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.