miniature memory palaces - including your palm

22 posts / 0 new
Last post
#1 5 November, 2013 - 18:46
Joined: 5 years 4 weeks ago

miniature memory palaces - including your palm

I am particularly interested in the way non-literate cultures use memory palaces - they have perfected this stuff given they have to keep all their knowledge in memory. Using the landscape as a set of loci is common, but I have found they also all use hand-held devices. I am trying this and finding it surprisingly effective, but soon realised that they were just sets of loci on a small scale. If you want to find out about one, the best documented is the African lukasa.

Has anyone tried this? I am using a lukasa to encode the 403 bird species for the state - using 81 beads on my lukasa for the families, and also using normal journey loci as well for the larger families.

As it is well documented that indigenous cultures use stars and constellations as loci, I wondered if palm reading was also a derivative from using palms as a mnemonic. I am now encoding a basic astronomy course to my palms and the backs of my hands. I could take those into exams! It seems to be working well. Has anyone any information on palms being used as mnemonic devices other than as prompts for palm reading? I'm a science writer, so like to stay scientific.

Has anyone else used miniature memory palaces?

Any opinions on any of these ideas would be very welcome.


6 November, 2013 - 06:26
Joined: 5 years 4 months ago

cool thoughts, are the beads all different or the same? Is there a defined beginning and end to the row of beads?

I like the idea of using the palm to encode memory, kind of like a body index. However, are you associating the elemnts on your palm with a location or object first. I think that would be important so that you could make meaningful linkages with what you are trying to memorise,

thanks for sharing,



7 November, 2013 - 14:04
Joined: 5 years 4 weeks ago

Hi Sea,

Thank you for the interest. The beads are not all the same, nor in neat lines. There are two larger cowrie shells, five smaller, some larger beads, some middle sized and quite a few small. They are in sort-of rows, enough to be able to be given an order, start to finish. Image attached. I use it for the birds, but then turning it upside down looks totally different. I am encoding that with a history of the method of loci an related mnemonic techniques. I couldn't manage to attach an image here, so I've put it on facebook:

Not sure if that will work.

You are right about the need to link areas of the palm and I am finding that less successful than all the other methods I am trying. But it does still seem to be working. My index finger I link to pointing and beckoning. The ring fingers do fine on links through the rings. The thumb to he thumbs up and thumbs down sign. Little finger on links to little and middle finger on links to long. Everything I am doing is to recall information on a permanent basis, not fast or for competition.

7 November, 2013 - 16:41
Joined: 5 years 4 weeks ago

Here is the Wikipedia link to lukasa:

They are recognised as mnemonic devices. But my research (got me a PhD and now book contracts) also points to lots of other mnemonic devices, but they aren't discussed in that context. For example, if you read Wiki on churinga (tjuringa), Australian Aboriginal devices, you will get all sorts of religious aspects, when they are definitely mnemonic as well. I have been working with Aboriginal people on this. Lots of these devices are kept restricted to avoid the Chinese whispers affect.

A google on the name will show you images.

20 June, 2017 - 13:43
Joined: 3 years 6 months ago

Have you any experience with using such a thing for learning languages? I've got your book and have enjoyed it. Did you run across any traditional methods for learning another language?

Another thing that I wonder about is why skinny armed, overly decorated rock stars are so sexy to so many women. Could it be that we are programmed to find the musicians attractive as part of your theories about power and knowledge being linked to song/music?

Back to the Lukasa, I see in your book that you just sort of randomly stuck things on. Have you run into any useful "organizing principles"? Your website says you are working on a more intentionally designed lukasa for history of writing?

Jim (also a proud PhD)

21 June, 2017 - 01:24
Joined: 2 years 9 months ago

I have tried your deck of cards memory palace for ancestors. It was hard work to encode for some reason, I used a combination of the Major System for the dates and Dominic for the card faces (too complex perhaps?). I've already got the periodic table memorised so I'm thinking I might use these as pegs for something else. Plus I must buy your book!

23 June, 2017 - 15:19
Joined: 2 years 2 months ago

This is brilliant Lynne.

I had never thought of my palm, and now that i see it, I found in a glance about 25 locations.
Could you explain a bit more how you associate with the Lukasa?

Do you use touch as much as sight? Did you spend a while trying to remember your Lukasa by recall or did you start associating on the go? I tried googling the instrument but found very little material on how it works or how to make/use one. (I also like learning for permanent recall more than for fast memorization & competitions).

