Lesson 5) Onychomancy
Once again, Professor Cattercorn was waiting by the entrance when the students began to file into the classroom. This time, however, instead of stopping each student to give their palm a look, she passed out an item. As each student took their seat, they began to examine the item. It appeared to be a tube of some sort, made of bamboo. As they began to fiddle with them, Professor Cattercorn moved to the front of the class and counted to five mentally. A student yelped as they had effectively gotten their fingers stuck in the object.
Welcome back, class! Last lesson sure was fun, wasn’t it? I bet you didn’t realize that divining someone’s hand was so much work! It’s difficult to memorize all of the lines, shapes, and mounds of a person’s hand but with a lot of effort, you can get where you feel more comfortable doing it. Practice makes perfect, even if you do have to use notes the first few times. Study the hands of your friends and family first; that way you don’t have to worry about proving your seer prowess as it grows. As for the items that you possess, these are a Muggle gag item known as a Chinese finger trap. For those, like Ms. Pennyfeather, that have gotten their fingers stuck, you are not forever trapped. Sometimes the key to freedom requires an action that is opposite your first instinct.
A Fingernail Is Worth a Thousand Words
In today’s lesson, we will be finishing up with the hand. I know, go ahead and cheer! At the end of the lesson you will have your midterm to review for and take. For now, though, let us talk about fingertips and fingernails. First, we will be discussing onychomancy, or the art of reading one’s characteristics and future in their fingernails. This is also known as onuchomancy, and many other variants. Don’t worry though, I won’t make you learn all of them! One is enough of a mouthful! One can tell quite a bit about someone by examining their fingernails. Not only does it offer a glimpse into their characteristics, but also at some of their health problems they currently have or will suffer from in the future.
Onychomancy of Old
While not exactly the same as the onychomancy we will be studying today, the ancient Babylonians actually practiced an offshoot which consisted of divining future events from the oily fingernails of a male child. This was done by preparing a solution of oil1 and water, coating the child’s nails with it, and then examining their nails. The practice differed widely depending on geographical region or preferences of the priests involved: sometimes the child had to name the symbols they saw in their own nails while a magi2 whispered spells in their ear, sometimes an expert priest or magi divined the symbols themselves, sometimes the practice was done in the dark with only oil lamps to cast shadows, while other times the light of day was required.
Whatever the case, the interpretation of omens (as well as the application of oil on fingernails) was the main, uniting factor. While omens will be discussed more in Year Six, the general premise centered around the appearance of certain symbols or shapes reflected in the gleam of light, or represented in the swirls of the oil. This is not unlike the more commonly known tasseomancy (or the reading of tea leaves) in which certain symbols appear and are divined by the seer. Referring back to the ancient Babylonian practice, these assorted symbols were interpreted as life events, with the general rule of thumb (pardon the pun!) that the closer to the edge of the nail the symbol was, the sooner the event would come to pass.
Newer Nail Nuances
The use of oil aside, there are a lot of things that we can glean from both the shape and color of a nail. Some future or present health conditions may be indicated by the nail. It is important to note that we are specifically talking about the individual's real nails, not any extensions, applied paints, or false nails that obscure their real nails. For this reason, any practice of this method of divination will obviously have to be done on an individual with their real nails showing. As an additional note, some of these things can damage a nail, or alter some of its characteristics and contribute to false or less correct readings, so be wary of this!
Modern applications of onychomancy have a more structured approach, with meanings assigned to various aspects and characteristics of the nail rather than the interpretation of visions or omens. There is something to be gleaned from each aspect, and we have not had the time to cover all of them here in this lesson. However, as with any other form of divination we have covered so far in our studies, if you should develop particular interest in this branch of divination, there are many
These fingernails often consume most of the top portion of the finger leaving little to no skin on each side. This type of nail is indicative of a passionate person. They typically have a very big personality, but can often come off as insensitive or commandeering. Additionally, due to their connection with their passions, they can be prone to mood swings, or being a force to be reckoned with when angry.
It is said that those who possess narrow fingernails are often cold individuals. On the plus side, this means they often possess great, analytical minds, but occasionally can come off as uncaring or selfish.
Oddities on the nail can often depict serious health issues. Examine the pictures below to understand how to spot ridged nails. Vertically ridged nails often indicate a person who has or will eventually have arthritis. Horizontally ridged nails have their own problems. This type of nail often indicates a person who does not have a good diet. They are lacking some essential vitamins and their health may be deteriorating. However, make sure to take into account that similar ridges may appear as normal signs of aging.
This color is often a result of a lack of iron in one’s system. Iron deficiency can cause future health problems, such as fatigue. Much like the ridges we just examined, this is not so much divination as it is an indication of health problems either now, or down the road. You can still take this information and use it to your advantage in a reading.
This color indicates a person who is very impatient when dealing with others. Because of this, they can seem rude or cold at times. However, on the plus side, these people are highly efficient. Lastly, referring back to our discussion of nails offering a peek into one’s health, this nail color can worryingly be an indicator of heart disease!
Right at My Fingertips
Switching gears, let’s briefly return to palmistry as a whole and take a look at the fingertips. Try to put aside the shape of the nails and look only at the fleshy little stubs themselves. The first thing to determine is what type of fingertip style a person has. The illustration below depicts the four different types of fingertips. From left to right, we have: pointed, spatula (or fan), square, and conic. It is also possible to have different fingertip types on each hand: for example, one finger tip that is conic and three that are square. This simply means that you have traits of both (or all), though these traits would apply to different aspects of your life. Each fingertip has its own reading which I will now describe in a little more detail.
This type of finger is often found on those with a rather sensitive nature. They tend to be more in touch with their emotions, which can be a useful skill for negotiators, mediators, artists, or just plain old kind, understanding people!
People with this finger type are usually on top of their game. They work hard to be physically and mentally superior to others. They typically do well as entrepreneurs or in some related field, whether it’s inventing new things or brainstorming ideas for big companies. Interestingly, there seems to be some overlap with this fingertip type and Unspeakables.
These types of people really take their time with finishing projects and work. They are very methodical and prefer to make sure that the job they are doing is done correctly. They are your rational thinkers, but oftentimes they lack in the creativity department.
These individuals thrive on security and safety. They are very flexible individuals who are willing to make compromises. They often make good hostage negotiators, Muggle-worthy excuse department workers, or defense lawyers.
That is enough food for thought today! Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately, in some opinions), this lesson was a bit shorter than the previous ones on palmistry and the hand, which you can use to your advantage. You can take the rest of the allotted class period to study for the midterm or ask me any lingering questions you have on course material from this class or others. I know that each and everyone of you will do me proud with your grades. You have, as stated in the syllabus, a test and an essay. There will be plenty for you to discuss in the essay, so don’t fret about not being able to get to the word count! In the next lesson, we will begin our focus on the rest of the body, specifically metoposcopy and moleosophy. Until then, fair fortune!
- Please do not pour gasoline on your nails in an attempt to recreate this form of divination. While the vapors and oil absorption through your porous skin would certainly give you some interesting hallucinations, the kind of oil meant here is commonly referred to as “anointing oil”, which can be best equated with various modern essential oils.
- A common name for magical practitioners in ancient civilizations around the Middle East (Babylon, Israel) or North Africa (Egypt).