TEA LEAF READING
(Investigator 26, 1992 September)
Tea leaf reading, also called "Tasseography", began in ancient China.
The ancient Romans read the sediment from wine. Nowadays, some people
who dislike tea use the sediment of coffee.
Tea drinking became popular in Europe around 1500 AD. Imaginative
people observed that the configuration of the leaves after the liquid
was consumed sometimes resembled familiar shapes and objects. By 1500
AD divination by interpreting the shapes of drops of molten wax or
molten lead already had a long history. This plus the comparative ease
of using tea leaves doubtless gave people the idea of tea leaf reading.
Nowadays the cup used is usually wide, smooth, undecorated,
pastel-coloured or white, with sloping sides. The cup is filled without
a tea strainer. When the leaves have settled the liquid is drunk or
carefully poured out. The person whose future is to be told (the
"querant") swirls the remaining liquid and then inverts the cup over
the saucer. The fortune teller examines the leaves sticking to the cup
for patterns. Each picture she sees or thinks she sees has a meaning.
There are dictionaries of what each image means.
An air plane indicates a sudden journey; an arrow bad news; an apron a
new friend; etc. The fortune teller judges the overall sizes, positions
and clarity of each shape and invents a story. Past or current events
in the querant's life are indicated near the top of the cup and future
events nearer the bottom.
Doubtless the tea leaf reader will give a more convincing performance
if she knows the querant well or/and observes for clues in their dress,
manner and appearance.
Besides residues of drinks other methods of creating shapes for fortune
telling include dripping lead or melted wax in cold water respectively
called "Molybdomancy" and "Ceromancy".
THE TEA CUP AND ME
[A True story by an Investigator reader]
(Investigator 26, 1992 September)
Half a century ago when I was a little girl of ten, I lived in South
Harrow, Middlesex. My mother took me up to King's Road and around the
corner to the back of some shops. Here was Rayner's Lane Christian
Spiritualist Church where tealeaf and palm reading sessions were
regularly held — things that Spiritualist Churches would never dream of
Mum learned to read tea-leaves and taught me. Tea-leaf reading was
learned and taught in the truest senses of the words, as we were told,
the art of tea-leaf reading did not come to you by way of nature. In an
era without tea-bags a pot of tea was made and cups poured and drank.
Then Mum — when she was learning — would tell the experienced reader
what she saw in the cup and await comments. These could be that what
she read was near enough or quite different to the lore of the
tea-reader. If it was quite different they would talk it over and
always agree: Mum never being one for arguments. And in the same way
she taught me.
Mum had a hard life and never went to dances, nor the pictures, nor
even the hair-dressers. Her activities at the Church were unknown to my
father and my six brothers and sisters. If Dad were not at work she
could only go to Meetings if he were down the pub.
Outside of her family Spiritualism (popular in England) was Mum's only
interest and extra she had in life. And, quite rightly, she was
entitled to something in life.
Because of potential problems at home Mum read tea-cups only at the
Church. She never took money for it except as a donation to the Church.
It was interesting and I could see what she meant in her readings. As a
matter of common sense she never told anyone if she had seen tragedy in
their teacup. I would read for Mum, but only at home, where I also
often swapped cups with my Godmother whom I called Aunty Jean. I never
read at the Church.
By the time I was fourteen I was working full-time as a hairdresser's
apprentice as well as studying (successfully) at night-school to
matriculate. I found that I had neither time nor inclination for
tea-leaf reading which I had, however, found easy. In recent months I
have occasionally read friends' cups for fun.
I found that a lot of what could be read was quite true but most of the
people involved were from the local area and were well-known to each
other. Rather than seeing a psychic power of prediction at work in
tea-leaves knowing the person gave you an idea of what might happen to
them. Even so it brought a good deal of happiness to many lonely people
as well as being a good excuse for a cup of tea.
Ten years ago I was in England and it was a pleasure to find Rayner's
lane Christian Spiritualist Church still in the place and still a
going concern. I believe it still is.