Also, I really enjoyed your book. If your write another one please expand on your personal experience with the method of Loci and mnemonic devices/techniques. I would really like to focus on refining the techniques how to memorize faster & better. I feel there is so much left to explore.

Personally, I like salsa dancing and each move I learn normally has a name. I have a memory journey I use to learn new moves, but once I have them, I use the moves themselves as locations for storing information. I can even break each move into smaller moves and make more space for memorization. Its 's a lot of fun :)

7 July, 2017 - 10:41
Joined: 5 years 10 months ago

how do you have time to leave the dance floor and enter a journey . The moves come pretty quick. For jiu jitsu i make the memory palace located on my opponents body. I just use his body parts as loci however i can not leave the actual scene and say go to my bedroom memory palace. I also tried this for salsa and bachata and works pretty well. Using the body loci and story method is the fastest way for me in these two sports.

5 May, 2018 - 20:16
Joined: 2 years 2 months ago

This is definitely a good idea. I'll give it a try as well.

For me, ive seen so many moves and variants that i had to use a journey to fit them all in. Sometimes kinesthetically i have the movement but i forget to bring it up when im dancing.

I use the palace to figure out all the moves i know and force myself to practice my newer moves. It also keeps me from getting stuck in a loop using the same moves over and over again.

Usually my best moves are automatic and i don't need to go to the memory palace to find them. As i master new moves these also become automatic and all i need is the location to remind me to try them.

I usually go over the journey when im performing a familiar move and chose one of the moves i haven't uses previously.

7 May, 2018 - 02:27
Joined: 5 years 4 weeks ago

Hi Portfedh,

I am horrified that I didn't reply to your post last year. I don't get notifications and must have missed on checking. I am very sorry.

I do use touch with the lukasa. I too mostly memorise for permanent knowledge, although, despite what I said in The Memory Code, I now compete as well. I needed to understand the competitions so I could explain it in the new book.

On the lukasa, I started by finding every fifth location, as recommended in the Ad Herennium. I named the beads by the bird family names. Initially every fifth and then all of them, and then I added the species to the families. I didn't add the species in any particular order, but I did have all the family names associated before I started on the species and then all the ID and other information.

Thank you for the suggestion for the new book. I wish I had read it earlier which would have made me more confident about choosing the direction. I had to make the hard decision to give the archaeology a rest for a few years. The new book is exactly as you ask - all about the memory methods and exactly how to apply them in contemporary life. I explain those mentioned in The Memory Code, such as the lukasa, and add quite a few more from classical and medieval sources. It will be out early next year.

The role of music and movement is really strong in indigenous memory systems. I talked to many musicians for the new book. Plus experimented in schools, worked with a neuroscientist to show how all of these methods are in tune (excuse the pun) with the latest neuroscience. I am learning two languages to look at the memory methods for them (French and Chinese - so different!) and doing art classes to adapt the medieval ideas like visual alphabets and bestiaries for contemporary use. And Asian handscrolls and Tibetan mandalas. The other thing which has come out really strongly in all the experimentation is the role of characters. I spent some time in schools and the imagined characters (we called them rapscallions) had a huge impact on memorisation.

Apologies again for not replying at the time. I really appreciate your comments and am delighted that you found so many locations on your palms.


8 May, 2018 - 03:18
Joined: 2 years 4 months ago

Hi Lynne, Have you come across any information on Lullian memory wheels in your research? I can get the basic idea of how to use them from looking at them but I wonder I'd you had come across any resources on them?

6 June, 2018 - 20:16
Joined: 5 years 4 weeks ago

Hi Weekes138,

Sincere apologies for taking so long to reply. I have only a few weeks left until the publisher deadline on my next book, so isolated myself from the world to get it done.

Have you got further with Lull?

The main reference I have come across on Lull is Frances Yates, The Art of Memory. I see that she also wrote a book called Lull & Bruno but I know nothing more about it. Nearly everyone else seems to refer back to her. I haven't done much about Lull because he didn't fit any of the criteria I had for various projects.

Scott Gosnell also sent me a copy of Four Works on Llull:

But I haven't worked anything out yet - I have so much to do with my new book on memory systems. Oh for more time! It is all so interesting.

Apologies again.


