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Fortune-telling

Fortune-telling

Overview

Fortune-telling is the practice of predicting
Prediction
A prediction or forecast is a statement about the way things will happen in the future, often but not always based on experience or knowledge...

 information about a person's life. The scope of fortune-telling is in principle identical with the practice of divination
Divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

. The difference is that divination is the term used for predictions considered part of a religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 ritual, invoking deities or spirits, while the term fortune-telling implies a less serious or formal setting, even one of popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

, where belief in occult workings behind the prediction is less prominent than the concept of suggestion
Suggestion
Suggestion is the psychological process by which one person guides the thoughts, feelings, or behaviour of another. Nineteenth century writers on psychology such as William James used the words "suggest" and "suggestion" in senses close to those they have in common speech—one idea was said to...

, spiritual or practical advisory
Advice (opinion)
Advice is a form of relating personal or institutional opinions, belief systems, values, recommendations or guidance about certain situations relayed in some context to another person, group or party often offered as a guide to action and/or conduct...

 or affirmation
Affirmations (New Age)
Affirmations in New Age and New Thought terminology refers primarily to the practice of positive thinking—fostering a belief that "a positive mental attitude supported by affirmations will achieve success in anything." More specifically an affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that should...

.

Historically, fortune-telling grows out of folkloristic
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 reception of Renaissance magic
Renaissance magic
Renaissance humanism saw a resurgence in hermeticism and Neo-Platonic varieties of ceremonial magic.The Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, saw the rise of scientism, in such forms as the substitution of chemistry for alchemy, the dethronement of the Ptolemaic theory of...

, specifically associated with gypsies.

During the 19th and 20th century, methods of divination
Methods of divination
Innumerable methods of divination can be found around the world, and many cultures practice the same methods under different names. During the Middle Ages, scholars coined terms for many of these methods — some of which had hitherto been unnamed — in Medieval Latin, very often utilizing the suffix...

 from non-Western cultures, such as the I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

, were also adopted as methods of fortune-telling in western popular culture.
An example of divination or fortune-telling as purely an item of pop culture, with little or no vestiges of belief in the occult, would be the Magic 8-Ball
Magic 8-ball
The Magic 8 Ball is a toy used for fortune-telling or seeking advice, manufactured by Mattel.-Origin:While Magic 8-Ball did not exist in its current form until 1950, the functional component was invented by Albert C. Carter, who was inspired by a "spirit writing" device used by his mother, Mary, a...

sold as a toy by Mattel
Mattel
Mattel, Inc. is the world's largest toy company based on revenue. The products it produces include Fisher Price, Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and Matchbox toys, Masters of the Universe, American Girl dolls, board games, and, in the early 1980s, video game consoles. The company's name is derived from...

, or Paul II, a cephalopod of the Sea Life Aquarium
Sea Life Centres
Sea Life Centres are a chain of commercial sealife-themed attractions. There are twenty-six centres located in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom , and the United States...

 at Oberhausen
Oberhausen
Oberhausen is a city on the river Emscher in the Ruhr Area, Germany, located between Duisburg and Essen . The city hosts the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and its Gasometer Oberhausen is an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. It is also well known for the...

 used to predict the outcome of matches played by the German national football team.

There is opposition against fortune-telling in Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 based on biblical prohibitions against divination.
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Encyclopedia

Fortune-telling is the practice of predicting
Prediction
A prediction or forecast is a statement about the way things will happen in the future, often but not always based on experience or knowledge...

 information about a person's life. The scope of fortune-telling is in principle identical with the practice of divination
Divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

. The difference is that divination is the term used for predictions considered part of a religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 ritual, invoking deities or spirits, while the term fortune-telling implies a less serious or formal setting, even one of popular culture
Popular culture
Popular culture is the totality of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are deemed preferred per an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the...

, where belief in occult workings behind the prediction is less prominent than the concept of suggestion
Suggestion
Suggestion is the psychological process by which one person guides the thoughts, feelings, or behaviour of another. Nineteenth century writers on psychology such as William James used the words "suggest" and "suggestion" in senses close to those they have in common speech—one idea was said to...

, spiritual or practical advisory
Advice (opinion)
Advice is a form of relating personal or institutional opinions, belief systems, values, recommendations or guidance about certain situations relayed in some context to another person, group or party often offered as a guide to action and/or conduct...

 or affirmation
Affirmations (New Age)
Affirmations in New Age and New Thought terminology refers primarily to the practice of positive thinking—fostering a belief that "a positive mental attitude supported by affirmations will achieve success in anything." More specifically an affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that should...

