Fortune Teller

Contents of this Page
What is a Fortune Teller?
How to make Fortune Teller
Some Mathematics
Games with Fortune Teller
Modifications of the Fortune Teller
Fortune Teller on the Internet
To the Main Page     "Mathematische Basteleien"

What is a Fortune Teller?
...... A fortune teller is an old folding game for children. 
You don't only fold the figure; you can also play with it. 
You even use it to predict events in the future ;-)..................................................................

Obviously the fortune teller is spread out all over the world.

Another name of it is cootie catcher.  In Germany the figure is called Himmel und Hölle (Heaven and Hell), Nasenkneifer (nose pincher), Pfeffer und Salz (pepper and salt) or Salznäpfchen (salt pot)

How to make Fortune Teller   top
Take a sheet of paper of the size A4 (8 1/2" x 11"). Paper used for ink jet printers will do. 

Fold the upper half down on the red line. 

Cut off the lower strip.
The result is a square. 
Fold upwards on the red line and unfold.
The centre of the square is marked in this way.
Fold four times, so that the corners of the square meet in the centre.
Folding on the red lines upwards is the same. 
It must look like this. 
Turn the paper over. The folded middle lines of the square are seen.

Fold upwards again four times up to the centre. 
There is a half size square with four (actually eight) triangles, which meet in the centre.
Turn the paper over. Four squares meet in the centre.
Fold the paper backwards on the blue lines and unfold.
Fold the square a last time. Hold the paper and push the upper corners in direction of the arrows.

The figure on the left develops, if you lay the square sheets outwards.
The fortune teller is finished.
...... Picture 1 shows the fortune teller from above.

Picture 2 explains the German name "Heaven and Hell": 
In former times you coloured the half reverse side red for Hell, the other one blue for Heaven. 

Some Mathematics top
While making a fortune teller and also after having finished it, you get two basic geometric forms, the square and the half square, which is an isosceles, right-angled triangle. 

If you divide the square in two, you get two isosceles, right-angled triangle.

If you divide the isosceles, right-angled triangle in two, you get two isosceles, right-angled triangles half the size as before.
...... If you unfold the fortune teller, you have got a triangle pattern. 
You can recognize 4x4 squares. Every square has a diagonal.
Blue means mountain, red means valley. 

...... You can give the fortune teller double walls. Then go to step 10, add step 5 and 6 and continue with step 10. 

If you go back to the square, the 16 small squares have got both diagonals. 

Games with Fortune Teller  top

1st Game:
The fortune teller has four bowls and can be used for putting things in. This leads to the German name pepper and salt. 

2nd Game:
Put the thumb, the index finger, the middle finger and the ring finger into the bowls. You can pinch the nose with these "gloves". This explains the other German name nose pincher.

3rd Game:
A game is played since the 1950s as follows.
...... Put the thumb and the fingers in the bowls. If you look at the opened reverse side, you see red and blue (picture). If two suitable bowls touch each other, there are only red or blue. If you close the paper, you must not see any colour. 
The children's game is to close the fortune teller first. Then the other player must give a direction how to open it. He will go to Hell with red and to Heaven with blue.

4th Game:
The third game is developed further in many ways in Germany. 
Here is a version from the 1980s:

Fetch chocotate, 
Hide yourself, 
Touch your nose, 
Write the numbers 1 to 8  in any order on the reverse sides of the triangles. Then lift two triangles each and write funny tasks on the reverse side. 

In the game the first player puts the thumb and the fingers in the bowls. The reverse side is closed. The second player chooses a number, i.e. 6. The first player must open and close the paper 6 times and end with opening. four triangles and so four numbers are to be seen. The second player must choose one of the numbers, i.e. 2. The other one lifts the triangle 2 (and 6) and reads the task. The second player has to obey ;-).

Fifth Game:
Today (in 2002) the tasks are replaced by statements like "You' re going to get a rich man", "You're going to be a movie star", "You're going to have three children", You're going to go around the world", or "You're going to win in the lottery". 

Modifications of Fortune Teller      top
...... In the chapter "Some Mathematics" you can read how to produce the pattern on the far left. If you fold the triangles on the blue line backwards, you form a square standing on one corner. It is the start for new figures. 
...... Fold the blue lines for mountains, the red lines for valleys. 

You receive a figure (photo), which easily becomes a duck, if you fold the two lower points forwards and hide them inside. 

x ......
Sailing Boat 
You get a sailing boat, if you slightly change the duck pattern.
Windmill Sail and Katamaran
...... You can make a windmill sail or a double boat by folding the sailing boat in a different way. 

Fortune Teller on the Internet     top


Himmel und Hölle

Labbé (Zzzabra)
Himmel und Hölle

Himmel oder Hölle


Beryl Graham
About folded paper fortune-tellers
Origami Fortune Teller

Laurel Smith
How to make a Cootie Catcher

Paper fortune teller

Gail from Oregon Coast, thank you for supporting me in translating this website.

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©  2002 Jürgen Köller