Metham's Palmestrie c.1450
Being a transcription of the original manuscript written by John Metham from Ingham in Norfolk c.1450 First published in book form by Professor Hardin Craig in 1916 from manuscripts held at All Souls College in Oxford and in the Garrett collection at Princeton University in the USA. Rendered sympathetically into modern English by this author in 1993
Tales Milesias was the first philosopher from the city of Athens, by the inspiration of the god Apollo, to write the science of chiromancie in the language of Parce; and master Aristotle translated it out of Parce and into Greek. And out of Greek, doctor Aurelian, who was born in Italy, translated this science into Latin; and out of Latin, John Metham, a simple scholar in philosophy, translated it into English in the twenty-fifth winter of his life, praying that all readers will have patience with the crude rendering; but as my author rendered it plainly in Latin, so it is my purpose to render it plainly in English.
In the beginning of his text, my author makes this distinction, saying:
There be in creatures hands lines and tokens, of which some are accidental and some are natural. Accidental lines are those that are caused of heat or cold or labour; of which it changeth nothing, for they signify nothing, as a working of nature. Natural lines are those that come of disposition of nature, of which my author treats in the book that now follows.
The Four Principal Lines
The first basic ground-rule is that a well-disposed hand has four principal lines. The first line is the first part of the triangle and it goes about the hill of the thumb. The second line is the middle line that passes through the middle of the hand. The third line forms the foot of the triangle and the space enclosed by the triangle is named the hole of the hand. The fourth line is the table line, for that part of the hand which is between the middle line and the table line is known as the table.
From this fourth line, the disposition of the heart of both men and women is known. The line begins between the showing finger and the longest finger and proceeds across the hand out towards the little finger. This line indicates the private life of men and women.
That part of the hand between the table line and the fingers is called the hill of the fingers and that part of the hand between the triangle and the showing finger is called the hill of the showing finger. And to each of these fingers belongs a planet: Saturn belongs to the longest finger and its hill, Mercury to the leech finger and its hill, Venus to the thumb and its hill, Jupiter to the showing finger and its hill and Mars to the little finger, its hill and to the table line.
A triangle that is of even length, even on all sides, well-coloured and if it is also full of well-coloured lines within, it betokeneth bodily strength and a bold heart.
If the lines of the triangle are short and the triangle is narrow and the person who has this sign is young, with good governance he should live long, be a true friend and have great fame.
If the space within the triangle be broad, well-coloured and plain, without many lines within, it signifies largeness and hardiness.
But if these signs are not found as they are specified here, they betoken the contrary. For instance, if the lines of the triangle are long and evil-coloured with a great distance, it signifies a feebleness of complexion and a short life. And so on with all the other signs which are contrary to what has been written, applying the same reasoning.
The Right Line
If the right part of the triangle, that is to say the right line, be longer than the left, it signifies that they should have great prosperity until their life ends and that they should die a fair death. But if it be that the left is longer than the right, it signifies a wretched life and a disworshipful end.
If the right line is so long that it reaches the brawn of the hand, the hill of the thumb, is broad, well-coloured and is not littered with other small lines or strikes, it signifies a good disposition of the heart and spiritual membris in a man. However, the person that has this token seldom or never brings any work to its end.
If the line is small, it signifies wisdom and good wits, but if it is broad and evil-coloured, then it signifies the contrary.
If the right part of the triangle be deep and great and of an earthy colour, then it signfies rudeness and bustewysness and that the person lives like an animal.
If the right line of the triangle is inordinately pointed and is great and red, it signifies a great disposition to lechery. And if there is a sign thus: O that man or woman should lose an eye. If two such signs appear, then that person will lose both their eyes.
If the same right line be full of small lines striking through it but which do not cause the line to discontinue and if it goes right up to the hill of the thumb and not divide this aforementioned line, it betokeneth riches and worship. And if in this same line there are descending strikes and the middle is cut or divided with other lines or strikes, these lines signify great vexation, troubles and anger.
And this ought to be noted of all the lines other than the four principal lines; if the colour is red, then the signification of that line is yet to come. But if it is pale and can be hardly seen, or else it is cut through by one line or many lines, either the signification is past or it has little effect.
If such lines pass up out of the same strike to the middle line and thereby pass through the triangle or by the triangle, it signifies a trustworthy and loving person, but someone who will have much vexation and trouble in their first age.
