Palmistry: Frequently Asked Questions



The hand of sumo wrestler Ozeki Chiyotaikai Ryūji


Q: What is palmistry?

A: Palmistry (or hand analysis) is an ancient art and science that interprets the shape, contours, lines and skin ridge patterns of the human hand. While sometimes associated with colorful images of gypsy storefront fortunetellers, a growing number of psychologists, medical doctors, geneticists and other professionals have discovered that the often unique features of the hand can be reliable indicators of personality traits, health trends, sexuality and creative ability.

Q: How long has palmistry been around?

A. Studies of the human hand- both as a tool for creative expression and as a mirror of our inner selves- go back over five thousand years. It is believed that the ancient Chinese began studying the hand as early as 3000 BCE. In India at about the same time, Aryan sages developed the study of hand analysis, Hast Samudrika Shastra, as part of a larger science (Samudrika Shastra), which interprets and human nature and forecasts destiny by scrutinizing the forehead, face, hands, chest and feet. Writings related to the study of the human hand can be found in Indian literature dating back to 2000 BCE, while the earliest references to palmistry itself can be found in Vedic texts. The ancient Chaldeans, Tibetans and Babylonians studied the science of hand analysis, as well as the early Egyptians and Persians.

Among the early Jews, hand reading was spoken of in the Zohar, and the ancient Greeks were enthusiastic students of hand symbology and hand analysis. Aristotle was supposed to have found an ancient Arabic document on chirosophy on an altar to Hermes. He is credited with having authored several specialized treatises on hands, including one written especially for Alexander the Great. The hand has also enjoyed special religious significance in nearly every early world culture, including those of the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Egyptians and Native Americans.

Q: What's the scientific rationale behind palmistry?

A: Scientists believe that our hands are like a hologram revealing the genetic makeup we inherited from our parents as part of the ancestral gene pool. These traits are not only seen in the size and shape of the hand, but by shape of the the fingers, types of fingerprints, and other skin ridge patterns (such as loops and whorls which appear on the palm) that are formed while we are in the womb.

A growing number of biologists, geneticists and physicians look to the hand to understand human health and disease. One of my most gratifying collaborations was in co-authoring a book with the late Eugene Scheimann, M.D., whose pioneering work in medical palmistry set the standard for evaluating physical and emotional health through hand analysis. Medical Palmistry (presently out of print) was published by Aquarian Press in 1989.

Q: Can the lines change?

A: Though some hand characteristics (such as the fingerprints) remain the same throughout our life, some people can change the shape of their hand, reduce or increase the number of lines, and alter the flexibility or strength of the hand through work, exercise, or other lifestyle changes.

I have often seen lines change: they can appear or disappear, grow stronger or weaker, become more solid or fragmented, and can even increase or decrease in length. Beceuse the hand is not unlike a living hologram, I believe that the lines can change depending on our attitudes and the life we live. For example, a weak life line can become stronger if we give up smoking, or a strong union line can become shorter if we choose to get involved in extramarital affairs. In some cases, changes in the lines can be seen in the hand in as little as two or three weeks.

Q: What can the lines in the hand reveal?

A: In addition to being a mirror of our inherent genetic makeup, the lines can reveal changing patterns of health, emotional stability, the development of talents, and major events which are determined by the way we respond to our life experience. Since the lines of the hand have the ability to change, they offer us a unique opportunity to monitor our life path, and see into the past, the present and future potential.

Q: How does one go about studying palmistry?

A: Like any complex art and science, palmistry requires a great deal of study. In my case, I was fortunate to have learned the basics from Teresa Gómez de Barberi, a competent (and very patient) palmist and psychic who offered to be my first teacher back in 1969 while I was living in Colombia. In addition to her personal instruction, I began reading palmistry books by various authors in order to explore different approaches and diverse points of view. I highly recommend this approach.

