Tag Archives: Superstitions

The Art of Divination from Tea Leaves: The Arcane World of Fortune-Telling Teacups

-Emily Fraysse

For many pieces of antiquity, the curious story behind the entity can be just as captivating as the object itself.

The eerie concept of hypothesizing “what a day may bring forth” by applying the art of divination is a natural curiosity. It may be, in a way, a desire that some light will be shed upon the precariousness of one’s future.

Adorned with alien-looking hieroglyphics, fortune-telling teacups have been traced back to medieval European times. According to Prediction Magazine, the origin has been traced back to Asia, the Middle East, and Ancient Greece, but the exact date is uncertain.

Commonly called tasseomancy (tasse meaning “cup” and mancy meaning “divination”) or tea leaf reading, it started with the interpretation of drippings from wax, lead, and other liquid substances and eventually evolved into decoding the shapes and patterns of tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediments left at the bottom of the cup after being consumed. Fine-grained tea leaves are best to use because there is a higher chance of the leaves sticking to the sides of the cup.

The Process according to Tea-Cup Reading And Fortune-Telling By Tea Leaves (2006) is as follows:

After boiling a pot of water and pouring a small handful of leaves into the kettle, pour the tea into the cup of choice.

Leaving about a half a teaspoon remaining in the cup, “take the cup in your most dominant hand and turn it three times in a clockwise direction.”

While waiting, the reader should begin to concentrate upon his or her future destiny and “will that the symbols forming under the guidance of his hand and arm shall correctly represent what is destined to happen to him in the future.”

Pour any leftover liquids from the cup down the sink.

Place the cup upside down on the saucer and, once again, turn it in a clockwise direction three times.

Now, the individual can begin to decipher the symbols made of tea leaves that are located around the cup.

Common symbols include:
The apple, meaning achievement or knowledge.
The cat, meaning deceit or a false friend.
The candle, meaning enlightenment.
The insect, meaning good luck is on its way.
The kite, meaning wishes will come true.
The octopus, meaning danger.
The raven, meaning death or bad news.
And the circle, meaning great success in any venture.

The art of using divination can be fickle—like deciding if the leaves look like a grin or a grim. Whether deemed a serious method for predicting the future or merely a bit of silliness, this art form is just as abnormal and suspicious as the world it lives in.

Now, as Professor Sibyl Trelawney exclaims in the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, “together we shall cast ourselves into the future!”

Traditional Luck

– Nina Strochlic

While there is rarely an empty seat to be found in the library come finals week, not all studying methods are the same. Every book-laden, hunched-over student has a unique set of test-taking techniques they fastidiously abide by. While the typical strategies may involve ten-foot stacks of note cards, review sheets, and improved sleeping habits paired with gum chewing, others might step over into the realm of finger crossing, wood-knocking, and lucky underwear wearing. Superstitions run high in uncertain times like midterms or finals week when test outcomes aren’t predictable. Many students ensure their success by wearing a lucky item of clothing or pencil; probably one that has delivered good scores previously. Others swear by strange charms, such as my friend, who’s at his luckiest when his favorite pair of underwear happens to be on the top of his drawer on a test day. Another solemnly claims she can only do well while using a particular decorative pencil on her exam.

Some traditions stray far from individual luck, and become something of a campus-wide practice. At the University of Oregon, students seeking help on their tests diligently place a muffin or other baked good by the feet of the Pioneer Father statue in the middle of campus at midnight. Comparatively, peeing on the Pioneer Mother statue on the other end of campus supposedly grants similar good luck on tests. (The sexism this ritual exudes can hopefully be overlooked for the moment.) UC Berkeley boasts a similar school-wide superstition called the “4.0 Ball.” Named by students, this decorative stone ball draws loads of test-taking hopefuls to rub it for luck the night before a big exam.

While the impact these practices have on the outcome of a test is impossible to measure, maybe the comfort these practices bring actually does make a difference. If sleeping with note cards under your pillow helps you to go into that killer test with confidence, it probably will keep your mind calm and collected throughout. Plus, the risk that comes along with an attempt to dispose of your personal ritual is too great–whether or not you believe the whole thing is a joke. I personally follow only one tried-and-true superstition before a big test: convincing myself that I will fail. Oh, and studying. A balanced combination of those two usually works in my favor. Knock on wood.