reading expert Ellen Goldberg, M.A. in this Howcast video.


Hello, this is Ellen Goldberg in The Language of the Hand. Today we're going to talk about the history of palmistry. Palmistry is really ancient. We can see that people have been reading and looking at the hand and wondering about the markings really since the dawn of time. Look at the hands that were found in cave paintings. We have a shot here of one from thirty-five thousand years BC. These were found in France. The pictures of the horses and, uh, animals, or the animals of their world, but the interesting part is the palm. It seems as though people knew that they were unique, and they signed those cave paintings, perhaps from individuality, perhaps the hand being used as a magical talisman. We really cannot know. But, we do know that people were interested in their hand. In some of the oldest scriptures in the world, the Vedas from India, there is mention of palmistry thousands of years before Christ. In fact, in one of the parts of the Vedas, the monks of the time were advised not to read palms for money, and this is very interesting for us, because it shows that even two thousand years before Christ, palmistry was a profession. Although it is quite likely that palmistry started in India, it's just as old in China, and we have our first reference to palmistry actually in Chinese medical texts.

They used the lines of the hand to diagnose disease. We see documents from emperors and officials where the hand was used to sign, to show the authenticity of the document, and of course, the Chinese used fingerprints for identification a thousand years before we started using them here in the west. The Crusaders, in the Middle Ages, coming back from the Middle East, brought palmistry as well as many other arts, so many fabulous things, from the Arabs, the Persians. Palmistry has a long tradition in the Arab countries, and the Crusaders brought it back to Europe with them. Also, the Gypsies, who originally came from India, brought it with them when they migrated to Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth century, and under the guise of fortune-telling, kept it alive, really, we have a big debt to them, because the church for many years in the Middle Ages, and I think it's not too comfortable with it even now, uh, forbade divination. But as a simple game of fortune-telling it was able to survive, when really, it's so much more than fortune-telling. It's a deep look into the heart and soul of an individual, and a map of your life, so that you can make the very best of your life.

In America, we had a fabulous palmist, Dr. William Benham, this is in the mid-1800's, and Benham wrote one of the finest books ever written on palmistry, published probably when he was in his sixties or near seventy, in the year 1900. It's this book that I recommend to my student, The Law of Scientific Hand Reading. I recommend that they read it about five times. Now that I'm writing a book, maybe you only have to read Benham twice, and you can read my book next year when it comes out with Inner Traditions: Palmistry Deep and Clear, uh, you can read that twice as well. The reason I say you want to read these books more than once is because there's an awful lot of information, and at first you think, oh, this is too much.

Certainly, Benham, who I respect, and I come from the school out of Benham's school, was influenced so much by his Victorian mindset, so Benham's book, although filled with wonderful things, does not include women, people of different races, multiculturalism, and it has a Victorian mindset, and I think he rarely mentioned sex, and that will be an important part of our segments, too, because palmistry is based on archetypes, on the primary patterns that make up individuals, and the sex life is an important part of that. We'll be going into so many parts of the hand in this series, so join me again soon. Pleasure to see you. Bye for now.

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