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Palm diagram

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The Female Touch

Women in the History of Palmistry


The nineteenth century saw women emerge nationally as trusted palmists to the nobility in France. One such was Marie-Anne le Normand, born September 16, 1768, at Alencon. Her memoir, Souvenirs Prophetiues, relates how she became the cartomancer to the fashionable young widow Josephine de Beauharnais.

When Josephine married a short little man named Napoleon, Marie-Anne was well on her way to becoming the most important fortune-teller in the Court. Her memoirs relate her prophetic powers, Napoleon’s interest in astrology and chiromancy, and her own relationship with the emperor.

Napoleon used to consult le Normand about his future between battles, and on his way to and from sieges, even before his rise to fame. She made far-reaching prophecies that kept the little man returning. She would take his hand impression in ashes, and predict great futures for his commands. Her last advice to him was to beware of his pride, which apparently greatly unnerved him.

The left hands of both Josephine and Napoleon are reproduced in le Normand’s Memoires Historiques et Secrets de L’Imperatrice Josephine. She analyzes both outlines of the hands with great detail, including that Napoleon’s Jupiter finger revealed an inferiority complex that many others attributed to his height. He also claimed that Josephine’s Mercury finger indicated difficulty in relationships. Outside accounts verify both these reports.

Le Normand trained other women, who went on to practice in her footsteps, even in the very cubicle she used to use. One such was Madame Moreau, who published L’Avenir Devoile-Chiromancie Nouvelle in 1869.

This volume has fascinated many for shedding light on the social and intellectual demands made on early nineteenth century palmists, as intimate accounts of clients are revealed including their needs, reactions, and outcomes of her predictions. Her lively, fresh approach laid the basis for one that Cheiro was later to pursue.

Batya Weinbaum is a contemporary palmist and writer.

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