||Johnny Fincham is one of the leading chirologists (hand readers) in East Anglia. He has been hand reading for over fifteen years, and is fully booked three months in advance. In this interview, he talks about the history of chirology, his experiences of hand reading over the years, and what makes a good palm reader.
Interviewed by Brett Almond
Contact information is available at the end of the interview.
The first question I have to ask is why chirology and not palmistry or palm reading?
I try to use the word chirology to distinguish ‘the art’ of palm reading from traditional palmistry. Traditional palmistry has its merits, but really they are two different philosophies. One of the first ever pieces of literature in English is actually called the ‘Digby Roll’. It was written on calf skin in 1435, and it can be seen in the Bodleian library. It contains the basic treaties on palmistry and is one of the first written preserved pieces we have from that time. I remember the words on it:
"If there be an island in the line of Heart, if it be a woman, she shall die in childbirth, and if it be a man he shall die by hanging."
This demonstrates that fundamentally palmistry is fascinated by signs, particularly things like crosses, big Ws and the golden triangle. There is also the religious cross, the sign of Lucifer, and there are endless, marks, stars, triangles, squares, loops and circles.
Palmistry is primarily about predicting events by the observation of these particular markings on the hand and this dates back to medieval times, where people were fascinated by ‘fate’. And so naturally, this whole tradition grew up around this predictive sense. You could actually do a degree in palmistry in the middle ages. You could read astrology and palmistry, and that would be perfectly normal. It was things like maths and science that were considered to be really weird and bizarre! They were considered a very strange and new business! So to some extent, palmistry is still connected with many of these traditions, and is still obsessed with lines, symbols and prediction, and particularly in predicting sudden changes of fortune.
Chirology is completely different, and is relatively new art. I would have to say the first real chirologist was a man called William Benham, who was a soldier in the Crimea. He went to see a gypsy, and she read his hand, and told him some fascinating things about his wife and mother, all completely true. He was absolutely knocked out by this, so when he left the army, he decided he would study hand reading. He was a very rational, scientific and thorough character and he went on to write a book called ‘The Scientific Laws of Hand Reading’ which is an extremely good book, where he looks not just at the lines themselves, but at the whole hand – it’s shape, it’s skin texture, the balance of the fingers, the thumb and starts to give very crude links between human psychology and patterns in the hand. He also recognised that some things are given, that is to say you are born with a certain quality, and other things are developed. He also noticed that the hand changed over time.
This was a radical departure from palmistry, which does not recognise that the hand changes over time. Palmistry is fascinated by the predictive, and obviously if the line changes and they are reading the lines, they are in real trouble aren’t they? Because those lines are not going to be the same in the future and therefore it immediately counteracts the whole philosophy. So from William Benham’s book, a lot more rather scientific and investigative hand readers came along, although it must be said, very much in the minority.
Another very important person in the history of chirology was Charlotte Wolffe, who was a German Jew who got out of Germany just before the war. She studied the hands of a lot of ‘mental’ people. Obviously it is not very politically correct, but she would study the hands of ‘imbeciles’ (this was the language they were using then). She worked in a ‘mental home’ and noticed how their hands seemed to be radically different. There seemed to be lines missing, there seemed to be weak and bent fingers, and they seemed to be radically different from the hands of so called ‘normal’ people. So this is a further fascinating step to a more rational appreciation of the way nature is reflected in the hand.
And then another big step was the foundation of an association called the Chirological Society, of which I was quite a prominent member. It ran for quite a long time, and broke up about 5 years ago. That was a very good society because it trained people to a very good standard. You had to pass a basic, intermediate and advanced course in reading.
There were also a lot (2400 or so) of purely scientific papers based on dermatoglyphics, which are fingerprints. This has been mostly about health and dispositions towards particular illnesses. For example, a Hamburg university established whether or not people are going to get a heart attack, by reading their hands, with a factor of 93% accuracy.
I must say hand reading isn’t purely scientific though, intuition does play a part, and it does recognise the spiritual aspect of life. It’s not just a question of being coldly rational. It’s very much based on spiritual principles.
So how did you get into hand reading?
I I started working when I was at university in 1984/5. When I was at university I did Yoga, and the teacher happened to be part of the Chirological Society, and he started teaching me hand reading, and I’ve practised it ever since then. When I left university I became professional, and I have been a professional ever since. I was going to be teacher, so it was a bit of a diversion for me!
It probably takes two years to make a good chirologist. You need to learn to look at the hand shape, the skin texture, the balance of the fingers etc. There is also a lot to learn about psychology.
And what about reading future?
