Johannes Taisnier

To give an indication of how widespread the acceptance of chiromancy was in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, we need look no further than the eminent chiromancers practising in France at this time.

Johannes Taisnier was born in Belgium in 1509 and trained for the Church, but instead was to become tutor to the court of Emperor Charles V between 1530 and 1550. He travelled to Italy with the Royal Court where he had the opportunity to study in the Italian academies in Rome, Bologna and Padua, where it seems he picked up most of his chiromancy. At the death of Charles V, he retired to Cologne to an ecclesiastical post and wrote his 'Opus Mathematicum', a compilation of eight books on chiromancy, astrology and physiognomy published in 1562. Despite his esteemed reputation, very little of this treatise was original material, for he seems heavily indebted to Indagine for his astrology and physiognomy and to Cocles for his chiromancy. Like Cocles, he too boasted that he had never made an error of judgement in his assessment of hands and is fond of re-telling the stories of all his successful interpretations and predictions.

Illustration from Taisnier's 'Opus Mathematicum' 1562

Six of the sections of the book are devoted to the study of hands and there are literally thousands of diagrams of hands in the text illustrating various line formations and their meanings. He reproduces many of the traditional marks and signs in these diagrams, including those indicative of riches and inheritances as well as the many marks indicating the manner of death. He did however, approach the study of the hand from a very astrological perspective and was keen to perceive the two studies in relation to one another. He spends some time considering the significance and meaning of the planets and carefully allocates the planets to the various parts of the hand. Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo and Mercury have dominion of the digital mounts, as has been established for some time now, and Venus and the Moon rule the thenar and hypothenar areas of the palm respectively.

Mars has dominion over the centre of the palm alone, rather than rulership over any of the mount areas as considered by palmists today. The four main lines of the hand are the life line, the head line, the mensal line and the Saturn line but other lines considered include the Mars line, the Cinculum Veneris, the Linea Solaris, the Hepatica, the Via Lactia and the rascettes. This becomes the standard nomenclature and the standard allocation of planetary rulerships for the various parts of the hand at this time and is used by all the major authors of this period.

Taisnier was also an accomplished scientist of his day, a doctor of law, a medical man, a mathematician and a philosopher. He wrote at least one book on astrology and wrote treatises on various scientific themes, such as the properties of magnets and on astronomical instruments such as the planisphere and is known to have conducted various experiments in science and technology. He travelled extensively throughout Europe, Africa and Asia and even went to America, lecturing as he went. Taisnier is therefore a very good example of the ideal Renaissance Man - conversant with both the sciences and the occult arts, a chiromancer and yet also an astrologer. This brief account of his life and work again illustrates how all these subjects were seen to be interconnected in the academic mind of the day and, moreover, how subjects like chiromancy were both popular and widely accepted at this time.

Back to Top