You, no doubt, have them in your area – Sister Fay, Natasha the Psychic Lady, Psychic Fifi and so on. They often have a large sign in their front yard with a picture of the fortune-teller in an exotic robe holding a crystal ball or tarot cards. Their object is to entice you to come in so you can pay them to tell you what will occur in the future. They hope you believe in them to the point that you will give them money. They hope to convince you that they can tell your future and give you information that will help you feel better and mitigate any negative matters that might come your way.
Jeane Dixon was one of the better known fortune tellers of the 20th century. She had her own syndicated newspaper column, wrote numerous books, and made some very high profile predictions that grabbed a lot of national publicity. One of her biggest predictions regarded the assassination of President Kennedy. Of course, as with virtually all people who call themselves fortune-tellers, her predictions were all very general and based on high probability events – even the prediction about a president dying in office. It should also be noted that a lot of her predictions did not come true (but those don’t get the same kind of publicity). Still, she became very popular among people who were inclined to believe what she was offering.
As we look at the fortune-telling belief system, you might notice that there is a certain amount of overlap between fortune-telling, astrology and other similar spiritual practices. That is because the people who practice these arts all operate from the same worldview foundation. There are, however, some unique elements that relate specifically to the practice of fortune-telling. That being the case, it is helpful to look at it specifically to grasp some of the particulars of this practice along with its worldview foundation.
Fortune-telling is the modern word for divination. Both words refer to the same occult practice of attempting to foretell future events by mystical means. If there is a distinction to be made, perhaps divination implies the use of fortune-telling associated more with religious observance. But they are essentially the sameFortune-tellers use all kinds of exotic tools and practices such as tarot cards, tea leaves, Ouija boards, palmistry, crystal balls, mirrors, crystals, and other devices to ply their trade.
Fortune-tellers claim to get their information from the spirit world or from higher beings. Basically, this higher existence is understood to exert powerful energy which permeates the universe. It is believed that those who practice fortune-telling are especially tuned into this cosmic energy and are able to tap into the mystical energy source. There does not seem to be any clear or objective knowledge of what this power is or where it comes from. It is simply affirmed to exist by those who believe in it. By tapping into this energy, practitioners believe that they are able to discern how it affects the person they are working with in ways which allow them to predict the future.
As far as actual history, it is nearly impossible to give a generic description. Evidence of fortune-telling can be found all the way back to very ancient times in virtually every area of the world. Almost from the beginning, people have tried to figure out ways to discern things about the future to help them cope with their lives.
Basic Beliefs and Practices
While the basic premise of fortune-telling is pretty much the same across the board, the different techniques used by its practitioners is widely varied. All fortune-tellers assert that they are able to look into the future to see what will happen in someone’s life, but there are many different tools that the various practitioners use as a means of doing their work.
In evaluating the use of these various methodologies, there is not a uniform way that any of them are used to forecast the future. The various practitioners make their predictions based on their own personal intuition. As such, there is a great deal of variety, and even contradiction, in the interpretations of different practitioners, even among those using the same techniques. The following is not a complete list, but does represent some of the most well known methodologies.
Chiromancy (Palmistry) – Chiromancy is the art of reading the shapes and markings on an individual’s hands and fingers. As you look at a person’s hand, you will see that there are lines which cross in various directions. The areas created by the lines are touted to have meaning related to one’s future. There are supposedly sections which relate to spirit, fortune, success, fame, imagination, will and sensuousness. From these, palmists claim to be able to foretell the future.
Cartomancy (Tarot Cards) – Seemingly, tarot cards were first used in China in the 10th century A.D. The modern incarnation of the tarot card, though, appears to have been developed in 14th century Italy. Initially the regular playing cards of the day were used in this practice. On their faces, these regular playing cards had pictures representing the forces of nature, religious concepts, virtues and vices. These original depictions eventually evolved into the tarot cards we see today. The pictures on the cards were believed to have mystical meanings and significance related to future matters.
Mirror Mantic (crystal balls, mirrors, rock crystals or still water) – All of the methods in this category use objects as “mirrors into the future.” Those gazing into the “mirror” supposedly enter a spiritual state where they are able to see what is currently happening in an individual’s life, or what will happen in the future.
Psychometry – Psychometry is a practice in which a fortune-teller will touch a material object which belongs to someone, then make statements regarding the owner of the article. This is sometimes seen in situations where a diviner will try to work with a police department to try and solve a case or find a missing person. This is also often seen when someone wants to try and get information from a fortune-teller about a departed loved one.
Tasseomancy and Tasseography (Teacup Reading) – In this form of fortune-telling, the diviner makes his or her interpretations based on the shapes and relative positions of tea leaves, coffee grounds or wine sediments left at the bottom of a cup after the liquid has been poured out.
Geomancy – This system of divination uses a map that is divided into 12 parts. On the map, the symbols of geomancy are placed in conjunction with the planets and is used to predict the future.