I think that ultimately character is future. What I mean by that is, one sees future in the terms of how they are now. The person you are, reflects the kind of future you are going to have. If you are an obsessive sort of person and insecure, then probably, that is going to create problems in your relationships. So you can make predictions about relationships based on your psychology and character. But also the lines might foretell a crisis and you must get the person to change, to prevent this. You also have to recognise that the character can change.
A palmist will say, "Oh my God there’s a storm coming, your ship is going to sink!"
Whereas a chirologist would say, "Oh dear there seems to be a storm coming, however if you baton down the hatches, get into port quickly, and sort your sailing equipment out, you should be fine, and should be able to cope with it."
So is it important how you present information to someone?
In chirology you try to pertain your advice to the particular strengths or weaknesses of that person. I always read to the thumb and the head line, which may sound a bit odd. But you look at the person and see how clever they are or how they think and try to read according to that kind of mind. There is a certain line at the top of the heart line or water line, which if someone has, you know they tend to be very dreamy and arty, ruled by Uranus, which is all to do with TV and the world of illusions – things that are not real. So they love to be described to in symbolic language – to be told about their karma and their past lives and their motives and their spiritual life. You need to be more imaginative in your descriptions when you are talking to someone like that.
Or you might meet someone with a very level, straight, head line or air line. It might not be curved at all. They are not going to be impressed by that kind of "arty-farty" language. They’d rather talk about material things, like family, money, and pretty much be more hard headed with things. So one great skill is to learn to read to the individual, and not to give a standard reading. That is one of the secrets of giving a good reading. It makes an enormous amount of difference.
I think I could claim to be quite a successful reader, as I am booked up three months ahead, and I do have quite a lot of clients who come back annually and we see how much their hands have changed. But if I had to say what was the key to this success, I would have to say that it is because I read very differently to different people, and I see that as being one of my own particular innovations. I think that is a great step forward in the art of reading.
How have you developed as a palm reader over the years? Does being a palm reader affect your own personal development?
Yes, I think one thing about readers, and this applies to all readers, is that you must follow your own advice! And it is something of a tragedy, because you find yourself telling somebody about how destructive a certain relationship is to them for instance, and then in your own life you develop problems, and you find you have to follow this advice yourself! You’ll have to do something about your own relationship. You have no right and no authority to give advice you cannot follow yourself.
I think in chirology and all the reading arts, you have to be very strong and very fit. You have to be prepared to take your own advice, and have to continually work on yourself. You need to be stronger than your client as a general rule. I’m quite fanatically fit. I’ve noticed how a lot of readers are sickly, not very well people. They seem to relate spiritual life with a very sort of passive life, not sort of doing very much physically – certainly not being very grounded and healthy. I think it is a very unhealthy business, hand reading generally. In Chinese medicine it relates to Kidney Yang Chi, the seat of emotional energy. Reading can drain and deplete you very quickly and you need to keep yourself up to scratch.
You say according to chirology that the palm can change. To what extent are things fixed, and what do we really have control over in our destinies?
I for instance have an air hand, a thin, square palm with long fingers. This means I’m an airy, aloof bugger, who’s always thinking and contemplating. I don’t tend to be good at family life - lots of babies and getting married, and that sort of thing. I tend to be on the skinny side, and tend to love books. That’s what airy people are like. There is no point in me trying to do anything to change that, so I have to recognise that and work within those limitations. So palm reading gives you an insight into the fixed things, the limiting things, but also gives great indication of the potential of a person. The things you can change. There is a lovely saying by Plato, and that is, "All fools are guided by their stars, but wise men steer their ship by them."
What he meant by that is if you just blindly go along thinking that everything is all fated and have a very passive attitude, then you’ll fail to accept your responsibilities and potentials as a spiritual being. Human beings did not just come here to run on rails of fate - we actually have free will.
I think to a certain extent in modern society, a lot of people don’t really know who they actually are. I think a lot of the time in palm reading, you are telling people who they are, because they have no idea. Years ago, we would all have lots of different experiences. We’d come from different villages, we’d have a different diet, and come from very different backgrounds. And now we are all very much exposed to the same influences. The same schools, the same teachings, same lifestyles, same adverts… We all have very similar lives, and I think therefore we think the same things will make us all happy, and unfortunately for many, that’s not the case.
So actually a lot of the time as readers, we are in the position of saying, "This is what you are like – this is your ideal lifestyle."
I can’t tell you the number of people who come along and say, "I need to know my life’s purpose."
And I’ll say, "You better go away and find someone who can tell you that – because I can’t!"
