A couple of nights ago, I was sitting around the table with some family and friends and my Mum said, ‘Livvy, tell them about your palm.’ She said it, obviously, in the context of psychic discussion but as soon as she did, the usual happened. The table divided into two camps; the skeptics and the believers (or the Open Minded as I like to call them). It’s the same thing when horoscopes crop up in conversation. Half the table scoffs loudly (you don’t actually believe in that do you?) the other half wants to know what star sign the scoffers are.
Yes, I went to see a palm reader a couple of weeks ago. I was in a little town down the South Coast with some friends and we were strolling after breakfast when one friend spotted his sign by chance. Quite unable to resist most forms of psychic mediums/psychological profiling, the four of us decided, on the spot, to get our palms read. I’ve had several encounters with palms and tarot cards and auras and all of them have been interesting and valuable. I’ve had all three (palm, cards, aura) read in New York, my cards done in New Zealand and a couple of readings here at home.
Let me put it out there; I read my horoscope religiously, am fascinated by and generally buy into Astrology, Numerology and the existence of psychics and mediums and believe there is something to be said for our hands telling us a little about who we are and where we’ve been. For me, seeing a psychic or having my cards read is somewhat akin to therapy. These people aren’t predicting what I’ll eat for breakfast next Thursday, or the precise day I will die – they’re looking at my past and reconciling it with the path I’m currently on, picking up on specific indicators and energies they are particularly attuned to. And I think, like with anything, there are the good and the bad and sometimes you can get duped by the bad. Just like you can score a bad doctor or counselor or mechanic. But there are some truly good ones out there and when you find them, you can feel the inner skeptic being slowly silenced by this stranger’s insight and consistency.
People have been reading palms for hundreds of years and in many cultures today it remains a respected practice. Palm readers look to the tops of our hands to learn of our traits (independence, how giving we are, our sense of duty, the importance we place in belief) and our palms to glean where we’ve come from, where we’re going and what needs to change. Generally speaking our left hand indicates what we’re born with (our potential) and our right indicates what we’ve done with it. Interestingly, in many cultures only the left palm of the woman is read, not both.
As I took a deep breath to defend myself to the Skeptics around the table and explain why I gave a man my hands and valued his words, I was reminded of an article I wrote for Lip Magazine a couple of years back, in defense of Astrology. Whilst palm reading is a slightly different kettle of fish, some of the reasoning still stands – it’s still another alternative to self exploration with a little therapy on the side. Below is an excerpt from the article …
So, yes, I am an astrology junkie. Obviously. And yes, this is most often met with incredulous stares and ‘you don’t actually believe that stuff do you?’ I do. And I don’t. There are parts I absolutely believe in, and there are parts that even I cannot defend (that’s not to say I don’t try.) But, I absolutely do not see a problem with seeing the world that way – what’s not to say that the relative position of celestial bodies on the day of our birth have some say and indeed some sway over us mere mortals? Entire religions have been built on less. We are prepared to believe a man was nailed to a cross then rose from the dead three days later. Siddhartha sprung from the right side of Queen Maya, an entire sea was parted, a flood wiped out all but a man and two of each species on earth , the ancient Greeks believed a mountain was the home of all the gods and goddesses necessary to placate for a good life. We are prepared to invest a huge amount of time and faith (and money these days) into institutions whose concepts we take for granted as being true, without so much as a second glance at the logistics of them. But the planetary alignment, at our exact moment of birth, having anything to do with human affairs? Not possible. In fact, so not possible as to deserve a derisive laugh and perhaps a roll of the eyes.
See I have a theory. At the end of the day, all us humans have is a whole lot of questions and absolutely no answers. That’s not to say we don’t look – we do. We look anywhere and everywhere, so desperate are we to answer those existential questions that hang over our heads, just out of sight, those questions whose very existence negates a purely peaceful stint on earth. We traverse schools of philosophy, make grand excursions into the scientific realm, we found and spread religions, devour art, literature and music – anything tangible that reassures us we exist for a reason, whatever that reason may be.
Astrology, from the Greek astros (star) and logos (study) is simply another avenue for us to explore, another treasure trove of possible explanations. It is the reassurance factor that there could be something out there, bigger than us, beyond what we can comprehend. We have put blind faith in all manner of figures, concepts and theories since the dawn of time, it’s what we do.
Astrology also feeds the inherently egocentric need of human beings to know more about ourselves. Hand in hand with our obsessive quest for More, tentatively titled, ‘There Has to Be More Than This’, is our equally as obsessive desire to profile, label, explain and justify our very own selves. Look at the explosion of pop psychology, the myriad self help books, the ever present quizzes in women’s magazines and Facebook – How Well Do You Know Me? What Traveller Are You? What Eater Are You? What 1950s Glamour Are You? Are You Really Meant to Be With Each Other? What Star-sign Should You Be? – Dr Phil, John Edwards … modern astrology simply caters to our introversion, to our need to both have something understand us and to understand our very own selves.
But perhaps we are not far off in looking to the planets to give us a hand in understanding ourselves. Even Carl Jung subscribed to the descriptive aptitude of astrology (not necessarily the predictive). In writings published in the early 60s, Jung acknowledged that astrology in its original form was for the ancient civilisations what psychology is for us today – “astrology represents the summation of the psychological knowledge of antiquity”. Psychology and Astrology have long since been cousins and Jung was the first to acknowledge the similarities. And it makes sense – personality psychology relies on archetypes to identify common traits and behaviours in order to effectively profile people on a large scale, as does astrology. Of course, this fusion of these two fields is one blighted with skepticism due to the difficult nature of scientifically proving astrology has anything to do with personality structure. Then again the arts side of Psychology has long come under fire for this exact reason, and yet this does not negate its validity as a discipline of the field as a whole. If we just step back for a moment, stop demanding constant irrefutable proof and open ourselves up to simple possibility, astrology emerges as a viable and indeed age old discipline.
In its current form, sure, astrology suffers from a somewhat tarnished reputation. And so it should – any man and his dog can set up a website proclaiming to predict your soul mate (for a cost of $6.60 per text message after you tell them your star sign and eye colour). And we all know magazines and newspapers will save money by writing their own daily horoscopes rather than consult an actual astrologist – they’re not bothered, we still read them. Astrology has become less about what it was originally and more about playing into the simplistic needs of mass humanity and making a quick buck whilst at it.
Perhaps it is because my horoscope is, unerringly, spot on. Because the Birthday Book absolutely nailed me and because every Cancerian I have ever been involved with has either ended in tears, or been hideously complicated (as I am warned time and time again). Perhaps it is because my star sign profile is equally as accurate and perhaps more informative than any psychology test I was a guinea pig for during uni, and because, at the end of the day, sometimes you just have to be open to the possibility that not everything can be explained through a science lab or a statistical analysis.
After all, there is more than one way of exploring being human.