We’ve all had a wild year and a half and, while we’re edging ever closer to freedom day, everyone's lives have been paused in some way due to the coronavirus pandemic. During times of such collective uncertainty, our thoughts inevitably turn to the future, even though we can't predict it... or can we?
I mean, wouldn’t it be reassuring to be able to know for sure that we’ll could bounce back from this? That success is written in the stars? Or, in fact, etched right into our hands?
After a year of uncertainty and several lockdowns spent single, I was impatient to know if true love – or an illustrious career break – was ever going to show up for me. So, I decided to turn to palm reading to find out.
Unlike tarot readings, palmistry is meant to cover your whole lifespan, so this fit the bill perfectly (I mean, who knows how long the effects of Covid will linger on for?). Eager to see what wild rides I could be holding in the palm of my hands, I called in to visit two London-based palm readers, Gary Markwick and Philena Bruce, to help me uncover my fate while getting the lowdown on this ancient practice – and whether it’s something you can DIY.
What is palm reading?
Palmistry is a form of divination, like the Tarot. It involves studying the lines on your hands to give insights into your personality – flaws and all – as well as the dates of major events that could occur throughout your lifetime. “For most people, that means key job changes and important relationships,” says Philena.
A brief history of palm reading
Palmistry, or chiromancy as it’s also known, is thought to be around 5,000 years old but exactly where it originated is unknown. Some credit ancient Egypt, but Gary thinks it’s more likely to have started in Northwestern India and Pakistan.
Either way, it’s clear people have always been drawn to making sense of the markings on our hands. It’s referenced in the Bible and in Judaism’s Kabbalah school of thought. Philosopher Carl Jung had an interest in the practice, and Aristotle wrote a thesis on the subject and presented it to Alexander the Great. It’s also been handy (no pun intended) for selecting fierce warriors throughout history: Julius Caesar supposedly judged his men by the back of their hands and Napoleon gauged who’d be a decent general by their thumb.
Popularity declined while Henry VIII was in power (tbf, it was a pretty tough gig during a time those presumed to be witches were routinely burned at the stake) but by the Victorian era, people started developing a greater interest in mysticism and palmistry experienced a renaissance.
Nowadays, some readers take a more scientific approach, calling themselves hand analysts and working very practically; dividing the palm into four and using a grid system to read. But Gary still thinks a healthy dose of intuition is needed to give the best readings. “My mother always said that you won’t really know which is working harder at the time – your intuition or the lines themselves, and I think that’s true,” he says.
How to read palms
To begin, check the squishy bumps below the fingers, aka the ‘mounts’. These represent ambition, money and creativity so the fleshier, the better. The mount of Saturn (under the middle finger) is an exception: too pronounced and it can mean a more gloomy character – awks.
Then take a look at the strength and condition (how deep are they? Any breaks?) of the three major lines: the heart (at the top, under your fingers), head (across the middle of your hand) and lifeline (curving around the thumb, towards the bottom of your palm). These represent your emotions, mentality and vitality, respectively.
Next, the finer markings – the fate, destiny and success lines, typically crossing vertically through your palm – can fill in some colour, outlining your setbacks and successes. “Think of the mounts as mountains, the main lines as the seas and oceans and the finer markings as the rivers and estuaries of your life,” says Gary.
More practically, Philena suggests that palmistry is like reading a graph. “If up is hot, then low is cold and lukewarm is in the middle,” she says. “So, if your head line slopes right down, it means you’re very creative. If it's parallel to the other line, creativity may not be your strong suit. A gentle slope means you're slightly creative, and so on.”
Certain markings mean good news: triangles equal success and stars suggest brilliance, Philena says, but look out for signs of trouble: a line from the middle finger, crossing another line which is thicker at the crossing point than the line its crossing, could symbolise an accident. Eesh.
But what I couldn’t tell is exactly how the readers determine what’s going to happen and when. While looking at my hand, Gary said, confidently, that I’d take trips to Japan and California in the future for work. Erm, and how exactly do you know this? “It’s taken about 30 years of experience,” he laughs. “It’s not in any palmistry book!”
Yup, it turns out that reading palms takes serious practise and requires a level of intuition that the average person probably won’t have. I’d suggest going to a professional, tbh, but if you’re super keen to learn, Philena and Gary both run courses. “You should have quite a good knowledge by the end, if you’re willing to sit with it and take it all in,” says Gary, “but the rest is down to your intuition.”
What to expect from a palm reading
I was a little nervous beforehand but, fortunately, you shouldn’t worry about hearing anything awful. Both Gary and Philena said they’d focus on the positives and the elements of your health and character you can work on yourself: something I found to be true in my readings. After both experiences, I was left with food for thought, but feeling positive overall.
So, what’s the verdict for me? Well, both readers gave similar timeframes for the landmarks of my life. Supposedly, I’ll be married by my mid-to-late 30s, will ultimately work on a self-employed basis and should find myself reaping some career rewards reasonably soon. It doesn’t sound like I’ll end up a millionaire (I’d be “better off finding a rich husband,” apparently – ooft) but everything that was revealed sounded very normal and reassuring after such a turbulent year. There were some more exciting bits; apparently I have one of the aforementioned lucky triangles, which could indicate a windfall and, ofc, I’ll have my cool travel stories from my foreign work trips.
Saying that, some areas differed between readings. Gary said I would have one long relationship that would go on for many years whereas, scandalously, Philena suggested I may get married before embarking on an affair a few years later – and then go on to meet another man at 50. Erm… wowza.
This might leave you feeling sceptical but what struck me the most from both experiences was the practical advice each reader offered. At points they felt like slightly bizarre therapy sessions – and I was here for it.
“People like you struggle to lose your temper at the correct time,” said Philena, when we were discussing relationships. “You hold everything in until multiple issues build up and then explode over something that, to your partner, seems small. They’ll have no idea what’s hit them, so you need to share your grievances straight away – before things spiral out of control.”
Three weeks later, I found myself thinking about this. I’d just ended things with a man I’d been seeing, via an explosive text, over something I considered to be the last straw in a line of issues. He was completely bewildered – and I realised I hadn’t taken Philena’s advice. Perhaps if I had, we could have resolved the problems promptly as they’d arisen and been able to save the relationship.
So, while we may find ourselves drawn to divination methods when we’re feeling out of control – wanting to know the paths we may find ourselves on, or just whether everything is all gonna be okay in the end – the truth is that we alone have the power to decide our fate with every action that we consciously take.
Honestly? I think that gives me more peace of mind than anything else ever could.
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