Ever since mankind began to wonder about its place in the cosmos, people have tried to predict the future. In the Middle Ages, when pseudosciences were rife, anything that moved - and several things that didn't - was liable to be used as a sign of things to come. Perusing parts of the body was a particularly popular pastime, as illustrated by the guided tour of the more portentous parts of Ms Elle Macpherson.
But why have most of these methods of fortune-telling died away, while others have survived? What type of mechanism governs the evolution of such techniques? A new book, The Mammoth Book of Fortune Telling (Robinson, pounds 6.99), by "Celestine", is subtitled "The complete guide to predicting fate and fortune in the stars and other mystic arts" and gives a good account of modern mystic methods. here are some of the highlights:
Western astrology: In drawing up a birth chart, don't forget to convert the time of birth to GMT (a table of daylight-saving dates back to 1916 is included). Also, you mustn't neglect to take into account the difference between sidereal and tropical time. Then, when you've checked your Ephemeris to see whether any of the transiting inner planets join forces with the transiting outer planets, you'll find that Princess Anne has a sling-shaped chart with Jupiter as the focus for the other planets. No wonder, then, that she has a powerful need to find a specific outlet for her highly charged personality! Chinese astrology: I was born in the Year of the Pig. "Of all the signs of the Chinese zodiac, the Pig is the most lovable. This affable personality makes the most congenial of companions . . . it is very rare to find a Pig- type who is greedy or self-centred." We don't get on well with Tigers or Snakes, though, and we get terribly bullied by any Dragons we may marry. Playing cards: For goodness' sake don't try to predict your future with the cards you use for bridge or snap: "cards, like everything else, pick up influences, becoming imbued with certain invisible yet tangible qualities according to the use to which they are put". Anyway, the six of diamonds predicts marital difficulties which "in some instances could lead to divorce or separation", so watch out for that one. Crystals: The gypsy method involves 12 gemstones and a pebble called the "Significator". You cast them and make predictions according to the position of different gems relative to the Significator. …