Palmist Mark Seltman, author of Real Palmistry has read tens of thousands of hands of people of every age, gender, race, color, size, shape, career, and socio-economic diversity. In this interview he shares fascinating insights of his professional journey and delves into the art and science of palm reading.
How did you first become interested in palmistry?
I was in my late twenties… trying to figure myself out. I wondered why so many of my ambitious beginnings always seemed to end in disaster. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I decided to search the unseen parts of myself and began studying metaphysics. I imagined a world that lie hidden like buried treasure, waiting to be discovered in my symbolism. I consulted the most reputable astrology, tarot, and hand readers in NYC. I was astounded by how much they could see and tell about me from my hands, charts, and cards. I figured that if they could see that much, I could see even more by learning to read myself. I ravenously attended workshops, lectures, and classes. I hung out at metaphysical bookstores to meet other seekers and to hear their thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and recommendations.
How did you go about learning the art?
I’d never have pursued hand reading if I hadn’t found Laurie Block Spigel. A powerful and knowledgeable teacher, Laurie convinced me to set aside my skepticism, take a leap of faith, and do the work. After studying the ‘Benham system’ of scientific hand reading and examining thousands of sets of hands, Laurie encouraged me to teach a series of ten three-hour rudimentary hand-reading lessons to novice palmistry students. She knew that teaching would take me to a deeper place in myself and she was right.
I insisted on three key requirements for my students:
1. If you can’t be helpful, or leave people feeling hopeful, don’t say anything at all.
2. Practice what you preach.
3. Never predict anyone’s death.
I encouraged students to look and listen carefully, think clearly and creatively, feel fully and freely, examine a multitude of hands, and ask abundant questions. Assignments included study, research, and practice. After completing ten classes, one student felt so confident in his abilities that he printed business cards and hung out his shingle as a professional palmist.
“There’s no substitute for time and experience,” I warned.
“Proceed cautiously and lead with your heart,” I advised.
A few months later, a very impressionable client showed up and told me about a palmist who had predicted her death. I asked to know the palmist’s name. It was my ex-student. As soon as my client left, I called and confronted him. He denied the accusation. It’s not uncommon for people to accuse readers of saying things they never said. It’s happened to me. I didn’t think that was the case with him. I promised to destroy his reputation if I heard another dark forecast. That was over thirty years ago. I haven’t taught since.
I’d been a good judge of character, but that hadn’t stopped me from making a wrong choice. I accepted my student’s money, knowing he was dishonest, while rationalizing and idealizing how I would be the one to help him raise his consciousness. I regret not asking him to leave when I saw how hastily he applied techniques he learned in class to playing head games on people. Instead of kicking his butt to the curb, I scolded and cautioned him, then proceeded to give him more knowledge and tools to hurt people.
It’s extremely easy to take advantage of others when you know what makes them tick. People are impressionable. Prophecy is a powerful pill. Only life predicts death.
What can one discover through palmistry?
Palmistry is simple and fun. Hands validate what we already know, provide precious insight into what we don’t know, and offer valuable information about basic character so we can get to know ourselves and others better. Most seekers are searching outside of themselves for answers. It’s easy to see weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and fears in a person’s hands. That’s why gypsy scam artists can so easily prey on impressionable and gullible people. Most of us are clueless to the powerful potentials and valuable opportunities waiting to be seen and realized at the ends of our arms. People think of palmistry as huge red neon hands in storefronts with gypsies lurking in shadows, ready to cleanse the nastiest curses. Services include burning candles and performing secret psychic rituals for a hefty fee. You’re better off with a compatible psychotherapist!
The value of palmistry is in being able to readily recognize basic character traits and motivations. The wisdom of palmistry is that once we understand our strengths and weaknesses, we can choose what we think and how we feel about what’s happening. We can exercise our free will and transform negative thought patterns into positive behavioral patterns. The magic of palmistry is that hands change as thinking and circumstances change. Our successes and failures are reflected in the morphology and topography of our hands over time. A hand is a small amount of space for a whole life. A tiny change in the direction or quality of a line can symbolize a huge change in a life.