7 June, 2018 - 22:43
Joined: 2 years 4 months ago

Hi Lynne,
Thank you for your reply :)
I have read Art of Memory and am going to read it again soon. I will buy that book of four works by Lull and have a read. I am at the beginning of my knowledge of Lull's systems but I feel like Lullian combinatory wheels correlate with the kind of logic found in a lukasa. That both are objects, whether physically or mentally represented, used as a portable focal point to associate mnemonic recall.
I will be keen to buy your new book when it comes out as the Memory Code is what triggered me thinking about this.

8 June, 2018 - 01:55
Joined: 2 years 4 months ago


Et viola, Lullian wheel visualised on a hand. Richard Saunders in his Art of Memory also includes information on palmestry as per your original question ;-). Not so much a palace but a memonic device based on loci positions for remembering.

15 June, 2018 - 16:24
Joined: 5 years 4 weeks ago

This is getting mroe and more intriguing. I would be fascinated to hear your analysis of Lull vs lukasa, Weekes138. I haven't read into Lull's system much because I have been focussed on those I thought translated well into contemporary use. Do you think Lull has much to offer there?

I have "The Memory Arts in Renaissance England: A Critical Anthology " which has the essay by Richard Saunders. I hadn't noticed that aspect - I have only skimmed the chapters and had forgotten about it. Thank you so much for the reminder. I shall get it out and give it another go.

I finished the draft of the manuscript last night and can now join the real world again! Now to see what my publisher makes of it.

I look forward to your ongoing comments. Please don't take my delays in replying as lack of interest. I get so caught up in things that I forget to check here. Do you know any way of getting notifications about comments?


19 June, 2018 - 20:48
Joined: 2 years 4 months ago

Hi Lynne, to subscribe, under your initial thread comment there is an option 'Subscribe to: This Thread'. Go through that option and you should receive updates when new comments are made in the thread.
Just finished The Memory Arts in Renaissance England: A Critical Anthology. The book is both great and overly broad in it's interpretation of what constitutes relevance to the art of memory. My interest in it was from the perspective of mnemonic techniques throughout history but the book includes a very broad selection of writing making an argument about how deeply memory arts was integrated into medieval society.
This image of a Lullian wheel I posted in another thread (now posted here) has a complete set of connecting lines between the letters B through K. Mnemonic imagery and information could be stored at each point of intersection between the lines. This creates a sense of place which strikes me as very similar to how each shell or bead on the lukasa creates a sense of place for mnemonic storage. What I don't currently understand is how the combinatory aspect of Lullian wheels are supposed to work.
What do you think? Could you see a similarity in the underlying principles? The biggest difference to my mind is the tactile sensation of the lukasa would not be present in a Lullian wheel and in a sense (PUN!) the lukasa would actually be better for recall purposes.

20 June, 2018 - 16:58
Joined: 3 years 9 months ago

I have tried in the past to make a loci map from a painting, finding key points in the painting, and the superimposing the information I want to learn. For instance now I want to memorize a map for a course, and I am searching for a painting with the same ratio of the map (height-width) so I can memorize many details and locations from the map. Sooner or later I will become familiar with the map and the loci will not be needed but it is a good beginning.
I do not know if this can be called "miniature memory palace".

20 June, 2018 - 19:08
Joined: 9 months 3 weeks ago

Im curious as to how the points of intersection are supposed to function as loci since they are all the same.
In the Lukasa, each shell or what have you would be unique visually as well as tactically, so that each one could function as a locus.

21 June, 2018 - 15:40
Joined: 3 years 3 months ago

There's a chapter about the Guidonian Hand in The Medieval Craft of Memory.

21 June, 2018 - 22:15
Joined: 2 years 4 months ago

Hi Celtic, My thoughts on this, by mentally walking the path from one letter to each other. Of course I am still researching this. I agree, an actual place associated with a linking sensation would be superior, but i don't think necessary.

21 June, 2018 - 22:16
Joined: 2 years 4 months ago

I am keen to attempt to implement the Guidonian system. Will be fun i think.

21 June, 2018 - 22:25
Joined: 2 years 4 months ago

Sounds like a miniature memory palace to me :) I see what you are going with, association of the place to point in the painting. Sounds like an interesting experiment and I would be keen to hear how you go. Historically people have created maps of what happened in a place. They would depict and associate the history to the geographic area in the map to better facilitate recal. Medieval cartographers would use maps as a place for cultural memory rather than just a pure Cartesian space.

Download our free ebook! Just click the "Sign up" button below to create an account, and we'll send you a free ebook with tips on how to get started.

Related content: