To determine what sort of winter weather lies ahead, according to an old and popular method of divination from New England, examine the number of berries growing on a holly tree. If there are many, this is a sign that inclement weather is in the offing. But if there are few or none, this indicates that the weather will be mild.
Chapter 4: Tasseography
Tasseography (or tasseomancy) is the art and practice of divination by the reading of tea leaves. Known in Scotland as "reading the cups," it is a popular method of prognostication among many Gypsy fortunetellers and modern Witches alike.
Tasseography is quite ancient in its origin. First practiced in China, it was eventually introduced to Europe and other parts of the world by nomadic Gypsies, who, in exchange for money, food, or favors, could read the fortune and future in the tea leaves of any woman or man who sought their counsel.
During the 19 th century, teacup readings were all the rage throughout England and the United States, which, during that period, was experiencing an influx of Gypsy immigrants.
To interpret the future through tea leaves, you will need any type of loose tea and a white (or light-colored) teacup with a wide brim and no pattern on the inside. Any ordinary cup can be used; however, many diviners have a special cup that is used only for tea leaf readings.
Traditionally, a spoonful of tea leaves is placed in the cup, and, before the hot water is added, the person whose fortune is to be told stirs the dried tea with a finger or a spoon while concentrating on a specific question that he or she would like answered. Boiling water is then poured into the cup. After it has cooled, the querent drinks all but one spoonful of the tea.
He or she then takes the cup in his or her left hand and thrice swirls the leaves in a clockwise direction before quickly turning the cup upside down onto a white napkin resting on top of the saucer. After counting to seven (or sometimes nine, depending on the diviner's personal preferences), the cup is returned to its right side up position. The various patterns formed by the wet tea leaves clinging to the bottom and sides of the cup are then interpreted. Some diviners feel that a reading is not complete unless the tea leaves on the napkin are interpreted as well.
Traditionally, a teacup is read clockwise. According to Eva Shaw's Divining the Future, "the handle represents the day of the teacup reading and the cup is divided into a years time, with the side directly across the handle indicating six months into the future."
Most readers feel that the closer the tea leaves are to the brim of the cup, the greater their significance. Tea leaves on the bottom of the cup are believed by some to "spell tragedy," and by others to indicate events of the distant future. In many cases, the clockwise or counterclockwise facing of a tea leaf pattern indicates a particular event about to happen or about to draw to a close, respectively.
Examine the tea leaves carefully for any symbols, pictures, letters and/or numbers that are made, for each one possesses a divinatory meaning. For instance, if the leaves take on the shape of a heart, this indicates future happiness. If two hearts are seen, this is said to be a sure sign that wedding bells will be ringing for you (or someone close to you) in the near future. News of a marriage proposal or a wedding will be forthcoming should the symbol of a church, a wedding ring, or a bride and groom be seen.
A dagger is generally perceived to be a warning of impending danger, while a coffin is said to be an omen of death. A moon represents a change soon to take place in one's life, and a ring a change for the better. (However, some tea leaf readers interpret a circular symbol to mean failure!)
Animal symbols are commonly seen in teacup readings. A snake is said to warn against treachery and betrayal. A bird portends good news or perhaps a journey soon to be embarked upon. A dog represents a faithful friend, and a cat a friend who is false.
Dots or dollar signs represent money soon to be received, and a broom traditionally portends a change of residence. A star is always a fortunate sign, and a horseshoe indicates good luck. A triangle or the symbol of a pyramid is one of the best omens to receive. Whenever one appears in a reading, it generally foretells great success.
According to Welsh Folklore by J. C. Davies, a good sign is portended if the tea leaves are scattered evenly around the sides of the cup, but an extremely bad one if "the bottom of the cup appears very black with leaves."
The meanings that lie behind the designs and shapes created by the tea leaves can be highly symbolic in their nature, or they can be exactly as they appear. Symbols may hold different meanings for different people; therefore, as with all other methods of divination, the success of a reading rests heavily upon how finely tuned the intuitive powers are of the person conducting the reading.
If you are new to the art and practice of tasseography, do not despair if your first few attempts at reading the tea leaves are unsuccessful. Many readers see only vague shapes in the beginning. But, as the old saying goes, "practice makes perfect." This applies to all skills, including magickal and metaphysical ones as well.
A list of tea leaf symbols and their meanings can be found in the books Divining the Future by Eva Shaw (Facts on File, 1995) and Tea Leaf Reading Symbols by Harriet Mercedes McCrite (McCrite, 1991).
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