Seasoned palmists can observe, interpret, and dialogue about a person’s character while examining their hands. What can we see at the ends of our arms? Character, Values, Thinking Feelings, Will Power, Work, Health, Relationships, Creativity, Philosophy, Purpose, Career, Hopes, Dreams, Fears, and Spirituality.
Despite the accuracy of the science of hand reading, human nature cannot be defined through details. Palmistry and astrology have endless permutations, probabilities, and combinations of details. Every detail means something, but until you know the basic character and context, details are superficial. The meaning of any detail can change based on the question asked and the balance of elements, planets, signs, houses, and aspects. Adding outer planets, asteroids, and man-made points to a natal chart can make meaningful interpretation impossible because it becomes too hard to see the forest from the trees. Computer generated reports are amazing learning tools, scientific in detail, but subjective in interpretation. Generalizations have validity. Specifics rule.
Palmistry is an esoteric science for observing and interpreting human nature. The ‘art’ of palmistry is in connecting spiritually through touch, sight, communication, and intuition, and through understanding combinations of details that can influence a person’s free will, choices, and actions. Our hands reveal our physical, mental, and emotional selves and the degrees to which we are fulfilling our abilities, talents, and other potentials.
Can things change?
YES! The most important reason for reading hands is knowing that the morphology and topography of your hands can change. You can affect the directions and qualities of your lines, and observe your successes and failures in your hands over time.
A fellow palmist sent me this dramatic example of ‘nature vs nurture’. The above image shows the same hand five years apart. The 2 year old hand is a child who has lost both parents and is terrified of what’s going to happen. It’s easy to see insecurity, weakness, worry, and fear. The other hand is the same child at age seven, adopted by loving parents who wanted and cared for him. He’s confident and proud as he courageously wields his ambition, autonomy, and strength. His fingers grew strong and straight!
What is the connection between astrology and palmistry?
Tens of millions of people read their horoscopes daily in newspapers and magazines without realizing the true value of astrology. More ancient than pyramids, astrology is a science and art that examines relationships between the cycles of celestial bodies and life here on earth. Each moment in time and space has an exclusive signature. A natal horoscope is a unique map of the positions of planets in the heavens at a specific time and place. Astronomical patterns can symbolize personality patterns and life experience. Kings, Presidents, Dictators, Philosophers, Mystics, and Scholars throughout history have used astrology to understand and influence world events.
Initially, astrology seemed too complex and mathematical for me. With practice I recognized a profoundly simple and elegant system for examining human nature, patterns, timing, and life cycles. One problem with Astrology is that accurate forecasting is an exacting science. I know from personal experience that most doctors, nurses, and parents are not watching the clock at a baby’s first breath. Clients often give birth times on the hour or half hour. Many don’t know whether they were born in the morning or evening. Others depend on a vague memory from their mother long after the event. I still offer accurate and meaningful readings because of my knowledge of hands.
My mother wanted to have natural childbirth. After 24 hours in labor; an obstetrician cut me out to save her life. Mom thought she remembered my birth time correctly, but her memory was different than my birth certificate, which I used to create my horoscope because it made better symbolic sense to me.
I studied astrology for several years before I began exploring palmistry. Even if a birth time is correct, a natal horoscope doesn’t reveal the whole picture. Symbolism can be interpreted in many ways. The ascendant (rising sign) of a horoscope is considered the basis for behavior. As I examine hands, I can see which or whether a person’s sun, moon, or planetary stelliums, aspects, or house placements dominate their character.
Sometimes, clients turn out different than I expected while examining their horoscope. Imagine a chart dominated by mutable water (feeling) and air (thinking) without earth (practicality). I expect my client to float through the door and a body builder walks in. When I see no mutability (changeability) and too much fixity (practicality) in a person’s hands, I immediately know that person is stubborn in their choices, habits, and patterns. Other features and details in the hands add and subtract from those potentials.
A hand is a small space for a whole life. Astrology makes sense when I realize how many people are compensating for what they lack in their symbolism. The combination of palmistry and astrology has helped me understand both better. Astrology confirms and affirms what’s happening in a person’s hands and offers valuable information about habits, patterns, timing, and life cycles. Tarot reaches into our unconscious.