.

Historically, fortune-telling grows out of folkloristic
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

 reception of Renaissance magic
Renaissance magic
Renaissance humanism saw a resurgence in hermeticism and Neo-Platonic varieties of ceremonial magic.The Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, saw the rise of scientism, in such forms as the substitution of chemistry for alchemy, the dethronement of the Ptolemaic theory of...

, specifically associated with gypsies.

During the 19th and 20th century, methods of divination
Methods of divination
Innumerable methods of divination can be found around the world, and many cultures practice the same methods under different names. During the Middle Ages, scholars coined terms for many of these methods — some of which had hitherto been unnamed — in Medieval Latin, very often utilizing the suffix...

 from non-Western cultures, such as the I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

, were also adopted as methods of fortune-telling in western popular culture.
An example of divination or fortune-telling as purely an item of pop culture, with little or no vestiges of belief in the occult, would be the Magic 8-Ball
Magic 8-ball
The Magic 8 Ball is a toy used for fortune-telling or seeking advice, manufactured by Mattel.-Origin:While Magic 8-Ball did not exist in its current form until 1950, the functional component was invented by Albert C. Carter, who was inspired by a "spirit writing" device used by his mother, Mary, a...

sold as a toy by Mattel
Mattel
Mattel, Inc. is the world's largest toy company based on revenue. The products it produces include Fisher Price, Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and Matchbox toys, Masters of the Universe, American Girl dolls, board games, and, in the early 1980s, video game consoles. The company's name is derived from...

, or Paul II, a cephalopod of the Sea Life Aquarium
Sea Life Centres
Sea Life Centres are a chain of commercial sealife-themed attractions. There are twenty-six centres located in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom , and the United States...

 at Oberhausen
Oberhausen
Oberhausen is a city on the river Emscher in the Ruhr Area, Germany, located between Duisburg and Essen . The city hosts the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and its Gasometer Oberhausen is an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. It is also well known for the...

 used to predict the outcome of matches played by the German national football team.

There is opposition against fortune-telling in Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 based on biblical prohibitions against divination. This sometimes causes discord in the Jewish community due to their views on mysticism.

Methods



Common methods used for fortune telling in Europe and the Americas include astromancy
Astromancy
Astromancy is divination and fortune-telling in astrology...

, horary astrology
Horary astrology
Horary astrology is an ancient branch of horoscopic astrology by which an astrologer attempts to answer a question by constructing a horoscope for the exact time at which the question was received and understood by the astrologer...

, pendulum
Pendulum
A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. When a pendulum is displaced from its resting equilibrium position, it is subject to a restoring force due to gravity that will accelerate it back toward the equilibrium position...

 reading, spirit board
Ouija
The Ouija board also known as a spirit/fire key board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9, the words "yes", "no", "hello" and "goodbye", and other symbols and words are sometimes also added to help personalize the board...

 reading, tasseography
Tasseography
Tasseography is a divination or fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments....

 (reading tea leaves in a cup), cartomancy
Cartomancy
Cartomancy is fortune-telling or divination using a deck of cards. Forms of cartomancy appeared soon after playing cards were first introduced into Europe in the 14th century...

 (fortune telling with cards), tarot reading, crystallomancy (reading of a crystal sphere), and chiromancy
Chiromancy
Palmistry or chiromancy , is the art of characterization and foretelling the future through the study of the palm, also known as palm reading, or chirology. The practice is found all over the world, with numerous cultural variations...

 (palmistry, reading of the palms). The last three have traditional associations in the popular mind with the Roma and Sinti
Sinti
Sinti or Sinta or Sinte is the name of a Romani or Gypsy population in Europe. Traditionally nomadic, today only a small percentage of the group remains unsettled...

 people (often called "gypsies").

Another form of fortune-telling, sometimes called "reading" or "spiritual consultation", does not rely on specific devices or methods, but rather the practitioner gives the client advice and predictions which are said to have come from spirits or in visions.
  • Alectromancy: by observation of a rooster pecking at grain
  • Astrology
    Astrology
    Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

    : by the movements of celestial bodies.
  • Astromancy
    Astromancy
    Astromancy is divination and fortune-telling in astrology...

