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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!”