Page:Primitive Culture Vol 1.djvu/143

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125
PALMISTRY.

in Europe, we can hardly go to a better place than our own country; a proper English term for it is 'reading the speal-bone' (speal = espaule). In Ireland, Camden describes the looking through the blade-bone of a sheep, to find a dark spot which foretells a death, and Drayton thus commemorates the art in his Polyolbion: —

'By th' shoulder of a ram from off the right side par'd, Which usually they boile, the spade-bone being bar'd, Which when the wizard takes, and gazing therupon Things long to come foreshowes, as things done long agone.'[1]

Chiromancy, or palmistry, seems much like this, though it is also mixed up with astrology. It flourished in ancient Greece and Italy as it still does in India, where to say, 'It is written on the palms of my hands,' is a usual way of expressing a sense of inevitable fate. Chiromancy traces in the markings of the palm a line of fortune and a line of life, finds proof of melancholy in the intersections on the saturnine mount, presages sorrow and death from black spots in the finger-nails, and at last, having exhausted the powers of this childish symbolism, it completes its system by details of which the absurdity is no longer relieved by even an ideal sense. The art has its modern votaries not merely among Gypsy fortune-tellers, but in what is called 'good society.'[2]

It may again and again thus be noticed in magic arts, that the association of ideas is obvious up to a certain point. Thus when the New Zealand sorcerer took omens by the way his divining sticks (guided by spirits) fell, he quite naturally said it was a good omen if the stick representing his own tribe fell on top of that representing the enemy, and vice versâ. Zulu diviners still work a similar process with their magical pieces of stick, which rise to say yes and

    vol. vii. p. 65; Grimm, 'D. M.' p. 1067; R. F. Burton, 'Sindh,' p. 189; M. A. Walker, 'Macedonia,' p. 169.

  1. Brand, vol. iii. p. 339; Forbes Leslie, vol. ii. p. 491.
  2. Maury, 'Magie, &c.', p. 74; Brand, vol. iii. p. 348, &c. See figure in Cornelius Agrippa, 'De Occult. Philosoph,' ii. 27.