I applied an astrological framework to palmistry to help identify and define twelve basic archetypes. Western astrology and palmistry share the same Greek and Roman gods. Our family relationships are forever being acted out on stage. Humanity is one huge dysfunctional family racing frantically between having freedom and racing against bad shit happening. These are examples of twelve healthy hand / character types.
During a reading do you reveal everything you see?
NO. Interpretation is subjective. It’s not what you see, but what you say and how you say it that matters. A reader’s personal paradigms, prejudices, and preconceived ideas are hard to separate from a reading. I sometimes pray before a reading to keep my own stuff out of my interpretation. Without natural empathy and seasoned counseling skills, it’s best to stay away from practicing professional palmistry. Clients are searching for insight and affirmation into their choices and decisions. Your job is to give that with courage, clarity, dignity, and grace.
My private practice is mostly career and relationship issues. I sometimes see health challenges and am uncomfortable talking about them. I always let my clients know I’m not a medical palmist. Diagnosing medical issues is not a good idea. I calmly suggest seeing a primary healthcare provider. Palmistry has taught me to be non-critical and non-judgmental. Humility works. We’re all just a banana peel away from a coma.
In the days before computerized medical diagnosis, doctors gained knowledge through experience, tasted a patient’s urine, looked into their eyes, examined their tongue, skin, hands, fingernails, and used their intuition to diagnose illness.
Fingernails are windows to a person’s health. Anemia, thyroid disease, malnutrition, carpal tunnel syndrome, psoriasis, eczema, liver disease, heart, lungs, colon, chronic respiratory disease, lymph system problems, diabetes, Raynaud’s disease, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcers, Hodgkin’s disease, and sickle-cell anemia can all be seen in qualities and conditions of fingernails. Dozens of stress related illnesses and several types of cancer can be seen in the skin ridge patterns. Conditions of specific lines can indicate conditions of heart, brain, kidneys, liver, and stomach.
Forewarned is forearmed! Many health problems are natural predispositions to certain character types. Know the type and understand the corresponding potential health problems. Here’s a general list of health issues that correspond to a person’s sun-sign and hand features. Click to learn how a finger is dominant and what personal qualities are represented. Despite a person’s genetics and history, free will rules their destiny!
Sagittarius ~ dominant index finger ~ blood disorders, liver trouble, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and problems with hips, thighs, and throat. A huge challenge is resisting temptation, abstaining, and refraining from overindulging in rich food and drink.
Capricorn ~ dominant middle finger ~ skin problems, teeth with age, knees, ligaments, secretion of bile, skeletal, left ear deafness, paralysis, rheumatism, gout, hardening of the arteries, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.
Leo ~ dominant ring finger ~ eyesight, heart, and blood circulation.
Gemini ~ Virgo ~ dominant pinkie ~ nervous system, bronchial, respiratory systems, thyroid gland, headaches, memory loss, and speech impediments.
Taurus ~ Libra ~ dominant ball of thumb ~ throat, lymphatic system, venereal diseases, heart, circulation, and worry.
Cancer ~ dominant heel of hand ~ bodily fluids, stomach, tumors, female disorders, epilepsy, mucous membranes, gout, rheumatism, kidney, bladder, and mental illness.
Aries ~ dominant tip of thumb and percussion of hand ~ inflammations, acute fevers, infections, muscular disorders, blood diseases, hemorrhage, infectious and contagious diseases, throat and chest trouble, and high blood pressure.
Scorpio ~ fixity and feeling ~ peripheral lines on heel of hand ~ reproductive system, ruptures, hemorrhoids, ulcers, venereal diseases, or problems with prostate or urethra.
Aquarius ~ fixity and thinking ~ nails and qualities of lines ~ ankle weakness, anemia, cramps, heart weaknesses, nervous diseases, varicose veins, and sensitive skin.
Pisces ~ mutability and feeling ~ conical and pointed finger tips / pink to yellowish skin / islands on line of health ~ problems with feet and toes, bunions, gout, colds, mucous discharges, tumors, drug addictions, and liver troubles.
How do you approach negative aspects?