If there are small lines cutting this aforementioned line asunder, passing up to the hill of the thumb, they signify many sorrows, but that the person will overcome them in the end with labour.
The Middle Line
The middle line, if it be right, deep and well-coloured, signifies health and goodness of complexion and an excellent wit. And if this line is long and does not pass the hill of the showing finger, it signifies hardiness and length of life.
But if the line is short and passes not the hole of the hand, it signifies little reason and fearfulness; those that have this sign are so envious that if they do someone some good, either in word or deed, so they repent them afterwards.
If this middle line be so long that it ends beneath the little finger, it signifies shortness of life and someone who will be poor before his end. And if it turns up towards the fingers, it signifies a great fool.
If this middle line is crooked and not right, it signifies that the person is full of malice and that they utter this malice and evil in the absence of the persons they hate, though they speak fair and flatter them to their face. My author says that this sign is true for all four complexions.
If the middle line is broad and deep, it signifies a rude wit and little wisdom.
And if, at the beginning of the middle line, there is a well-coloured strike from there to the hill of the showing finger, it signifies riches in the first age. If it proceeds to the middle finger, it signifies riches in the middle age; and if it proceeds to the little finger, it signifies riches in the last age.
And when the middle line is right and long, sufficiently deep, even and well-coloured, it signifies a mighty stomach, mirth and hardiness. And if the line is not as specified here, it signifies the contrary, that is to say a feeble stomach, heavyness and feebleness.
And this is a general rule: that if a line is right, deep and well-coloured it signifies a good disposition of that to which it is correspondent.
The line which goes about the thumb belongs to the heart, therefore if this line is right, deep and well-coloured, it shows a good disposition of the heart. And if to the contrary, it shows an evil disposition of the heart.
And so it is with all the other lines. The middle line belongeth to the brain; and the table line belongeth to the private life of men and women generally.
The foot of the triangle belongeth to the liver; and the same rule applies here as it did with the first line as we have already seen.
The Angles of the Triangle
This you must consider: a triangle is made of three lines and no more, yet it has three corners and so you can see in this figure the shape of a triangle. The first corner of the triangle in every hand is formed by the middle line, for the line that goes around the brawn of the thumb and the middle line make up two parts of the triangle and also make the first corner.
If the first corner of the triangle does not pass the space between the showing finger and the long finger, it signifies an evil disposition of man's conscience, greatly inclined to extortion and vices.
But if this corner be just the two lines meeting sharply together, as appears in this figure it signifies covetousness and streteness in keeping of money.
And if the lines of the triangle meet together about the middle of the showing finger, it signifies a subtle wit. But sometimes it happens that these lines do not meet together in this part of the triangle. This signifies that the person is vicious and cruel. And if he that has this sign is bound, he should never be set free; and if he be a lord that has this mark, he should die mischievously.
And sometimes it happens that these two lines be but a little asunder and then they signify that a man should die in battle; and if it be a woman, she will die of tribulation and sickness.
And if the right part of the triangle is well-coloured, it signifies a good stomach.
And if this corner be round, it betokeneth great rudeness of wit.
And if the lines of the triangle do not appear truly, it signifies unstableness, untruth and thievishness.
And if the left corner of the triangle be round, it signifies a great wit and length of life.
If this token appear in any part of the triangle it signifies that a man should be hanged by the neck. And if a woman has this sign, she should die mischievously in fire or water.
The Table Line
The fourth line is the table line. If this line continues and is deep and broad, it signifies a good disposition of those parts that belong to the begetting of children. Also, it signifies righteousness, endurance in good works and pesibleness and virtue.
If this line passes the middle of the showing finger and it is red it shows cruelness of heart and if it is pale it shows enviousness and detraction.
And if this line turn upwards between the showing finger and the long finger, it betokeneth that a man should die of a wound or of the flux. And if a woman has this sign, it signifies that she should die of long continuation of (menstrual?) flow.
And the philosopher says that it is necessary that women who have this sickness of corrupt blood and other such matters should be avoided, for should they abide in them it should cause great sickness in them. But here I leave my author in this matter, for he has much to say of the perils of this sickness, which, after my conscience, is more conveniently settled in physic than here. Moreover, my author says that if a woman has this aforementioned mark and dies not of superfluity of that sickness, she should die of retention or else in childbirth.
