This project will produce the first scholarly history of commercial fortune telling in modern America, told from the point of view of customers as well as practitioners. The history of the persistence of the trade in prophecy well into the twentieth century will shed new light on the relationship of rationality and modernity in United States history.
Going back to the Dark Ages and beyond, almost every country in Europe has a history of fortune tellers too. In England, there were those known as the "cunning folk" who not only used herbs to heal their townsfolk, but also were consulted to find lost objects or to aid in decision-making in business and home-life. It was said that many of these cunning folk were given their abilities by the "good folk" or what we might call the fairies today. But whatever their means of acquiring these talents, the cunning folk were fortune tellers in every sense of the words. Scrying was one method of divination which meant that the fortune teller would gaze into some reflective surface (i.e. a crystal ball or mirror) and allow a picture to show itself. This picture would give the fortune teller the answer to the question being asked. The ancient Celtic Druids were said to have "read the flight pattern of birds" or what is also known as augury.
Chinese fortune telling, better known as Suan ming ..
From the beginning of time, human beings have craved a glimpse into the future. As early as 4000 B.C., it seems that the art of fortune telling has been practiced in some form or fashion. While similar to divination, fortune telling often takes place in a less formal setting and is not considered a religious ritual. Here is a brief history of fortune telling and possible reasons as to why it remains so popular even today.