    : by the stars.
  • Augury: by the flight of birds.
  • Bazi or four pillars
    Four Pillars of Destiny
    Four Pillars of Destiny is a Chinese and Japanese conceptual term that describes the four components creating a person's destiny or fate. The four components within the moment of birth are year, month, day, and hour...

    : by hour, day, month, and year of birth.
  • Bibliomancy
    Bibliomancy
    Bibliomancy is the use of books in divination. The method of employing sacred books for 'magical medicine', for removing negative entities, or for divination is widespread in many religions of the world:-Terminology:...

    : by books; frequently, but not always, religious texts.
  • Cartomancy
    Cartomancy
    Cartomancy is fortune-telling or divination using a deck of cards. Forms of cartomancy appeared soon after playing cards were first introduced into Europe in the 14th century...

    : by playing cards, tarot cards, or oracle cards.
  • Ceromancy
    Ceromancy
    -Method:Traditionally a brass bowl is used in the ritual. Water is added to the bowl and then a candle is lit. The melted wax is then poured into the bowl and the subsequent shapes are intepreted by the reader. However, some practicioners also use the shapes wax forms as it drips down the candle to...

    : by patterns in melting or dripping wax.
  • Cheiromancy: by the shape of the hands and lines in the palms.
  • Chronomancy
    Chronomancy
    Chronomancy is divination of the best time to do something, the determination of lucky and unlucky days, especially popular in ancient China.The term "chronomancy", stemming from the Greek word chronos , and the word manteia is also used in fiction to refer to a school of magic involving...

    : by determination of lucky and unlucky days.
  • Clairvoyance
    Clairvoyance
    The term clairvoyance is used to refer to the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known human senses, a form of extra-sensory perception...

    : by spiritual vision or inner sight.
  • Cold reading
    Cold reading
    Cold reading is a series of techniques used by mentalists, psychics, fortune-tellers, illusionists, and con artists to determine or express details about another person, often in order to convince them that the reader knows much more about a subject than they actually do...

    : by using visual and aural clues.
  • Crystallomancy: by crystal ball
    Crystal ball
    A crystal ball is a crystal or glass ball believed by some people to aid in the performance of clairvoyance. It is sometimes known as a shew stone...

     also called scrying
    Scrying
    Scrying is a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and less often for purposes of divination or fortune-telling. The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals,...

    .
  • Extispicy
    Extispicy
    Extispicy is the practice of using anomalies in animal entrails to predict or divine future events. Organs inspected include the liver, intestines, and lungs. The animal used for extispicy must often be ritually pure and slaughtered in a special ceremony.The practice was first common in ancient...

    : by the entrails of animals.
  • Face Reading
    Face Reading
    Face Reading is the debut album of Esthetic Education. It was recorded in 2004 and first released on December 29, 2004.- Original 2004 release :# “Gonzo the Clown” – 2:43# “Beautiful” – 3:22# “Mr...

    : by means of variations in face and head shape.
  • Feng shui
    Feng shui
    Feng shui ' is a Chinese system of geomancy believed to use the laws of both Heaven and Earth to help one improve life by receiving positive qi. The original designation for the discipline is Kan Yu ....

    : by earthen harmony.
  • Gastromancy
    Gastromancy
    Gastromancy is from Greek gastēr and manteia . It can refer to:* Crystal ball gazing: i.e., gazing into round objects....

    : by stomach-based ventriloquism
    Ventriloquism
    Ventriloquism, or ventriloquy, is an act of stagecraft in which a person manipulates his or her voice so that it appears that the voice is coming from elsewhere, usually a puppeteered "dummy"...

     (historically).
  • Geomancy
    Geomancy
    Geomancy is a method of divination that interprets markings on the ground or the patterns formed by tossed handfuls of soil, rocks, or sand...

    : by markings in the ground, sand, earth, or soil.
  • Haruspicy
    Haruspex
    In Roman and Etruscan religious practice, a haruspex was a man trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy, hepatoscopy or hepatomancy. Haruspicy is the inspection of the entrails of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry...

    : by the livers of sacrificed animals.
  • Horary astrology
    Horary astrology
    Horary astrology is an ancient branch of horoscopic astrology by which an astrologer attempts to answer a question by constructing a horoscope for the exact time at which the question was received and understood by the astrologer...

