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What does a Palmist do?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A palmist is someone who examines palms and fingers, and sometimes the soles of the feet as well, with the goal of making predictions about the future on the basis of characteristics observed during the examination. Palmistry is generally regarded as pseudoscience, and palmists take their professions with a varying degree of seriousness. Some genuinely believe that they can read the future and other information about clients from their palms, while others take a more playful approach to their fortunetelling, offering clients the opportunity to participate in a long cultural tradition without necessarily believing that the palms hold the keys to the future.

The practice of reading palms is common to many cultures, and appears to be thousands of years old, as numerous contemporary accounts from cultures in China, India, Greece, and Egypt attest. Each culture has developed its own approach to palmistry, with each analyzing the features of the palm such as the folds and creases, mounds of the palm, and fingerprints. Palmistry has been used historically to do everything from informing medical practice to identifying suspected witches.

Chiromancy, as it is also known, can supposedly be used to find out when someone will die, make predictions about wealth, luck, and marriage, and to make predictions about someone's character and personality. A palmist often has excellent perceptive skills which can be used to gather information from clients in order to make more accurate predictions or statements. Different traditions have different approaches which can involve contrasting the dominant hand with the nondominant hand, associating specific fingers with particular entities or gods, and attributing values to the deep lines which score the middle of the palm. A palmist may integrate several traditional practices, or focus on one in particular.

Palmists can be found working at street fairs, circuses, metaphysical shops, and similar environments. Some may offer other fortunetelling services such as card readings or interpretations of crystal balls, and many adopt personas for their palm reading which may rely on stereotypical associations with palm reading. A palmist may use free palmistry as a hook for clients, reading palms for free and offering additional fortunetelling services for a fee.

The practice of palmistry is subject to varying degrees of regulation. In some nations, a palmist may practice freely and make any claims he or she likes about the services offered. In other areas, palmists may be required to obtain licenses, and they may be banned from making certain types of advertisements which are considered misleading or false. People who are interested in careers as palmists can learn the trade from experienced palmists as well as numerous texts and videos.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon265643 — On May 02, 2012

I totally agree with @SnowyWinter. In the Catholic church it is considered a sin.

By SnowyWinter — On Mar 16, 2011

@stormyknight- That is really a difficult question to answer, as there are different opinions on the matter. If looking at it from the biblical standpoint, many do consider palmistry, psychic readings, and tarot card readings a sin.

I’m pretty sure that in the Catholic church it is considered a sin. All forms of divination are looked upon as sins. That includes astrology, horoscopes, and palm reading.

By StormyKnight — On Mar 14, 2011

Not to be controversial, but is palm reading considered a sin? My sister is studying to be a palm reader and her husband is very adamant that palmistry reading is a sin. Does anyone have any input on that?

By PurpleSpark — On Mar 13, 2011

@cellmania- Palm reading, unlike other types of “fortune telling”, does not require any kind of psychic ability. There are several different ways that one can learn how to read palms. Some people actually go to workshops to learn the trade. Others buy books or other literature to study.

However, many people claim to have the ability to read palms that do not. They learn how to fake it and many people buy into it.

By CellMania — On Mar 11, 2011

I'm not really sure if I believe in psychics or that someone could really know how to read palms. I suppose I am a skeptic.

The article stated something about "careers as palmists". Is this a career that you would really train for or do you have to already have some kind of given talent?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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