Like many of the mystically-minded amongst us, from the very first time I found a Fortune Teller Miracle Fish in a Christmas cracker and laid it, pregnant with possibilities, in the palm of my hand to see if I was Jealous, Indifference, In Love, Fickle, False, Dead One or Passionate – I have been fascinated with the art of fortune telling.
Reading the tealeaves has been a respectable kind of suburban parlour magic since Dutch merchants introduced tea to Europe via trade routes to China in the 17th century.
Evolving from the medieval methods of searching for meaningful symbols in splatters of molten wax, lead or silver, tealeaves took over as the most widely favoured method since the ancient Babylonians favourite: hepatoscopy – or the art of divining signs and portents from entrails, specifically the liver.
I’m not knocking hepatoscopy here, but dealing with raw liver is a nasty messy business at the best of times, so I have chosen to explore tasseography with tealeaves instead. I did have a quick shufti at the liver which came included in the little bag containing the turkey neck and giblets of our Christmas turkey, but all I was able to divine from it was that the turkey needed longer to defrost than I had originally anticipated.
Come to think of it, this was valuable information, what with the dangers of food-poisoning, so we can chalk this up as a solid win for hepatoscopy.
There are essentially 2 methods for tasseography. You can use one of the marked cups available, which are decorated with symbols of the Zodiac and some of the more common visual clues to be found in the leaves.
Using one of these allows you to combine astrology with tasseography.
I am choosing to use a plain cup, old school style. With this, symbols are formed purely from the light cup and the dark leaves.
Tasseography or Reading Tealeaves
Make a cup of tea with leaf tea. I made one cup. You may be better off making a pot of tea then pouring a cup out. Ideally, don’t break open a tea bag- the result will be too crushed and dusty. If you can’t find standard loose leaf tea, you can perfectly well use a herbal or fruit tea.
Drink the tea, considering as you do any specific questions that you seek answers for. If your desire is only to know the future, just ruminate on your past, present and future generally.
When you only have the dregs left, swirl them around the cup 3 times. Fold a paper towel in 4 and lay it on the saucer – upturn the cup quickly over this to dump out any remaining liquid and excess leaves, then gaze into the cup.
Sometimes, images will jump out at you, assuming instant significance. Bear in mind that if there is more than one, you may need to interpret their meaning in conjunction with each other.
Look first for letters or numbers which may hold significance. Then try and make out what else might be there….For myself, I see a witch, a rabbit, a lucky clover, and a turtle. This suggests psychic connections, sexual satisfaction, good portents and ancient wisdom. Good for me! I also see a map of Scotland and a dark Horned God. So I will be on the lookout for anyone with an accent for a while. My husband has pointed out that he sees a kind of Giger-esque alien in there, also some type of gnome. That’s his opinion. He’s perfectly welcome to do his own teacup reading.
Some of the more commonly seen symbols are:
- Tree= success
- Heart= love
- Ring= marriage
- Flag= great achievement
- Clock= success in business
- Whale or camel= good luck
- Pigeon= good news
- Snake= enemy
- Apple= fertility
- Clown= great danger, peril
- Bridge= a decision needs to be made
- Flowers= happiness
- Rabbit= sexual conquest
- Knots= worrying/stress
- Road= opportunities are bringing you to a new level
- Cloud= doubt, clarity needed
Hold the cup by the handle in whichever hand you would normally use and keep it in that position while looking for symbols. Although you can turn the cup around, bear in mind that if a symbol is only visible upside-down then its meaning is reversed, not unlike a reversed Tarot card.
How does tasseography work? The answer lies in the medium who interprets the results or within the sitter themselves. Either they may be able to establish a “waking consciousness” of another plane of reality from which our interactions may be viewed from a perspective to which we have no access in our everyday lives, or patterns may become meaningful to them because humans tend to innately have a sense of a part of the unknown by nature, especially in areas of human interaction that more clinical theory and experimentation have failed to clarify.
This is known as the conduct of uncertainty- an ancient inheritance fixed within us, which can be accessed through concentration and meditation, ritual and an open but focused mind.
Historically, this has been most clearly associated with the illiterates or nomadic peoples of the world, or even with those considered to be ‘naturals’ or those thought not to be on as high an intellectual level as those around them.
Hence, the tradition of gypsy fortune tellers.
If somebody is blinded, their other senses tend to sharpen – to allow them to function as best they can under their circumstances – so when somebody has a lower IQ, they may become more susceptible to esoteric influences.
Danish film director Lars Von Trier illustrated this theory ably in his mini-series “The Kingdom” where characters with Down Syndrome demonstrated a greater knowledge of the supernatural events affecting his drama than the “normal” characters.
If you don’t fall into any of those areas, your best bet as a medium is to try and enter into a hypnagogic state, that lies between waking and dreaming. This has long been seen as an entryway to alternative forms of reality – Edgar Allen Poe, for instance, wrote of the “fancies” he experienced “Only when I am on the brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so.”
If you find yourself that you cannot find any clear pictures in the cup, do not write this off as entirely unsuccessful- instead you could attempt a little self-analysis through Klecksography, the most famous form of which is the Rorschach test, which has been used since the 1890’s for studying the subconscious.
Klecksography was pioneered by Justinus Kerner, who included them as illustrations in his poetry books. Strictly speaking, it is the art of making images from inkblots, but tealeaves can be used for our purposes here.
A book called “Gobolinks – or Shadow-Pictures For Young and Old” was published in 1896, which explained how to create inkblot monsters or “Gobolinks” and use them as visual prompts for writing poetry. Such is the glory of technology –
this book is now available via Amazon.co.uk free of charge in its Kindle format. If you have a Kindle, do download it. It’s simply hilariously written, and tells how to play Gobolinks either with children or as a parlour game.
It is part of the way we are wired as humans to see patterns in nature, but not everybody sees the same thing in the same place.
Hermann Rorschach enjoyed the art of klecksography so much as a child that he was nicknamed “Klecks” meaning “inkblot”. As a medical student while studying Freud’s Theory of the Unconscious he created his Rorschach Test to investigate whether people’s reactions to randomly created forms could be used as a tool to discover unconscious desires.
Whether the Rorschach Test is an unqualified success as a diagnostic tool has been the cause of much argument in medical circles since its inception, but it is generally agreed that it is useful for encouraging self-reflection and starting a conversation about the subjects personal world. And BTW, just me, or is Hermann a total bae? Just me? Moving on.
Look at the shapes in the cup. What do they mean to you?
If you still don’t get anywhere, do not despair! You’ve still enjoyed a lovely cup of tea, after all. And why not try this delicious tea-related cocktail, while we’re on the subject?
To infuse vodka with tea, take a bottle of your favourite vodka, add a tea bag, and let it steep for at least 3 hours at room temperature. The longer you can leave it the better.
1 shot of tea infused vodka
1 shot of raspberry liqueur (Chambord is a great choice)
Combine in a chilled glass, and top up with champagne. Garnish with a mint leaf.
A few of these will certainly aid you if you wish to enter a hypnogogic state. Sip, and let your mind wander. If it wants to loosen a little from its moorings, allow it, bruv.
Look back into your teacup- what do you see now? And………. why?