    : the astrology of the time the question was asked.
  • Hydromancy
    Hydromancy
    Hydromancy is a method of divination by means of water, including the color, ebb and flow, or ripples produced by pebbles dropped in a pool....

    : by water
    Water
    Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

    .
  • I Ching divination
    I Ching divination
    Among the many forms of divination is a bibliomancy method using the I Ching or Book of Changes. The book is structured as 32 pairs of hexagrams, divided in half after the first 30. The text was a subject for civil service exams in Imperial China...

    : by yarrow stalks or coins and the I Ching
    I Ching
    The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

    .
  • Kau cim by means of numbered bamboo sticks shaken from a tube.
  • Lithomancy
    Lithomancy
    Lithomancy is a form of divination by which the future is told using stones or the reflected light from said stones. The practice is most popular in the British Isles.-History:...

    : by stones or gems.
  • Necromancy
    Necromancy
    Necromancy is a claimed form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either by summoning their spirit in the form of an apparition or raising them bodily, for the purpose of divination, imparting the ability to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge...

    : by the dead, or by spirits or souls of the dead.
  • Numerology
    Numerology
    Numerology is any study of the purported mystical relationship between a count or measurement and life. It has many systems and traditions and beliefs...

    : by numbers.
  • Oneiromancy
    Oneiromancy
    Oneiromancy is a form of divination based upon dreams; it is a system of dream interpretation that uses dreams to predict the future.-Ancient Egyptian:...

    : by dream
    Dream
    Dreams are successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not definitively understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, philosophical intrigue and religious...

    s.
  • Onomancy
    Onomancy
    Onomancy is divination based on a subject's given name, popular in the Late Middle Ages, usually following practices of Gematria....

    : by names.
  • Palmistry: by lines and mounds on the hand.
  • Paper fortune teller: origami
    Origami
    is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, which started in the 17th century AD at the latest and was popularized outside Japan in the mid-1900s. It has since then evolved into a modern art form...

     used in fortune-telling games
  • Pendulum
    Pendulum
    A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. When a pendulum is displaced from its resting equilibrium position, it is subject to a restoring force due to gravity that will accelerate it back toward the equilibrium position...

     reading: by the movements of a suspended object.
  • Pyromancy
    Pyromancy
    Pyromancy is the art of divination by means of fire.-History of pyromancy:Due to the importance of fire in society from the earliest of times, it is quite likely that pyromancy was one of the earlier forms of divination...

    : by gazing into fire.
  • Rhabdomancy
    Rhabdomancy
    Rhabdomancy is a type of divination by means of any rod, wand, staff, stick, arrow, or the like.One method of rhabdomancy was setting a number of staffs on end and observing where they fall, to divine the direction one should travel, or to find answers to certain questions. It has also been used...

    : divination by rods.
  • Runecasting or Runic divination: by runes.
  • Scrying
    Scrying
    Scrying is a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and less often for purposes of divination or fortune-telling. The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals,...

    : by looking at or into reflective objects.
  • Spirit board
    Ouija
    The Ouija board also known as a spirit/fire key board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9, the words "yes", "no", "hello" and "goodbye", and other symbols and words are sometimes also added to help personalize the board...

    : by planchette or talking board.
  • Taromancy: by a form of cartomancy using tarot
    Tarot
    The tarot |trionfi]] and later as tarocchi, tarock, and others) is a pack of cards , used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play a group of card games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot...

     cards.
  • Tasseography
    Tasseography
    Tasseography is a divination or fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments....

     or tasseomancy: by tea leaves or coffee grounds.

Sociology




In Europe and America, fortune-telling has sometimes been considered a sin against religion, and both religious proscriptions and civil laws have, at certain times and places, forbidden the practice. Thus many mainstream urban Europeans and Americans are unaware of the popularity of fortune-telling with some people, and are surprised when they learn of a celebrity or politician who consults a fortune-teller to help make decisions.

Western fortune-tellers typically attempt predictions on matters such as future romantic, financial, and childbearing prospects. Their help may be sought in decision-making regarding job opportunities, the outcome of illnesses, and plans for marriage or divorce.

In addition to professing to divine the future, many fortune-tellers will also give "character readings": short analyses of someone's character without specific predictions of future events. These may use numerology
Numerology
Numerology is any study of the purported mystical relationship between a count or measurement and life. It has many systems and traditions and beliefs...

