A Fortune Telling Primer – How The World Tells The Future

A Fortune Telling Primer – How The World Tells The Future

Do you believe that someone can predict the future? Whether or not you believe, do you understand the various methods used by the practitioners of fortune telling, the art of telling the future? I have been studying fortune telling for some time now and while I will let in to a healthy measure of skepticism regarding the practice I also think it is quite fascinating to read about their methods and the people who believe in them. In this primer I will expose the dominant methods fortune tellers use to tell the future, broken down by geographical vicinity.


Asian fortune telling began in China in the earliest dynasty known, Three Sovereign Ones and the Five Emperors, which dates to before 2600 B.C. With time the methods employed by the Chinese have spread to the rest of Asia under different names, but similar approaches. No matter in which Asian country it is practiced, however, the fortune telling method can be traced back to China.

These are the four major methods used to tell the future in Asia:

  1. confront reading. In this method the teller analyzes the three dominant regions of the confront, upper which represents youth, middle which represents middle age and lower which represents old age. By analyzing the lines, shape, blemishes and other aspects of the confront the practitioner is able to foretell the luck of the recipient as it pertains to that age of their life. For example, someone may be told they will have bad luck when they are in middle age but will have good luck when they get older, because of what the see in the different regions of the confront.
  2. Palm reading. The lines of the palm are analyzed to predict love, personalty and other traits. It is similar to western palmistry you may have seen in the movies or practiced for fun when you were a child.
  3. Kau Cim. In this technique a bamboo cylinder is filled with incense sticks that have some inscription on them. The fortune teller shakes the stick until one incense stick falls out, which is then analyzed to show the future. This is a short term prediction as it is only good for the calendar year.
  4. Zi wei dou shu. In this method a master of the Chinese calendar is sought out to give ones destiny path, or fate. It is done using a Chinese astrology, and it can also be used not only to tell the future but also justify why things happened in the past.


Africa is a large continent and the methods for fortune telling vary. However, one shared approach is that of casting or throwing bones. This is practiced throughout Africa with various different objects used to represent the bones – small animal bones, pieces of wood, small rocks or shells can all be used. A shared approach is to gather around in a course of action while the caster throws and then reads the bones.

These are the two dominant methods used in throwing the bones:

  1. Simple count. In this method each bone is marked with a number. After the bones are cast, a mathematical formula is used based on whether the bones are touching each other or not, their directional position and what the number was. The score is then used to tell the future.
  2. Symbolic. In this method each bones is chosen to represent something, for example a bone from a rabbits foot to represent travel, a shell to represent ocean, etc. The position of each symbolic bone is then used to determine the fate of the requester.

Europe & America

The practice of fortune telling is not respected not understood in the western world, at the minimum to the degree it is in other places. Despite that, however, there are a number of believers and accepted practices.

These are the four major methods used to tell the future in Europe and the Americas:

  1. Astrology. The attempt to answer a question by constructing a horoscope for the exact time and place at which the question was asked.
  2. Tasseography. The interpretation of patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments.
  3. Tarot reading. Using tarot cards to predict the future.
  4. Palmistry. Palm reading, similar to the Asian method.

Fortune tellers are respected and revered in the East and reviled in the West. But no matter where you live and what your beliefs, it is interesting to learn about them. I hope you found this primer instructive, and I wish you the best of luck in in any case you choose to walk your own path in life.

leave your comment