And if this aforementioned line turns up towards the long finger and passes no further, it signifies that fortune will help him if he has a friend in whom he trusts, yet who deceives him when he has most need.
And if the head of this line ends within the longest finger, it signifies that the person will never be without tribulation and labour.
And if the head of this line, that is to say the over-part, be divided with a cross of small lines or with lines that do not cross rightly, if this cross or these lines go up between the showing finger and the long finger, it signifies that a man should be sure always of his living and that women should love him much and that other men should ever labour for him to magnify him and make him rich.
And if it be that the table line has many such right strikes, it is a token of worship and high degree in times to come. And if it be that the same is without strikes, it signifies that he or she is unfortunate to worship.
And when this line goes to the hill of the showing finger and ends there and at the end there are many lines turning down towards the thumb, it signifies that they love greatly the lusts of the flesh, whether they be a man or a woman.
Descending Lines from the Table Line
And if that part which is called the bussh of the hand - many men have this token and many not; for the various authors of this science are not in accord as to where this bussh should be. For some say it should be in the hill of the hand and some say it should be in the triangle. But this I say; that the head of the table line may conveniently be called the bussh as by the tokens that follow:
Therefore, if there are lines which descend from the table line to the middle line, they signify courtesy, flattery, deceivableness, and he that has these speaks fair in front of folks, but behind them he detracts them.
And if one or two or many lines are descending from the table line and enter into the triangle, of whatever degree that person may be, it signifies that he will be in such a state because of the wretchedness and tribulation that he is in that he should desire his own death to be delivered.
And if a line descends from the table line and passes through the middle line and the right part of the triangle, it signifies that a person will die suddenly or be beheaded or else slain by man's hand.
But if this aforementioned line enters into the middle line and passes no further, that person is in peril of death and in great fear - but he will be helped by a woman and a woman by a man.
And if this line be full of strikes like a star * it betokeneth great lustiness and delights of the flesh. Also, those that have this token love to be magnified, praised, worshipped and made much of.
The Sister Lines
Now that I have determined the four lines which are most generally found in the hands of men and women, after my author, I now write of the other four lines, which are called the sister lines of the first four lines.
The first is called the sister of the triangle and has its beginning in the lower part of the hand and ascends up to the finger of Saturn; and this line is named the Saturnine.
But you will see that diverse persons have not these eight lines, nor many others that I speak of here; therefore they that have not these lines be neither disposed to have great worship nor to have much adversity. But this you shall conceive also, that though a man be disposed to have worship by the tokens of his hands, his conditions and his governance may be such that grace shall fail him. Therefore if a person be disposed by the tokens of his hands and have him never as to worship, it is especially his own fault; either God is displeased with him or he standeth not in the world because of his own misgovernance. For some men are disposed to vices, such as theft, gluttony and lechery or other such vices, and yet with labour and virtuous occupation he can withstand them; therefore not only by disposition of nature, but also by grace.
And this is the signification of the Sister lines: if the lines which are called the sisters be right, deep, even and well-coloured, they betoken double goodness of all the good tokens in a man's hand. But if they are discontinuing, they signify the contrary, especially if they are evilcoloured.
If the quadrangle be large and well-coloured, it betokeneth largeness and hardiness; but if it is straight, it signifies the contrary.
If there is a cross in the quadrangle of strikes equally long, it signifies health of the body. And if one of these strikes is longer than the other, it signifies the contrary.
And if there is a figure in the quadrangle like this: it signifies truth and shamfastness. The person that has this token is rightful and well living after his power. And if the person with this token falls into poverty, he should recover and come to prosperity.
And if a circle is found in the quadrangle, it signifies steadfastness in purpose and in deeds. But if a figure of a triangle is found within the quadrangle, it betokeneth adversity. Yet if there are two triangles, they betoken the contrary, that is to say prosperity.
The Hill of the Thumb
At this point, Master Aurelian speaks of the tokens and significations that have been found in the right part of the triangle.
If the hill of the thumb is round and large, it signifies goodness of complexion and a disposition to lechery.
And if there is a line as long as the right part of the triangle, ascending up by this aforesaid line and it is red, it signifies a greatly lecherous person.
And my author says that if it be well-coloured, it signifies riches. But if this line does not appear in the first part, it signifies failing of riches in the first age; if it fails in the middle, in the middle age and if it does not appear in the last part, it signifies poverty in the last age. And for conclusion, whatever part this line appears in, the first, middle or last, in the like age it signifies riches.