I’m certainly not going to go around telling people their life’s purpose. I can certainly give them an area and narrow down the field a lot. I can say, "You have an air hand. So you should develop a specialist area of knowledge and have lots of space. You will love words and philosophy and feel empathy for spirituality that has a rich written language that is much more of an Eastern than a Western form." I can give them clues, and point them in the right area, but I certainly can’t say that, "this is your life’s purpose." And it would be wrong to do so. You must take responsibility for the path you choose and find your own way, trusting your own judgement.
"Know thyself." I think it is a golden rule.
And ultimately I do think life is actually pretty tough. There are a lot of people within the spiritual realm who somehow hide within the world of spirituality. They kind of withdraw from life. It’s rather like, getting the train to heaven and getting off at the first bus stop. I think that actually it is a bit of a cop out. The test of a spiritual path is that it should make it easier to live in the world. Again it is a Buddhist understanding, that life is actually quite difficult. It’s not that easy, and nor should it be. It’s no good dodging things.
I say this out of hard experience, because I’d love to dodge out of any damn thing! I’ve always wanted to go for the easier side! I’ve had lots of bad times in my life, probably of my own making. I had a lot of trouble with the Police when I was younger, and I have certainly lived. And I can certainly sadly say I haven’t particularly lived a terribly spiritual life. But what I try to do is live a good life now.
So what is it like being a hand reader? Are you still learning?
As a palm reader, people are going to think you are a bit odd. And it has to be said it is a bit of an odd thing to do with your time. But it is enormously rewarding, and you don’t stop learning. I’m certainly learning still. And I must say it has changed over the years. Even since the time I’ve been learning it has changed.
I did a paper called "Contrary Manifestations of Chirological Indications." – a gloriously rather nutty sounding title! It’s all about how reading is becoming more and more difficult because people are more and more free. Life these days gives people more and more opportunities, so it’s much more difficult to tell what people are up to. Before it was easier. People had more limitations in their lives – educational and financial particularly.
Then, you could quite easily see this person had a comfortable childhood, they are quite well off and they are going to do all right in life. But you can’t actually do that so much any more, unfortunately.
The most successful people amazingly these days are sometimes the most desperate people. Millionaires and very rich people, films stars, actors, actresses, they tend actually to be the most unstable. You’d think they’d be blessed with greater confidence, but often they have the most desperate insecurities, and a complete sense of ruthless opportunism. And they do not display the qualities of artistic talent, good fortune, good earth and good background where they used to. They may display very negative traits. So whereas in the past you might have looked at someone’s hand and say, "Good God, this person is corrupt and is going to come to a bad end and end up in prison!" Today you’ll probably find them on Big Brother or some damn thing, making an absolute fortune. So the nature of hand reading isn’t stable, it has to move with the times.
Also, I must say there probably hasn’t been a better time for hand reading. I’m busier now than I have ever been. Whereas I used to read for "hippy girls" almost exclusively, now I do absolutely everybody. I do doctors and lawyers and teachers – well basically you name it! I get a much broader scope of people because many more people are accepting of it and less sceptical. There is much more a sense of people being happy to take a look at it and make up there own mind.
ertainly when I first started off people always used to laugh at me, and say it was a load of twaddle, particularly men. I used to sometimes get quite a hard time over it. But not at all now. That’s got to be a good thing.
We live in a different world. It is certainly changing – changing all the time.
Anything you’d like to finish with?
I suppose really to say that reading hands is hard. I suppose it is worth saying that. I had dreams of having a lovely easy life, meeting fascinating people and doing these nice readings, but it is hard work
A lot of responsibility?
The worse thing, believe it or not, that can happen, and it does often happen is that somebody comes along and says something like, "I’ve had a terrible time, and things have been really difficult for me, but I know that you are going to sort me out. You did my friend and she was really, really happy, and I know you are really going to do the same for me."
It’s dreadful, it puts you under such enormous pressure. You get very nervous, and then of course you give one of the worse readings you’ve ever done! It’s that sense of expectation.
What about people who are reading this, and they feel attracted to palm reading. Is there any advice you can give, or books you would recommend?
I would say it’s good to study some psychology, and learn a bit about human nature. There are some good books that are worth reading, and there are others that are a load of old cobblers!
The very best book I would recommend is one written in the sixties by a woman called Beryl Hutchinson "Your Life in Your Hands".
And probably William Benham’s book "The Laws of Scientific Hand Reading", which is a very ancient book now, but it is still available. (ISBN: 0878771379)
Thanks Johnny for the interview, I think people will find this very interesting. I certainly have.