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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

fortune-telling The practice of describing coming events by means of any of many different modes, among them Tarot cards, crystal ball gazing, scrying, I Ching and palmistry. The ethnic group known as Romany, or Gypsy people, are famous for this practice.
      In 1563, fortune-telling was declared a capital crime in Britain, being included with witchcraft. Eventually it became a misdemeanor, practitioners being included along with “vagrants, rogues and vagabonds,” and a year in prison was deemed more appropriate.
      Author Lewis Spence, in his 1920 book An Encyclopaedia of Occultism, expresses an incredible tolerance of this flummery:  


      While it might be an offence for the palmist or fortune-teller knowingly to accept payment from a half-witted or obviously apparent ignorant person, it can hardly be pretended that the ordinary person who consults a professional fortune-teller or crystal gazer and tenders payment in return for their skill at delineations of character or forecasting of the future, feels that he has been imposed upon should the delineations be at fault, or the forecast turn out to be inaccurate.

      It could be argued that anyone who goes to such a practitioner is by definition, “half-witted” or “obviously ignorant.”



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