Onychomancy or Everything you never wanted to know about fingernails (c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2006-10

A form of divination using fingernails is called Onychomancy. Believe it or not, there are a great many strong superstitions associated with fingernails and fingernail clippings are often utilized in magical workings. The use of fingernail clippings in spell working would ensure that the spell affected the right person. Fingernails were also utilized in healing rituals with the clippings from the person who was ill either burned or buried. It was hoped that the illness would be cleansed. It was also considered to be very unlucky to cut your nails on a Friday or a Sunday but Monday and Thursday were auspicious days for the big event. Dactylomancy is a form of divination which was practiced with rings. This involved placing gold or silver rings on the fingernails in conjunction with certain planets.

Some of the other superstitions associated with our nails are quite entertaining. A woman who is able to cut her right hand fingernails with her left hand, will rule in her marriage. We are never to cut a baby's fingernails, bite them off, or they will grow up to be a thief. In Japan girls are discouraged from nailbiting by the warning of difficult births.

White spots on our fingernails are regarded as a sign of good fortune. In Germany it is believed that the number of white spots indicate the years left to live. In Great Britain a white spot on the pointer finger indicates a new friend, the middle finger predicts a new enemy, on the ring finger money or new love and if it is on our baby finger, a journey. This is remembered by using a little verse, "A friend, a foe, money to come, a journey to go." A white spot on the thumb tells us that we are about to receive a gift. Black spots are a sign of bad luck or misfortune and yellow specks warn of a death.

Shape of fingernails and general appearance are used to ascertain character. Greedy people will have crooked fingernails and if they are raised in the middle it is taken as a sign of an early death. The shape of the half moon on your fingernails at the base, are an indicator of longevity, the bigger the moon the longer the life. Fingernails also have an interesting interpretation if you dream of them. Long fingernails are a sign of difficulties in your relationship, short ones can indicate an unexpected gift . Dreaming of biting your nails, especially to the quick, is a sign you should go to the doctor. Polishing your nails is a warning against impulsive behaviours but filing them indicates accomplishments achieved through your own efforts.. Cutting your fingernails is a sign of prestige and advancement but bending them back painfully speaks of a difficult time coming ahead that could last for a couple of months.

Fingernails, which can grow up to a millimetre a week, are composed of layers of protein, sulphur and keratin. We should pay close attention to the appearance, shape or colour/discolouration of our fingernails. The state and condition of our fingernails are very much an image of the health of our body. Problems with our nails can indicate an illness, nutritional problem or disorder occuring in our body and can often be the first indication that there is a problem.

The nail plate is the the hard portion you see when you look at your fingernail. The skin that frames the nail plates on three sides are called the nail folds. The nail bed is the skin underneath the nail plate. Cells from the base of the nail bed produce the fingernail plate. The cuticle is the tissue that overlaps the nail plate at the nail base and is there to protect the new keratin cells that grow from the nail bed. The lunula is the whitish, half-moon shape at the base of the nail underneath the plate.

White fingernails with pink near the tops can be a sign of cirrhosis of the liver and white lines across can also be an indicator of liver problems. A partially white nail with dark spots near the tip can be a sign of a kidney problem. If the whole nail is white it could mean kidney, liver disorders or anemia. Yellowed nails can also indicate liver issues, diabetes, respiratory and lymphatic problems. Nails that are quite dark can indicate a Vitamin B12 deficiency but brittle nails can show iron deficiency or thyroid problems. Red at the bottom of the nail can be a sign of a connective tissue disorder.

If the nails are brittle, soft, with no shine or half moon, it can be an indicator of hyperthyroidism (overactive). Ridges can also indicate a thyroid problem or an infection. Nails that are too thick can indicate a circulation problem in your vascular system and if the nails beds are deep and blue it can be a sign of pulmonary obstruction or emphysema. Very wide nails can show a hormonal disorder and flat nails can indicate Reynaud's Syndrome which affects the circulation and the persons feet and hands always feel cold. Nails that bend too easily can indicate rheumatoid arthritis and nails that have the appearance of hammered brass can predict partial or total hair loss.

Since our hands are an important part of our appearance, I will close with a little tip for anyone who would like to go and have an experience with artificial nails or just have a manicure. Contact a school that teaches aesethetics and/or hair styling. Very often the students in the nail classes need someone to practice on, it is free for you, all it will cost you is your time. These are also inexpensive places to have them done because they are teaching facilities, all of the work is monitored. It is one of those win/win situations - you can get your nails done free or inexpensively, and you are helping someone go forward in their career.


"A Dictionary of Omens and Superstitions"
Phillippa Waring
ISBN 0-965-63619-4

The Dreamer's Dictionary
Lady Stearne Robinson & Tom Corbett

"Milady's Standard Cosmetology"
Thomson Learning
ISBN 1-56253-879-9

Tarot Honour Roll

Tarot Day In Canada Supporters - Page One

Tarot Day In Canada Supporters - Page Two

Some Common Disorders of Fingernails & Toenails


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This page was created February 21, 2006 and updated 2010-03-04.