Unfortunately, many palmistry books on the market today are essentially "derivative" books where a writer with little or no experience in palmistry takes bits and pieces from a variety of palmistry books, cobbles them together into a manuscript, and has it published. I've never liked this approach, and feel that the author's knowledge and personal experience are essential.

In addition to my own books, The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Palmistry, Sexual Palmistry and Palmistry: The Universal Guide, I recommend Judith Hipskind's The Hand from A to Z, Lori Reid's Art of Hand Reading and Andrew Fitzherbert's Hand Psychology. All provide a good grounding in the essentials of scientific palmistry by authors who have extensive knowledge and expertise on the subject. The classic text The Benham Book of Palmistry (originally published as The Laws of Scientific Hand Reading) by William G. Benham should be in the library of every advanced student of hand analysis.

In addition to studying palmistry books, I began taking hand prints of relatives and friends in the quest to better understand how to interpret different features and markings of the hand. I also found that taking prints of the same person over a period of time (such as once a year over a five or ten year period) offered valuable insights in how the lines of the hand can change over time.

While a student at the University of Wisconsin, I offered to read people's hands in exchange for a hand print and completing a questionnaire. I also solicited feedback concerning the veracity of my readings. Though sometimes a humbling experience, I feel that I learned much from this approach. After over thirty years of study and practice (and after having written more than a half dozen books on the subject), I still consider myself a student of palmistry, and always learn something new!

Q: What can palmistry do for us?

A: Palmistry can offer the following guidance on our life's journey:

1. Hand analysis helps develop self-knowledge. It can indicate our strengths and weaknesses, point out lessons we need to learn in life, and reveal major inner issues we need to resolve. It also teaches that conflict has a benign purpose in life and helps us develop wisdom, patience, courage and experience.

2. It can offer a perspective on life that is both objective and real. Hand reading goes beyond our limited ego patterns and projections and gives us an idea of where we are in life and where we are going. It shows how our basic psychological nature can affect our health, career and relationships, and can indicate what is needed to achieve a greater sense of harmony in our lives.

3. Because palmistry often confirms our basic insights and feelings, it can bring a greater degree of self-confidence and self-reliance. This enables us to look at our lives with a deeper sense of ease, and helps us work through challenges and obstacles with optimism and purpose.

4. Hand analysis enables the person to determine the types of activities to pursue in life which will bring the greatest amount of pleasure, interest and self-fulfillment.

5. Hand analysis can reveal how our experiences fit into an overall pattern of events which constitute our basic life structure or life plan. It helps us see life more in terms of an adventure to be experienced rather than an endless series of problems, obstacles, frustrations and punishments.

6. Palmistry enables those we counsel to get in touch with our deeper essence that goes beyond the ego consciousness level. It helps them to draw from this well-spring of strength and inner wisdom so that they can move more confidently through periods of difficulty.

7. In addition to helping the person for whom we are reading, chirology helps the reader achieve a deeper level of inner attunement with the 'client' rather than project our own subconscious assumptions into what should or should not be done in his or her life. It helps us understand their real needs and arrive at an appropriate recommendation for therapy or care.

8. For those who are serious about developing their knowledge of chirology to serve others, hand analysis helps us get more deeply in touch with our own inner being, and leads us to rely more on our intuition and inner wisdom in our work.

9. Finally, hand analysis attests to the uniqueness of every single human being. No one else on the planet has a hand exactly like ours. In a culture that encourages sameness and conformity, palmistry reveals that each individual is a unique combination of personality traits, talents and aspirations. Every one of us has a special task in life and a unique combination of qualities to offer during our lifetime.

Though thousands of years old, hand analysis is still a young and developing science. Although we still do not know completely why and how the hands reveal what they do, a complex system has evolved over the centuries that can show- through the study of the hand's shape, texture, contours and lines- important information about our lives which can serve as a guidepost for self understanding and personal fulfillment.

If you'd like to schedule a private consultation with Nathaniel Altman in person (or remotely via Zoom or Line), lecture presentation or group event, you can contact him at 718.499.2384 or by email: natman169 (at) gmail (dot) com.