Some clients instruct me not to say anything ‘bad’. Many people are afraid to see or hear something bad. Good and bad are extremes of the same thing. There is infinite gray between black and white. My job is to shine light on what needs to be seen in constructive, helpful, and hopeful ways.
Vulnerable clients never forget the ‘bad’ stuff. They need to realize that their obstacles and challenges are opportunities to rise to their ideals, to think critically, to feel happy, to be healthy, to make good sense, meaningful decisions, and take purposeful actions. Humanity is a mass of opposites, contradictions, and ambiguities. Hands are mirrors through which light can be gathered, focused, reflected, examined, and interpreted.
Negative aspects are less problematic than negative clients. I always ask new clients, “What do you hope to learn by working with me?” I ask them to read this interview, which lets them know what to expect. One client showed up because of a story about me that had motivated her. When I asked her what she wanted to know, she said she had read the article and was curious to see what I had to say about her. We set a date and time to rendezvous. I had no clue she’d placed me on a pedestal and expected to be transformed by my reading. Her special trip from out of town made her impending disappointment worse. Some clients need to be disappointed no matter what.
She arrived glowing with anticipation. Her square palms, short straight fingers, and clear deep lines revealed practical hard working hands. Similar to the man’s right hand above, her head and life lines were even more closely tied at their beginnings. She cared too much what others thought. Positive suggestions from me would be perceived as personal criticisms. She’d feel judged, even when I wasn’t judging her. It’s not easy to know what to say to someone who doesn’t want to change. Hermes taught his students, “The lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding”.
Hand features like long, short, or crooked fingers, scars, birth marks, skin textures, elasticity, consistency, colors, and lines reveal various strengths, weaknesses, talents, abilities, and behavior give us a lot to talk about. My client had a short index finger, low set pinkie, and various qualities of specific lines that revealed a lack of trust. I put my toe in the water, “You’re basically a healthy person. What do you want to talk about?”
“What do my hands say I want to talk about?” she asked. She wanted me to answer my question. “I’m not a mind reader. This consultation is a dialogue about your hands and life. Let’s see how your life and hands match.” She snapped back in a sarcastic tone designed to make me feel foolish for asking. “I want the same as everyone else; good health, happiness, fulfilling work, and more money.”
“So what would you like to start with?” I inquired. “What does my astrology say I should start with?” I stared at her natal chart for a moment. She was dominant in the element of earth, which confirmed that she was practical, pragmatic, methodical, responsible, and dependable. She was Gemini, but skeptical and stubborn like Taurus. Most of her other planets were in adaptable signs, but the extreme stiffness of her hands revealed she was totally stuck and deeply entrenched in her ideas, habits, and patterns. Navigating and negotiating beginnings and endings were her two greatest challenges. Transiting Saturn was on her ascendant. It would soon oppose her natal Saturn in her seventh house. She was ending a five year relationship and corresponding period of inner work. Hopefully, she chose healthy beginnings, let go of unhealthy behaviors and unhappy relationships, hard circumstances, and replaced them with healthy alternatives.
“What have you let go of lately?” I asked. “Nothing.” I wasn’t surprised. “What do you need to let go of?” “You tell me.” I felt like a dentist trying to extract an impacted tooth without a pain killer. “Do you have challenging family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues you’re concerned about?” “No.” “Is there a problem with your work?” “No.”
“How can I help you?” I asked. “What do the cards say?” she replied. Frustrated, I began shuffling the tarot cards. “Do you have a question?” I asked. “No. Let’s just see what the cards have to say.” I spread them and asked her to choose ten and make a pile of them. I chose a Celtic cross spread that represents six months in time.
OY! Two of Swords, Eight of Pentacles, Tower, Eight of Wands, Nine of Swords, Devil, Four of Pentacles, Moon, Seven of Cups, and Knight of Wands. That was a hard spread for a cooperative client. No matter what I’d say, she’d not listen or be contrary for the sake of opposition. “It appears there’s a lot more conflict and confusion than you’re acknowledging. Have you tried psychotherapy?” “A long time ago”. “Well, it might be a good time to go back for more…” She was secretly hoping for a miracle, but lacked faith in herself, actually believing there was no real possibility of a positive outcome for her.
