For other uses, seeFortune teller (disambiguation).
This article is about the commercial activity in modern western culture. For a general discussion, seeDivination.
Fortune tellingis the practice ofpredictinginformation about a persons life.1The scope of fortune telling is in principle identical with the practice ofdivination. The difference is that divination is the term used for predictions considered part of areligiousritual, invoking deities or spirits, while the term fortune telling implies a less serious or formal setting, even one ofpopular culture, where belief in occult workings behind the prediction is less prominent than the concept ofsuggestion, spiritual or practicaladvisoryoraffirmation.
Historically, fortune telling grows out offolkloristicreception ofRenaissance magic, specifically associated withRomani people.1During the 19th and 20th century,methods of divinationfrom non-Western cultures, such as theI Ching, 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 theMagic 8-Ballsold as a toy byMattel, orPaul II, an octopus at theSea Life AquariumatOberhausenused to predict the outcome of matches played by theGerman national football team.2
There is opposition to fortune telling inChristianityIslamandJudaismbased on scriptural prohibitions against divination. This sometimeswhen?causes discord in the Jewish community due to their views on mysticism.
Terms for one who claims to see into the future includefortune teller,crystal-gazer,spaewife,seer,soothsayer,sibyl,clairvoyant, andprophet; related terms which might include this among other abilities areoracle,augur, andvisionary.
Fortune telling is dismissed by thescientific communityandscientific skepticsas being based onmagical thinkingandsuperstition.
Common methods used for fortune telling in Europe and the Americas includeastromancyhorary astrologypendulumreading,spirit boardreading,tasseography(reading tea leaves in a cup),cartomancy(fortune telling with cards),tarot readingcrystallomancy(reading of a crystal sphere), andchiromancy(palmistry, reading of the palms). The last three have traditional associations in the popular mind with theRomaandSintipeople (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 aroosterpecking at grain
Astrology: by the movements of celestial bodies.
Bazi or four pillars: by hour, day, month, and year of birth.
Bibliomancy: by books; frequently, but not always, religious texts.
Cartomancy: by playing cards, tarot cards, or oracle cards.
Ceromancy: by patterns in melting or dripping wax.
Chiromancy: by the shape of the hands and lines in the palms.
Chronomancy: by determination of lucky and unlucky days.
Clairvoyance: by spiritual vision or inner sight.
Cleromancy: by casting of lots, or casting bones or stones.
Cold reading: by using visual and aural clues.
Crystallomancy: bycrystal ballalso calledscrying.
Face reading: by means of variations in face and head shape.
Gastromancy: by stomach-basedventriloquism(historically).
Geomancy: by markings in the ground, sand, earth, or soil.
Haruspicy: by the livers of sacrificed animals.
Horary astrology: the astrology of the time the question was asked.
I Ching divination: by yarrow stalks or coins and theI Ching.
Kau cimby means of numbered bamboo sticks shaken from a tube.
Necromancy: by the dead, or by spirits or souls of the dead.
Parrot astrology: by parakeets picking up fortune cards
Paper fortune tellerorigamiused in fortune-telling games
Pendulumreading: by the movements of a suspended object.
Scrying: by looking at or into reflective objects.
Spirit board: by planchette or talking board.
Taromancy: by a form of cartomancy usingtarotcards.
Tasseographyortasseomancy: by tea leaves or coffee grounds.
Ureamancy: by gazing upon the foamy froth of urine created within water.
Gypsiesfortune telling. Facsimile of a woodcut in the Cosmographie Universelle ofSebastian Mnster: in folio,Basel, 1552
Western fortune tellers typically attempt predictions on matters such as future romantic, financial, and childbearing prospects. Many fortune tellers will also give character readings. These may usenumerologygraphologypalmistry(if the subject is present), andastrology.
In contemporaryWestern culture, it appears that women consult fortune tellers more than men.3Some women have maintained long relationships with their personal readers. Telephone consultations withpsychics(at very high rates) grew in popularity through the 1990s but they have not replaced traditional methods.
Discussing the role of fortune telling in society, Ronald H. Isaacs, an Americanrabbiand 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.4
Popular media outlets like theNew York Timeshave explained to their American readers that although 5000 years ago, soothsayers were prized advisers to theAssyrians, they lost respect and reverence during the rise of Reason in the 17th and 18th centuries.5
With the rise of commercialism, the sale of occult practices [adapted to survive] in the larger society, according to sociologistsDanny L.and Lin Jorgensen.6Ken 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.7
AsJ. Peder Zanewrote in theNew York Timesin 1994, referring to thePsychic Friends Network, Whether its 3 P.M. or 3 A.M., theresDionne Warwickand 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. Warwicks friends.5
In 1994, the psychic counsellor Rosanna Rogers ofCleveland, Ohioexplained to J. Peder Zane that a wide variety of people consulted her:Couch potatoesarent the only people seeking the counsel of psychics and astrologers. Clairvoyants have a booming business advising Philadelphia bankers, Hollywood lawyers andCEOs ofFortune 500companies… If people knew how many people, especially the very rich and powerful ones, went to psychics, their jaws would drop through the floor.5Ms. Rogers claims to have 4,000 names in herrolodex.5
Janet Lee, also known as the Greenwich psychic, claims that her clientele often included Wall Street brokers who were looking for any advantage they could get. Her usual fee was around $150 for a session but some clients would pay between $2,000 and $9,000 per month to have her available 24 hours a day to consult.8
In 1982,Danny Jorgensen, a professor of Religious Studies at theUniversity of South Floridaoffered a spiritual explanation for the popularity of fortune telling. He said that people visit psychics or fortune tellers to gain self-understanding,9and knowledge which will lead to personal power or success in some aspect of life.10
In 1995, Ken Feingold offered a different explanation for why people seek out fortune tellers: We desire to know other peoples 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 clearwe 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].7
Ultimately, the reasons a person consults adivineror fortune teller are mediated by cultural expectations and by personal desires, and until a statistically rigorous study of the phenomenon has been conducted, the question of why people consult fortune tellers is wide open for opinion-making.
