Though we all wonder what the future will bring, some of us just can't wait to find out. For these people, the solution is to consult a fortune teller. Fortune telling, or "divination" as it is sometimes called, is a booming business around the globe. It can also be interlocked with many religions and cultures, and for this reason, it is a prodigious part of everyday life in various societies.
In Europe, however, the opposite is true. Both the church and state declared fortune-telling to be a sin several centuries ago, and laws still prohibit its practice in some places today. It is, therefore, not held in high regard publicly. Mainstream religions in the United States also uphold this view, though one may be surprised at how many people there, from the very rich to the very poor, do consult fortune-tellers of all kinds. After all, aren't horoscopes also a form of fortune-telling?
Techniques for telling fortunes stem from the roots of a civilization. Those who claim an ability to see future events do so with the passed-on knowledge of many before them, using whatever means available at the time. Some techniques that have been practiced in Europe and in North and South America are: tarot reading (by cards), tasseography (by tea leaves), chiromancy (palmistry), and crystallomancy (by a crystal sphere).
In Asia, many kinds of divination originated from the Chinese concept of suan ming. One of the most popular of these fortune-telling systems is the "Eight Characters." The method was devised by taking a person's birth year, month, day, and hour and displaying them as four columns, or "pillars," consisting of two characters each. The four pillars have eight characters altogether, thus the name Eight Characters.
The "casting," or throwing, of bones, stones, shells, leather strips, or pieces of wood is the most traditional method of telling fortunes in Africa. The techniques fall into one of several categories: casting marked objects and numerically counting up how they fall according to their markings or whether they touch each other, and casting a set of symbolic bones or articles to signify, for instance, travel, pregnancy, etc.
As expected, fortune-telling by any method is controversial. It is not surprising that scientific investigations have concluded that divination is impossible and that fortune-tellers are really just experts in reading body language and making general statements that seem specific to the situation.