And if there are four lines upon the wrist, if any of those four pass up just by the thumb, it signifies worship in the first age. And the further any of these lines be departed in distance from the thumb, the longer time it should be that a man should come to worship.
The deeper any line be, the greater is the signification, whether it is for good or for evil.
This is a general rule; if any line belonging to worship is cut or divided by small lines, it is a great token of many lettings, for a man may come to worship. But if the lines are not easily seen, it signifies that the worships are past.
And if at the root of the thumb, a line rises and proceeds to the triangle it betokeneth that a man desires to see many countries and to know many diverse conditins and crafts. And if the line proceeds from the root of the thumb to the highest part of the triangle, it signifies vainglory and desire of good.
If the hill of the thumb is full of lines, it signifies a great disposition to lechery. And if many deep lines are found upon the thumb that come from the back of the hand, they signify great friendship with strange folk.
If there is the token like a star in the hill of the thumb, it signifies lechery both in man and woman.
If in the same hill, such a figure is found it signifies riches and worship after a man's or woman's station.
And if, within the triangle or not, there be found a figure like this .......... it signifies that sickness is to come within a short time and worship, and principally if this token is red.
The Hill of the Showing Finger
If the hill of the showing finger is plain and well-coloured, it signifies cleanness in living. And if any well-coloured line passes from the table line and ascends up to the hill of this finger, it signifies boldness of heart and that a man should come to worship by good governance.
But if that line is cut asunder at the over-part with one line or many, it signifies a wound upon a man's or woman's head. If they are red, the wound is to come and if they are pale, that hurt is now past.
If small lines pass from the root of this finger downward, it signifies that the person should live without labour; and if these lines are just by the finger they signify worship. And as many such lines as appear in a clerk's hand, so many benefices, prebends or other worships he should have. And if he be a man of religion, he should be a bishop, an abbot, a prior or some other worthy officer.
If he be a man of the world, he shall have worship as befits his station. But if this strike be cut or is vanished away so that it is not easily seen, it is an evident token that the worship is past, or else some other letting.
If lines pass from the middle line up to the hill of the showing finger, they signify shamfastness and truth.
And if one of those lines passes from the table line and goes between the showing finger, it signifies that a man shall die of a wound. And if it be a woman, she shall die in childbirth, or else at the rising of motherhood, or else of long, continuous flows; and the same is signified if the same line passes to the hill of the middle finger.
And if any line passes from the head of the table line and ascends right up to the root of the showing finger, it betokeneth sudden death.
And if an even cross is found in the hill of the showing finger, it signifies sudden chances to worship or dignity.
And if such a token is found it signifies tribulation and a feeble brain.
The Hill of the Middle Finger
If the hill of the middle finger is without lines and is well-coloured it betokeneth simpleness and goodness of wit.
And if a line comes from the table line and passes to the root of the middle finger, it is a token of labour and travail and little rest. And if the root of this finger is full of strikes, it signifies great labour.
And if these lines turn downward to the hole of the hand, they signify that man shall die in prison, whatever state he should be.
And if in the same hill there are but a few great strikes, they signify rest and ease. And if small lines cut asunder these said great lines, they betoken great labour before a man may come to rest.
And if two lines be joined together in the hill of the middle finger, or else in the hill of the showing finger, they signify worship in time coming.
The Hill of the Leech Finger
If the hill of the leech finger is round and red, it signifies that man to be disposed to the dropsy and to be vicious.
And if two lines proceed from the table to the hill of this finger, it signifies subtlety of wit and that the person is disposed to come to many sciences. And these lines also betoken worships and dignities.
But if these lines are cut, they signify letting and hindrances before a person comes to worship and dignity. And if these lines do not ascend right up, they signify promotion in occupation.
If a line appears between the little finger and the leech finger, it signifies prosperity in a woman.
And if a line proceeds from the table line alone to this aforementioned finger and it is right, well-coloured, without cutting of other lines and so long that it passes the joint of the finger, it signifies properity.
If a cross is found between the leech finger and the little finger, it signifies great labour.
The Hill of the Little Finger
If the hill of the little finger is round and great, it signifies health of body and goodness of complexion.
And if a well-coloured line proceeds from the table line to the hill of this finger, in a man it is a great token of chastity and of great sparing; but in a woman it signifies the contrary.