, graphology
Graphology
Graphology is the pseudoscientific study and analysis of handwriting, especially in relation to human psychology. In the medical field, it can be used to refer to the study of handwriting as an aid in diagnosis and tracking of diseases of the brain and nervous system...

, palmistry (if the subject is present), and astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

. The subject of a character reading may be the client, who seeks self-knowledge, but the fortune-teller may often perform a character reading on the client's prospective mate. If the latter is being assessed for marital compatibility with the client, there is an element of prediction, as the practitioner professes to explore the future of the relationship based on the two characters.

In contemporary Western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

, it appears that women consult fortune-tellers more than men: there are many advertisements for commercial fortune-telling services in magazines aimed at women, while such advertisements appear virtually unknown in magazines aimed specifically at men.

It is quite common for young women to seek out fortune-tellers as they embark on adulthood, and some women maintain decades-long relationships with their personal readers or fortune-tellers. Telephone consultations with psychics (charged to the caller's telephone account at very high rates) grew in popularity through the 1990s but they have not replaced - and may never replace - the traditional card readers, tea leaf readers, palmists, and spiritual readers who see their clients in small storefronts or occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

 shops.

As a business in North America



Discussing the role of fortune-telling in society, Ronald H. Isaacs, an American rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 and author, opined, “Since time immemorial humans have longed to learn that which the future holds for them. Thus, in ancient civilization, and even today with fortune telling as a true profession, humankind continues to be curious about its future, both out of sheer curiosity as well as out of desire to better prepare for it."

Popular media outlets like the New York Times have explained to their American readers that although 5000 years ago, soothsayers were prized advisers to the Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

ns, they lost respect and reverence during the rise of Reason in the 17th and 18th centuries.

With the rise of commercialism, “the sale of occult practices [adapted to survive] in the larger society,” according to sociologists Danny L.
Danny Jorgensen
Danny Lynn Jorgensen is an American professor at the Department of Religious Studies of the University of South Florida, for which he also served as chair from 1999 to 2006....

 and Lin Jorgensen. Ken Feingold, writer of "Interactive Art as Divination as a Vending Machine," stated that with the invention of money, fortune-telling became “a private service, a commodity within the marketplace”.

As J. Peder Zane wrote in the New York Times in 1994, “Whether it’s 3 P.M. or 3 A.M., there’s Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick is an American singer, actress and TV show host, who became a United Nations Global Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization, and a United States Ambassador of Health....

 and her psychic friends selling advice on love, money and success. In a nation where the power of crystals and the likelihood that angels hover nearby prompt more contemplation than ridicule, it may not be surprising that one million people a year call Ms. Warwick’s friends.”

Clientele


In 1994, the psychic counsellor Rosanna Rogers of Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately west of the Pennsylvania border...

 explained to J. Peder Zane that a wide variety of people consulted her: “Couch potatoes aren’t the only people seeking the counsel of psychics and astrologers. Clairvoyants have a booming business advising Philadelphia bankers, Hollywood lawyers and CEO
Chief executive officer
A chief executive officer , managing director , Executive Director for non-profit organizations, or chief executive is the highest-ranking corporate officer or administrator in charge of total management of an organization...

’s of Fortune 500
Fortune 500
The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks the top 500 U.S. closely held and public corporations as ranked by their gross revenue after adjustments made by Fortune to exclude the impact of excise taxes companies collect. The list includes publicly and...

 companies... If people knew how many people, especially the very rich and powerful ones, went to psychics, their jaws would drop through the floor.” Ms. Rogers “claims to have 4,000 names in her rolodex
Rolodex
A Rolodex is a rotating file device used to store business contact information currently manufactured by Newell Rubbermaid. The Rolodex holds specially shaped index cards; the user writes the contact information for one person or company on each card...

.”

Typical clients


In 1982, Danny Jorgensen
Danny Jorgensen
Danny Lynn Jorgensen is an American professor at the Department of Religious Studies of the University of South Florida, for which he also served as chair from 1999 to 2006....

