The Triangle and the Cross

There is some considerable variation in the quality of these chiromantical treatises in these manuscripts, both in terms of length, form and content. Most are written in Latin but other languages have also been used, notably German, Italian and Middle English. The simplest work is often no more than a few pages long and is hardly more than a series of notes accompanying rough and somewhat clumsy drawings of hands.

Illustrastion from the C15th manuscript  MS Digby88 shewing the importance of the 'Great Triangle'

Most frequently though, we find these chiromantic texts consist simply of a few pages of notes inserted into a larger text on astrology, physiognomy, alchemy or medicine (eg Bodleian Ms Rawl C 677, Ms Ashmole 1471 and Ms Digby 95), again confirming the interrelationship of these different subjects in the mediaeval mind. The simpler forms of treatise usually only deal with the lines of the hand, giving particular interpretations of the meanings of various line patterns and formations. Of especial interest to the mediaeval chiromancer was the presence of signs and symbols in the palm of the hand. Crosses on the mounts and the presence of the Triangle, formed by the line of lyfe, the line of head and the line of the lyver (the head line, the life line and the health line) were deemed to be of particular importance.

Given that the line of lyver is not one of the main lines of the hand and is often missing from the hand, its consideration over and above the heart line as being the third main line is significantly indicative of the whole approach of mediaeval chiromancy. The triangle and the cross were natural religious symbols and the presence of such formations in the hand were therefore powerful indications of religiosity or of the blessing of God himself. To the religious minds of people at his time, the Triangle would have been understood as a manifestation of the Holy Trinity and so to have this sign well marked in your hand was a fortunate indication indeed!

A second form of mediaeval treatise has become known as a Summa Chiromantia and is usually a rather more extensive work. These manuscripts usually contain several large drawings of hands and often have additional drawings inserted into the text to illustrate particular chiromantical features. The Summa Chiromantia considers the hand in much greater detail, usually giving astrological rulerships to the fingers and discussing the mounts and principal lines of the hand, as well as giving the meanings of special signs and symbols that can be found in the hand. A detailed examination of these manuscripts reveals the nature of chiromantical practice at this time, and it soon becomes obvious that the main preoccupation of mediaeval chiromancers was with prognostication.


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