A few days ago a Chinese version of a Vine-type website produced a short viral video of an old man, with crutches at his side, groping a younger woman’s breast. The man in the video video is allegedly performing “fortune telling” by boob-holding. It’s hilarious because of the oddity of the situation: the crowd looking on, the old man looking so deadpan, and the girl looking annoyed and even bored. On the website, comments abounded (most of people claiming the man was a lech, taking advantage, and outrageous) and the video went viral worldwide.
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It seems ridiculous, even by fortune-telling standards. But did the old man just make it all up? Is “boobomancy” a real type of fortune telling?
Actually, it is. I can’t tell you for sure whether the old guy in the video is serious about it, but I can tell you that there is a long history of breast-related fortune-telling in both China and the West.
In China, there is a type of divination called “Mo Gu” (which means something like “divination by feeling of the body”). You’ll notice that the old man in the video had crutches; that might not just be coincidence. “Mo Gu” is one of several types of street-side fortune-telling that was often practiced by the blind or the lame, who were felt to have a greater sensitivity to certain things because of their disability.
Mo Gu is related to Chinese medicine, and is founded on two important parts: pulse and body-structure. In China people traditionally believed that the pulse was not just the blood pumping but also measured the flow of “Qi”, the mystical life-force. A traditional Chinese doctor would first take your pulse in three spots, and (if he was talented) would be able to tell you what was wrong with you, how you were out of balance, diagnose medicine, or even predict future ailments.
The structure of the body in its different parts was supposed to reveal many things about not just a person’s health, but their personality, problems, and even future events, in theory. This is all because of the way Chinese philosophy understands time and the future, with something called “incipiency”. “Incipiency” means that everything that could possibly happen in the future must exist in an undeveloped form (as an “incipiency”) in the present. All Chinese fortune telling is based on being able to interpret and see those incipiencies correctly, through different forms: the stars, the I Ching, or parts of the human body.
So in theory, a “Mo Gu” master might feel the breast for two reasons: to assess the pulse at a point near the heart, to analyze health; or to assess the form and qualities of the breast to determine problems, the woman’s personality, or future issues.
None of this means the geezer in the video wasn’t just pulling a fast one for kicks. But technically, there really is a divination system in China that could involve handling the breast.
But that’s not all! It existed in the West too. In the western world we called it “Sternomancy” (from the greek “sternon”, meaning “chest”). It’s been around since ancient history but was actually a real fad in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in southern Europe. Sternomancers claimed that by examining the form and qualities of a woman’s breast they could determine her basic character, and thus predict things about how she would do in relationships, and her romantic and family future.
Sternomantic analysis of female breasts predict, for example, that a woman with a springy breast is going to be intelligent, but also lazy of character. Combined with a pointy nipple, the woman would be a domineering wife; but if her nipple is quite small, she will be shy and prove to be a good wife.
On the other hand, a woman with a very small breast will be sociable and friendly of character. Usually, she will be easy-going, but will also be prone to jealousy.
Women with pear-shaped breasts will be a little wild. They will love romance and dalliances, but will be very difficult for any man to “tame”. If she also has a pointy nipple, she’ll be particularly tempestuous.
Women with very large breasts will generally be of a highly friendly and likable character, but will expect a great deal of attention and pampering. If treated properly she’ll be cheerful and likely to be a generous lover, and also a good cook.
Make of all that what you will. Obviously, Sternomancy in Europe was pretty sexist by modern standards. And I don’t know of anyone who still does it here, unlike Mo Gu which is still practiced in China. But who knows? New Agers go for even nuttier things, so if the old guy from video plays his cards right, he might be able to move to California and make some real money off his mystical boobomancy.