, a professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida
University of South Florida
The University of South Florida, also known as USF, is a member institution of the State University System of Florida, one of the state's three flagship universities for public research, and is located in Tampa, Florida, USA...

 offered a spiritual explanation for the popularity of fortune-telling. He said that that people visit psychics or fortune-tellers to gain self-understanding. and knowledge which will lead to personal power or success in some aspect of life

Thirteen years later, in 1995, Ken Feingold offered a different explanation for why people seek out fortune-tellers: “We desire to know other people’s actions and to resolve our own conflicts regarding decisions to be made and our participation in social groups and economies. … Divination seems to have emerged from our knowing the inevitability of death. The idea is clear—we know that our time is limited and that we want things in our lives to happen in accord with our wishes. Realizing that our wishes have little power, we have sought technologies for gaining knowledge of the future...gain power over our own [lives].”

Ultimately, the reasons a person consults a diviner
Divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

 or fortune teller are mediated by cultural expectations and by personal desires, and until a statistically rigorous study of the phenomenon have been conducted, the question of why people consult fortune-tellers is wide open for opinion-making.

Services


Traditional fortune-tellers vary in methodology, generally using techniques long established in their cultures and thus meeting the cultural expectations of their clientele.

In the United States and Canada, among clients of European ancestry, palmistry is popular and, as with astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

 and tarot card reading, advice is generally given about specific problems besetting the client.

Non-religious spiritual guidance may also be offered. An American clairvoyant by the name of Catherine Adams has written, “My philosophy is to teach and practice spiritual freedom, which means you have your own spiritual guidance, which I can help you get in touch with."

In the African American community, where many people practice a form of folk magic called hoodoo or rootworking, a fortune telling session or "reading" for a client may be followed by practical guidance in spell-casting and Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 prayer
Prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

, through a process called "magical coaching".

In addition to sharing and explaining their visions, fortune-tellers can also act like counselors by discussing and offering advice about their clients’ problems. They want their clients to exercise their own willpower.

Full-time careers


Some support themselves entirely on their fortune-telling business; others hold down one or more jobs, and their second jobs may or may not relate to the occupation of divining. In 1982, Danny L., and Lin Jorgensen found that “while there is considerable variation among [these secondary] occupations, [part-time fortune-tellers] are over-represented in human service fields: counseling, social work, teaching, health care.” The same authors, making a limited survey of North American diviners, found that the majority of fortune-tellers are married with children, and a few claim graduate degrees. "They attend movies, watch television, work at regular jobs, shop at K-Mart, sometimes eat at McDonald’s, and go to the hospital when they are seriously ill.”

Legality


In 1572 Augustus of Saxony imposed the penalty of burning for witchcraft
Witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

 of every kind, including simple fortune-telling.

In 1982, the sociologists Danny L., and Lin Jorgensen found that, “when it is reasonable, [fortune -tellers] comply with local laws and purchase a business license.” However, in the United States, a variety of local and state laws restrict fortune-telling, require the licensing or bonding of fortune-tellers, or make necessary the use of terminology that avoids the term "fortune-teller" in favour of terms such as "spiritual advisor" or "psychic consultant." There are also laws that forbid the practice outright in certain districts.

For instance, fortune telling is a class B misdemeanor
Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...

 in the state of New York. Under New York State law, S 165.35:
Law-makers who wrote this statute acknowledged that fortune-tellers do not restrict themselves to "a show or exhibition solely for the purpose of entertainment or amusement" and that people will continue to seek out fortune-tellers even though fortune-tellers operate in violation of the law.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also bans the practice outright, considering fortune-telling to be sorcery and thus contrary to Islamic teaching and jurisprudence. It has been punishable by death.

See also

  • Divination in African traditional religion
  • Divination in Chinese culture
  • Forer effect
    Forer effect
    The Forer effect is the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people...

  • Fortune telling fraud
    Fortune telling fraud
    Fortune telling fraud, also called the bujo or egg curse scam, is a type of confidence trick, based on a claim of secret or occult information. The basic feature of the scam involves diagnosing the victim with some sort of secret problem that only the grifter can detect or diagnose, and then...

  • Prophecy
    Prophecy
    Prophecy is a process in which one or more messages that have been communicated to a prophet are then communicated to others. Such messages typically involve divine inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of conditioned events to come as well as testimonies or repeated revelations that the...

  • Tengenjutsu (fortune telling)
    Tengenjutsu (fortune telling)
    Tengen-jutsu is a Japanese fortune telling method. It is based on yin and yang and the five elements, and uses a persons birth date in the sexagenary cycle and physical appearance to predict ones fate. Tengen-jutsu originated in various Chinese practices, but was first systemized by the early Edo...


External links