Chiromancy and German Medical Orthodoxy

One of the distinctive features of chiromantical practice within Germany in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is how much attention it received from the academic and medical authorities of the day.  In common with the experience of Northern Italy, chiromancy and the other 'natural arts' readily found their way into the university curriculae.

Rudolph Goclenius

Rudolph Goclenius Goclenius (1572-1621) was a respected medic and physician with considerable astrological and chiromantical ability. He was strongly influenced by the work and writings of Paracelsus, but attained more social respectability than his predecessor since his skills and abilities received greater recognition and acknowledgement from the academic orthodoxy. He was at one time awarded a post at the University of Wittenberg where he is known to have lectured on chiromancy.

He wrote his first text on chiromancy, 'Aphorismorum Chiromanticorum Tractatus', at the age of twenty and produced at least two further works on the hand published at various times throughout the seventeenth century. The first of these was 'Uranoscopia, Chiroscopia & Metoposcopia', published in 1608 at Frankfurt and later included in 'Physiognomica et Chiromantia Specialia', published at Marpurgi in 1621. The first section of this work is a treatise on astrology, delineating the natal charts of individuals and giving judgements and interpretations, and there is also a section on the interpretation of the lines on the forehead (metoposcopy) as part of his more general physiognomical observations.

In the section on chiromancy, Goclenius looks back to Aristotle, Galen and Avicenna for the historical precedence for the study of the hand and quotes the passage from 'De Historia Animalium' and the biblical reference in Job 37:7 in defence of the art. He also draws strongly from contemporary authors such as Taisnier, Tricasso and Indagine and follows them in his use of terms for the lines and in the astrological associations to the various parts of the hand.

A second chiromantical treatise included in this work was also printed separately as 'Memorabilia experimenta et observationes chiromanticae cum specials judicio'. This was a short work of some 31 pages in which he discusses the significance of the right and left hands and includes a sheet of eleven illustrations of hands with line formations and 'new' observations. As a man of science, Goclenius has been latterly acknowledged by CG Jung as an important forerunner in the scientific recognition of the importance of the hand for the diagnosis of disease and the determination of patterns of psychology.

Ludwig Lutz

Ludwig Lutz wrote a treatise on the diagnosis of disease from the hand, 'Cheirosophia Concentrata', following the methods of Paracelsus, published at Nuremburg in 1679. Lutz follows the familiar format, citing Job 37:7, describing the meaning of the planets and their rulership of areas of the hand, with the bulk of the text given over to drawings of signs and marks in the hand and their significations. However, what is distinctive about Lutz's book is that he is one of the first chiromancers to give an extensive description on how chronological assessment may be made of the lines of the hand.

In one section of the work he gives a considerably detailed exposition of how to time the lines of the hand, even suggesting the use of a pair of dividers to accomplish this. Here we find many differences from the approach taken by most palmists today. For the rascettes are timed from the wrist up the forearm, each full line giving a life expectancy of 20 years, and the affection lines are timed from the base of the little finger down the palm. The base of the fingers are used to demarcate ten year intervals on the transverse lines of the hand, but it should be noted that the Mensal/Table line (the heart line) is timed from the percussion edge towards the index finger. The point at which the Saturn line cuts the Head line is given as 50 years whereas the point at which it cuts the Mensal line is given as being 75 years.

Philipp Meyes

A third treatise on the diagnosis of disease from the hand was written by Philipp Meyes of Coburg entitled 'Chiromantia Medica', published at Den Haag in 1667. The bulk of the text deals with the mounts and lines of the hand in the manner in which we are now completely familiar, but he also includes a chapter on the markings that can be found on the fingernails and gives a further section on medical physiognomy. The book was reprinted with an extra twenty-six chapters on chiromancy at Dresden in 1691 under the title of 'Chiromantia et Physiognomia Medica'. A text with the title 'Collegium Chiromanticum', comprising the notes from one of Meyes lectures on chiromancy given around the year 1676 in Latin and German, can be found in manuscript form in the British Museum as Ms Sloane 1733 fols. 403-433. One other early seventeenth century German work on chiromancy includes the Latin book by Nagel 'Chiromanthia Meganthropi', published at Leipzig in 1611.


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