I decided to be totally frank. “You came to me expecting answers, but I don’t have your answers. I don’t think anyone else has them either. You need a catalyst in your life to help you initiate change. Perhaps a truly intimate relationship.” “Yes, I’d like to find someone, although men my age are all looking for younger women.” I suggested one thing and another, but she claimed to have tried everything already. I encouraged her that this was a good time to be open to people. The Knight of Wands (final outcome) is Sagittarius. She could be expansive and attract more idealism, passion, and adventure.
“I’m disappointed” she said. “Yes, I know. So am I. I’m not going to charge full price for this consultation, but I will charge something for the work I’ve done and the time I’ve spent.” “Do what you have to do.”, she replied. She had a sour look on her face. I couldn’t wait until the experience was over and felt relieved when she left.
I chose not to get into the psychology of my client’s attitude in our session. She was searching for answers that she was unable to envision and unwilling to work for. She needed to learn to ask the right questions. There are many choices and complexes that can’t be seen in hands. The healthiest potentials can stumble onto unhealthy paths and become misguided along the way. That’s why psychotherapy is so valuable.
What has been one of the most memorable experiences for you personally during your career?
My most memorable experiences are connected to corporate special events, powerful clients, celebrities, charities, and the criminally insane.
People spend millions of dollars on parties. I read up to 48 sets of hands at these events. For five minutes, that person is the most important person in the universe. At corporate special events and fundraisers, I’ve read hundreds of CEO’s, CFO’s, CIO’s, COO’s, Governors, Senators, Congressmen, and Mayors. I read Ann Richards, then Katie Couric’s hands at a Martha Stewart’s party. I read Martha’s hands on her TV show, ‘Martha Stewart Living’ and Star Jones’s hands on ‘The View’. I read Patti Davis (Ronald Reagan’s daughter) live on ‘Queens’ TV on the same day she was on the cover of Playboy Magazine. I’ve read many famous actor’s hands and have the only hand prints of Susan Sarandon, Martha Stewart, and Maurice Sendak, who shared his deepest insecurities and fears with me. Those ‘Wild Things’ were real in his childhood. ‘Dave Brubeck shared how he’d always struggled with trying to be who others wanted and expected him to be, while fearing they’d find out he wasn’t.
I spent two afternoons a week for two years reading people with AIDS at Bailey House. Impending mortality depressed and unmotivated people with AIDS. It gave me an opportunity to offer spiritual growth by becoming a mirror, sponge, and salve for precious insight as I explored their symbolism with them.
I grabbed an opportunity to design vocational programs for criminally insane clients at a forensic psychiatric hospital in NYC. I’d get to examine the hands of 150 murderers, serial killers, and mass murderers. I did get to know everyone’s hands. That experience lasted two years at two days a week and made me realize how many of us are teetering on the narrow ledges between sanity and insanity.
When I resigned, I began writing about the experience. In 2015, I wrote a series of eight blog posts starting with ‘How I lost my sanity’. I saw my experience as a metaphor for humanity’s senseless, futile, and eternal race towards bad shit happening.
What advice do you have for people to get the most out of a palm-reading session?
Do your homework in finding a reputable palm reader. Referrals and testimonials are important. Looking on line for complaints is also a good idea. Keep an open mind and realize that most readers can’t tell you anything you don’t already know on one level or another. Clients give readers too much power. They tell us more than we need to know because they think we already know it. Some readers give themselves too much power.
Let readers know your expectations. I don’t make predictions or call myself ‘psychic’ (others call me that at parties). I’d rather refer a client to someone else than take their money for something I don’t do. I can see a person’s future possibilities in a vague kind of way based on past and present behavior, intentions, choices, and actions. A helpful and productive reading is a meaningful dialogue between client and reader. The more agency I give my clients, the more benefit they get from our interaction.
Once in awhile, someone lands on my doorstep who has been to everyone else. I’m at the end of their line. These people need to learn that their answers do not lie outside of themselves. Although they may find people who will tell them what they want to hear, that doesn’t make it right. I encourage many seekers to seek a good psychotherapist.