If there are found in this hill lines some of which are great and some of which are small, which ever way they turn, they signify lechery in both men and in women.
And if these lines are right, they signify that a man labours to get himself the friendship and love of worthy women. But if they are round or crooked, they signify the contrary. And if these lines are cut with other lines, the signification is destroyed.
And if there are lines descending into the hand from the edge of the hand between the table line and the little finger, as many lines as be there except one, so many wives a man of the world should have; and if he be a priest, so many dignities or benefices he should have. And if these lines are cut with other lines, the signification is past.
As many right lines as are found of these aforementioned lines, so many maidens a man should have as wives; and if they are crooked, so many widows.
If there is a line in the hill of the little finger like half a cross or half a circle and it declines to the leech finger, it betokeneth that a man should come to be in great trouble, though afterwards he will come to prosperity. But if this half circle turns towards the little finger to the edge of the hand, it signifies the contrary.
In this chapter, my author talks of the proportion of the fingers saying fingers which are proportioned according to the stature of the person signify a good natural disposition, except with the following exceptions. It is most convenient for a slender man to have slender fingers and for a man of much stature to have much fingers; but these are the significations of all manner of fingers:
The person that has small fingers which are fleshy and round is disposed to be envious, to pride, to be hardy and bold.
After the philospher, small fingers which are long and lean signify gentleness of condition, kindness of heart and ability in all sciences.
Small fingers which are short, lean and wrong signify malice, discordance, forwardness and enviousness.
Small nails which are long and red betoken goodness of wit and subtleness. Short nails which are narrow and small betoken viciousness, evil teaching, foltishness and a niggart.
Moreover, you wll conceive that the lines of every joint (of the fingers) are called artunell lines. And if the artunell line of the joint within the thumb meets or joins with the artunell line that is with-out the thumb, it signifies that man will be hanged by the neck. And if any artunnel line circles about the thumb, it betokeneth that the person will be drowned.
If there is a line in the root of the showing finger, passing justly up the finger, it signifies worship.
And if such a token O appear upon the back of this finger, it signifies use of lechery.
If the hill of the middle finger is full of small lines, they signify wounds in the head or in the womb or the breast, or other sicknesses in all of these. And if the lines are red, the hurts or sickness are yet to come; but if they are pale, they are past.
And if there are found two right lines, they signify strength and manhood. And if there is found such a token in this said hill, it betokeneth evil teachings.
And if a little cross is found in the hill of the little finger, it signifies foolishness.
And if a great line passes from the hill of the little finger up onto the same finger, it signifies a disposition of lechery.
A woman having more signs, that is to say lines or strikes, between the middle finger and the leech finger than between the leech finger and the little finger is more disposed to conceive sons than daughters; and the transverse lines betokeneth the contrary.
My author then puts here great conclusions and reasons confirming his book in order to verify his writing, which I pass. For it is a scholarly matter set under the form of argumentation, alleging to fortify these matters with these philosophers: Talitem, Platonem, Aristotilem and Albertum; and moreover, he shows the working of nature in all his conclusions and other sundry tokens, the which I make no remembrance of.
Moreover, I have omitted to show those tokens which signify whether a woman that has no husband is a maiden or not; and whether a woman has conceived a man-child or a may-child and other such diverse things.
But you will conceive that there are many diverse lines and tokens which my author has not spoken of. But by the principal lines which have been written about in this treatise, you may get a good idea of the disposition of both men and women; whether they are to have prosperity or adversity, whether they will be rich or poor, chaste or lecherous. As the disposition of the world asks, of all these and many other issues are mentioned in this book.
You must consider that this science requires that you behold both the right hand and the left hand, of both men and women, not withstanding that the principal tokens for a man are in his right hand whilst those of a woman are in her left hand.
And you should not pass judgement from one line alone, but consider many accordingly. For he that has more signs of prosperity than adversity, you shall deem him worshipful. But he that has more signs of adversity than prosperity, you shall deem him unfortunate.
You must consider also that any hand from which you make judgements should be washed first with hot water, so that you can see every line. And you should only consider the hands of those that have passed twelve years of age.
And so ends my author, doctor Aurelian, in Latin; and thus I end also, in English, under the supportation of my masters in this science.
Here endeth the syens off cyromancy
by the skoler Jon Metham
Explicit ciromancia phisnomia.
Iste liber constat Thomas Moyll filio Johanni Moyll armigero.
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