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,palmistryis popular11and, as withastrologyandtarot card reading, advice is generally given about specific problems besetting the client.
Non-religious spiritual guidance may also be offered. An American seclairvoyant 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.12
In the African American community, where many people practice a form of folk magic calledhoodooor rootworking, a fortune-telling session or reading for a client may be followed by practical guidance in spell-casting and Christianprayer, through a process called magical coaching.13
In addition to sharing and explaining their visions, fortune tellers can also act like counselors by discussing and offering advice about their clients problems.11They want their clients to exercise their own willpower.14
Some fortune tellers support themselves entirely on their divination 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.15The 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.16They attend movies, watch television, work at regular jobs, shop at K-Mart, sometimes eat at McDonalds, and go to the hospital when they are seriously ill.17
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.15However, 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 favor of terms such as spiritual advisor or psychic consultant. There are also laws that outright forbid the practice in certain districts.
For instance, fortune telling is a class Bmisdemeanorin the state ofNew York. Under New York State law, S 165.35:
A person is guilty of fortune telling when, for a fee or compensation which he directly or indirectly solicits or receives, he claims or pretends to tell fortunes, or holds himself out as being able, by claimed or pretended use of occult powers, to answer questions or give advice on personal matters or to exercise, influence or affect evil spirits or curses; except that this section does not apply to a person who engages in the aforedescribed conduct as part of a show or exhibition solely for the purpose of entertainment or amusement.18
Lawmakers 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.
Similarly, inNew Zealand, Section 16 of the Summary Offences Act 1981 provides a one thousand dollar penalty for anyone who sets out to deceive or pretend for financial recompense that they possess telepathy or clairvoyance or acts as a medium for money through use of fraudulent devices. As with the New York legislation cited above, however, it is not a criminal offence if it is solely intended for purposes of entertainment.
TheKingdom of Saudi Arabiaalso bans the practice outright, considering fortune telling to be sorcery and thus contrary to Islamic teaching andjurisprudence. It has been punishable by death.19
Fortune telling is dismissed by thescientific communityand skeptics as being based onmagical thinkingandsuperstition.20212223
SkepticBergen Evanssuggested that fortune telling is the result of a naïve selection of something that have happened from a mass of things that havent, the clever interpretation of ambiguities, or a brazen announcement of the inevitable.24Other skeptics claim that fortune telling is nothing more thancold reading.25
A large amount offraudhas occurred in the practice of fortune telling.2627
Flim-Flam! (Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions)
Televangelist Peter Popoff exposed by James Randi
Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium
Rose Mackenberg(Historic investigator of psychic mediums)
. Visible Ink Press. pp. 115-116.ISBN1-57859-209-7
Blcourt, Willem de; Usborne, Cornelle. (1999).
Womens Medicine, Womens Culture: Abortion and Fortune telling in Early Twentieth-Century Germany and the Netherlands
Isaacs, Ronald H. Divination, Magic, and Healing the Book of Jewish Folklore. Northvale N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1998. pg 55
. Archived fromthe originalon 12 November 2017
Clairvoyant or counsellor? Meet the woman who walks a fine line.The Northern Echo. 27 October 2000.
Adams, Catherine.18 December 2007 at theWayback Machine
Magical Coaching and Spiritual Advice are among the ancillary services offered by some diviners and root doctors. These consultation services are usually engaged on an hourly basis. — excerpt from an article on magical coaching at the Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers web site
4 April 2010 at the1 April 2010 retrieved 17 July 2010
Carroll, Robert Todd. (2003).. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
Boles, Jacqueline; Davis, Phillip; Tatro, Charlotte. (1983).
False Pretense and Deviant Exploitation: Fortunetelling as a Con
Feingold, Ken(1995), OU: Interactivity as Divination as Vending Machine,
Hughes, M., Behanna, R; Signorella, M. (2001).
Perceived Accuracy of Fortune Telling and Belief in the Paranormal
Jorgensen, Danny L.; Jorgensen, Lin (1982), Social Meanings of the Occult,
Zane, J. Peder (11 September 1994),Soothsayers as Business Advisers; You Are Going to Go on a Long Trip,
Media related toFortune-tellingat Wikimedia Commons
This page was last edited on 7 May 2019, at 23:53