Pyromancy – Fortune-tellers using this system look at the shape of the flames in an open fire to make predictions about the future
Aeromancy – This form of fortune-telling observes atmospheric conditions or ripples on the surface of an open body of water to tell the future.
Arithmancy – Arithmancy uses numbers to discern the future. It assigns mystical significance to particular numbers that are, in some way, associated with a person (such as those associated with the letters of the person’s name, the person’s birth date, and the like).
Augury – Practitioners of augury observe the patterns of flocks of birds in flight to in order to discern the future.
Capnomancy – This form of fortune-telling uses the smoke coming up off of an altar or from sacrificial incense as a means of foretelling the future.
Ouija Board – The Ouija Board is an instrument that some fortune-tellers use for the purpose of communicating with the spirits of the dead. The belief is that spirits from outside oneself control individual’s hands to spell out messages on the board to share messages or tell a person’s future.
The worldview foundation that underlies fortune-telling is a variation of Animism. While the particulars vary widely among individual fortune-tellers, the essential belief foundation is common to all.
Fortune-telling asserts that there is such a thing as a supernatural reality and that it is possible for people to tap into it to find out things or get things done. The belief system itself does not, though, assume a personal god. Rather, the focus is on spiritual forces which human beings can control or manipulate for their own ends.
Generally, fortune-tellers consider man to be simply a part of the overall scheme of nature. There is understood to be a divine element in man which will ultimately also become a part of the spiritual world upon physical death.
In the belief system that underlies fortune-telling, the forces of nature and magic are believed to control the destiny of humanity. That being said, they believe that a person can take control of his or her own fate by learning the right information. The ultimate goal in life, then, is to grasp the information that will help the individual maneuver through life most effectively.
The basic foundation of fortune-telling is very similar to that of astrology. In fact, many fortune-tellers are also astrologers. That being said, the specific beliefs of the various fortune-tellers vary widely. Some are more strictly tied to an Animistic understanding of reality while others have hybridized their beliefs to include Theistic ideas. Thus, specific answers to worldview questions at an individual level must be qualified by the particular beliefs of the individuals who are engaged in the practice.
When dealing with fortune-tellers then, what we end up with is a situation in which worldview questions are not directly dealt with effectively on an individual level. Still, the basic underlying worldview belief is fairly consistent. This allows us to at least give general answers to the seven worldview questions regarding fortune-telling.
1. What is the most fundamental reality? (Ultimate reality) 2. What is the nature of our material reality? (Material reality
In fortune-telling there is understood to be basically only one reality which is expressed both in the spiritual and material worlds. Fortune-tellers believe that there is a force which emerges from the spiritual realm which is able to affect those who live on earth. When people interact with that force, they are able to discern matters from the spirit world and learn things about the future.
3. What is a human being? (Humanity)
Based on the belief system that underlies fortune-telling, human beings are material creatures who inhabit the material world. As such they are seen to be the beneficiaries of the cosmic powers that come from the spiritual world. There is no attempt to understand where humans came from, nor is there any transcendent reason given for their existence. It is just accepted that reality exists in a certain way and life is lived based on those assumptions.
4. What happens to a person at death? (Death)
Fortune-telling doesn’t generalize answers about the nature of death and the afterlife. Every practitioner brings beliefs concerning this topic from other beliefs that he or she might hold. That being said, there is a general understanding that when human beings die, they become a part of the spirit world.
5. Why is it possible to know anything at all? (Knowledge)
Fortune-tellers simply assume that knowledge exists and that it is known by observation and experience. There is no attempt to explain or justify its existence.
6. How do we know what is right and wrong? (Morality)
Fortune-telling doesn’t specifically address issues of morality. All practitioners bring their own beliefs about morality from their personal backgrounds.
7. What is the meaning of human history? (History)
In fortune-telling, human history is not thought of in terms of having meaning. It is simply a linear succession of events that began with the advent of man’s existence on earth and moves forward into the future. The concept of time tends more to be that of an eternal present.
There is no single authority source in fortune-telling. There is an underlying assumption that the supernatural exists which is based on an Animistic perception of reality. As such, individual fortune-tellers use the various books or materials that are associated with their particular methodology as their authority.
Evidence for the Authority
There is literally nothing to give validity to any system of fortune-telling. Each methodology is assumed to be valid by the practitioners who use them. But there is no independent evidence, either historical or empirical, to indicate that any of them reflect the actual structure of reality. In fact, there are many documented accounts of inaccurate and contradictory readings from virtually every system.
Fortune-telling is attractive to many people because they want to have some sense that they control their own destinies. By knowing the future, it is believed that individuals can mitigate any negative things that are coming their way.
But fortune-telling, as a belief system, simply has nothing to commend it as representing reality. Spiritual reality simply does not exist the way that fortune-tellers assert that it does, and believing that an Animistic worldview structure is true does not make it so. There is literally nothing to back it up as being truth, and those who follow this set of beliefs are living life based on a false belief foundation.
© 2010 Freddy Davis