Holders of crystal balls, astrology charts of just a few palms to read may find a new business opportunity in the cards for them in Montgomery County.

The ancient art of fortune telling is just an apparition right now, but it may become legal in the county as a result of a bill introduced last week before the county council.

The bill, sponsored by Councilman Michael Gudis as a courtesy to state Sen. Victor L. Crawford (D-Montgomery), would allow the telling of fortunes for profit, an occupation banned in the county for eight years but licensed in the other Washington jurisdictions.

"A couple people on the council said they don't believe in fortune tellers, but I said, 'I don't believe in chiropractors either,'" said Crawford, who avowed his nonbelief in the clairvoyant craft. He said he requested the bill for a private law client who wants to open a shop in the county. "Palmistry and fortune telling is not that far from religion for some people."

"It ain't all that glamorous," said John Mitchell of Bethesda, who is seeking to open the fortune telling boutique, as he calls it, for his wife. Mitchell, a gypsy and construction worker, said the second income would help support his family of five children. "The modern day gypsy has no custom any different from anyone else."

"My wife does the reading," Mitchell said. "She got it from childhood. This business is related from mother to daughter for generations. It's practiced and honed in the home."

Mitchell's establishment would offer palm readings and astrology fortune telling, he said. He said he has had such fortune-telling boutiques in Norfolk, South Carolina and Baltimore. Why Montgomery County? "It's my home. As a result of present laws, I have to go out of Montgomery County to make my living."

Prices would range between $5 and $10 for astrology and palm readings. Mitchell said he doesn't have a crystal ball.

There are 11 such operations in the District, many in posh downtown neighborhoods. Eight are licensed in Prince George's County, two in Alexandria, three in Fairfax County and four in Arlington. Fees range from $250 for a special fortune teller's fee in Prince George's County, where their number is limited to one per 80,000 persons, to Alexandria which charges the usual yearly business fee of $1,200 plus a $500 state license fee.