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by Darlene Hansen

Review by Candace Barrett-Barger

In Secrets of the Palm's preface, author Darlene Hansen propounds a theory she claims was received under automatic writing: "The palm sets the background," she postulates, "the fingers set the mood and the lines set the possibilities. They all work together." This introduction sets the tone for the book, an interweave of straightforward hand analysis text and metaphysical theory.

The book is satisfying on various levels. A proponent of Benham's scientific school of hand analysis could savor the text strictly for its easily comprehensible, up-to-date coverage of all aspects of hand reading from the examination of the hand shape and fingernails to the newly popularized study of dermatoglyphics. For those interested in combining the study of palmistry with metaphysics, Hansen meanders intriguingly into the exploration of some original and thought-provoking concepts: the relation of the palmar creases to the subject's chakras, the possible karmic causes of certain "abnormal" markings (i.e., the Simian Crease), and the reincarnational implications of schizophrenia (could it be possible that certain individuals are involuntarily "tuning in" on several incarnations at once, producing the phenomenon we call multiple personality?).

In the segment on medical palmistry, Hansen cites specific illnesses, instructs the palmist on how to detect their presence in the hand, and relates their possible causes (for instance, rheumatism and colitis might be connected to a nitpicking, highly self-critical nature). The approach she suggests to combat illness is holistic and threefold: physical - following sound medical advice and practices; emotional - speaking one's own mind, pursuing creative outlets, etc.; and spiritual - healing oneself through prayer, healing touch, and meditation.

The strength of Hansen's writing is evident in the way her spiritual beliefs pervade the text, yet never obtrude on her teachings; rather, they are perfectly integrated with them.

The book starts falteringly and gains momentum as it goes on. The first chapters are a little stark; they also show strongly the influence of Judith Hipskind's teaching. Certain passages, especially those concerning the back of the hand, the spaces between the fingers, and hand gestures, seem almost to be lifted from Hipskind's Palmistry: The Whole View.

By the time she reaches the chapter on hand classification, though, Hansen appears to have hit her stride. She integrates the "old palmistry" classifications of square, psychic, conic, etc., with Gettings' "element" groupings (earth, air, fire, water), detailing possible occupations and health tendencies for each type, and dealing with the effects of more than one element when combined, as they so often are, in a single palm.

In the chapter on dermatoglyphics, she brings up the Oriental theory which relates whorl patterns to yang energy and loops and arches to yin, and goes into fascinating detail about the personality and destiny of those possessing each type of fingerprint.

Hansen displays an appealing quirkiness, a highly personalized palmistry that uses astrology and numerology in conjunction with the study of the hand. This study comes to full fruition in the last two chapters. In the second-to-last chapter, the hands of three couples in enduring relationships are examined and the reasons for their compatibility analyzed. The final chapter covers a unique territory: taking an entire family (parents and six children), Hansen analyzes their handprints and supplies additional information via horoscopes and numerological charts. She explores the reincarnational connections between family members, emphasizing the belief that families are chosen before birth from those the soul has previously known. The data from the numerological charts in particular provides an interesting adjunct to the palm readings; for example, several members of the family under consideration were born with six digits on their hands (the extra digit connected to the Mercury finger). Hansen points out the fact that in numerology the number six relates to family responsibility and is often experienced by people who, having abandoned loved ones in previous lives, are now shouldering a heavy burden of responsibility to others. Since one can look at the set of the Mercury finger to find fear of abandonment, Hansen suggestion that a subject's deviant Mercury could be related back to his own abandonment of others in a previous incarnation is an interesting one. And the correlation between unwanted family duty and the intimacy challenges suggested by a "deformed" Mercury finger is evident.

The comprehensiveness of the Walinsky family study is a good example of the way that merging disciplines can give the reader a more complete picture of his subject. The only criticism that could be leveled at Ms. Hansen's handling of this chapter might be that the numerology charts are too esoteric and difficult for the layman to follow.

In a more serious vein, there are several references to markings on the Life Line indicating the subject's possible death at the point where the markings occur, references that seem archaic, a throwback to the "old palmistry" approach that encouraged hand readers to indulge in dark predictions and fear-mongering. It seems irresponsible on Hansen's part to charge the student-palmist with the power of predicting, however carefully or warily, the death of any individual who has come to him for a reading. These passages ignore the prevailing feeling among today's hand readers, which holds that no one, including the hand analyst, can know the hour of another's demise; and that even if it were possible to predict a subject's death it would be morally reprehensible to do so, as such a prediction would likely do nothing but induce fear and hopelessness.

The same can be said for the author's contention that certain markings (for instance, a cross on the heart line) can indicate the loss or death of a loved one. More viable, and certainly more productive, an interpretation of the marking in question might be that some emotional check is holding the subject back from full expression or realization of his feelings. The first reading (the prediction of death or loss) promotes only terror and the second takes a step in the direction of self-knowledge and growth.

Other complaints might concern Hansen's reference to "displaced mounts" and her contention that a mount not placed squarely beneath its corresponding finger indicates the energies of that finger are twisting away from the area where they belong. Other research indicates the natural placement of a mount is under and slightly to the side of the finger. Her correlation of the Girdle of Venus to heart and root chakras is intriguing but garbled, and her description of the attributes of the finger phalanges seems hers alone, underived from tradition or current research. For example, she relates the bottom phalange of Saturn to eccentricity, innovation, humanitarianism, and brotherly love, ignoring the established interpretations of closeness to the land, solid moral foundation, and traditionalism. She offers no comment or explanation for her deviations from accepted views.

Apart from these few departures, Hansen's palmistry is well-researched and clearly derived from modern leaders in the field: Beryl Hutchinson, Judith Hipskind, Julius Spier, Noel Jacquin with strains of Hindu and Chinese hand-reading adding to the richness and the picture. This strong and varied background, coupled with her own creative, individualistic approach to palmistry, makes for a book well worth reading and one that may provoke the palmistry student to consider a more holistic approach to his or her own studies.