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Home - Reading Tea Leaves Articles - Tea Leaves Symbols - All About Tea


The interior of the tea-cup when it is ready to be consulted will
exhibit the leaves scattered apparently in a fortuitous and accidental
manner, but really in accordance with the muscular action of the left
arm as controlled by the mind at whose bidding it has worked. These
scattered leaves will form lines and circles of dots or small leaves
and dust combined with stems, and groups of leaves in larger or smaller
patches: apparently in meaningless confusion.

Careful notice should now be taken of all the shapes and figures formed
inside the cup. These should be viewed front different positions, so
that their meaning becomes clear. It is not very easy at first to see
what the shapes really are, but after looking at them carefully they
become plainer. The different shapes and figures in the cup must be
taken together in a general reading. Bad indications will be balanced by
good ones; some good ones will be strengthened by others, and so on.

It is now the business of the seer--whether the consultant or some adept
to whom he has handed the cup to be read--to find some fairly close
resemblance between the groups formed by the leaves and various natural
or artificial objects. This part of the performance resembles the
looking for 'pictures in the fire' as practised by children in nurseries
and school-rooms and occasionally by people of a larger growth. Actual
representations of such things as trees, animals, birds, anchors,
crowns, coffins, flowers, and so forth may by the exercise of the
powers of observation and imagination be discerned, as well as squares,
triangles, and crosses. Each of these possesses, as a symbol, some
fortunate or unfortunate signification. Such signs may be either large
or small, and their relative importance must be judged according to
their size. Supposing the symbol observed should be that indicating
the receipt of a legacy, for instance: if small it would mean that
the inheritance would be but trifling, if large that it would be
substantial, while if leaves grouped to form a resemblance to a coronet
accompany the sign for a legacy, a title would probably descend upon
the consultant at the same time. The meaning of all the symbols of this
nature likely to be formed by the fortuitous arrangement of leaves in
a tea-cup is fully set forth in the concluding chapter; and it is
unnecessary therefore to enlarge upon this branch of the subject.

There are, however, several points of a more general character that must
be considered before it is possible to form an accurate judgment of
the fortune displayed. For instance, isolated leaves or groups of a
few leaves or stems frequently form letters of the alphabet or numbers.
These letters and numbers possess meanings which must be sought in
conjunction with other signs. If near a letter L is seen a small square
or oblong leaf, or if a number of very small dots form such a square
or oblong, it indicates that a letter or parcel will be received from
somebody whose surname (not Christian name) begins with an L. If the
combined symbol appears near the handle and near the rim of the cup,
the letter is close at hand; if in the bottom there will be delay in its
receipt. If the sign of a letter is accompanied by the appearance of
a bird flying towards the 'house' it means a telegraphic despatch:
if flying away from the house the consultant will have to send the
telegram. Birds flying always indicate news of some sort.

Again, the dust in the tea and the smaller leaves and stems frequently
form lines of dots. These are significant of a journey, and their extent
and direction shows its length and the point of the compass towards
which it will extend: the handle for this purpose being considered as
due south. If the consultant is at home and lines lead from the handle
right round the cup and back to the handle, it shows that he will
return; if they end before getting back to the handle, and especially
if a resemblance to a house appears where the journey line ends, it
betokens removal to some other place. If the consultant be away from
home, lines leading to the handle show a return home, and if free
from crosses or other symbols of delay that the return will be speedy:
otherwise it will be postponed. The occurrence of a numeral may
indicate the number of days, or if in connection with a number of small
dots grouped around the sign of a letter, a present or a legacy, the
amount of the remittance in the former, the number of presents to be
expected, or the amount of the legacy coming. Dots surrounding a symbol
always indicate money coming in some form or other, according to the
nature of the symbol.

It will be seen that to read a fortune in the tea-cup with any real
approach to accuracy and a serious attempt to derive a genuine forecast
from the cup the seer must not be in a hurry. He or she must not only
study the general appearance of the horoscope displayed before him,
and decide upon the resemblance of the groups of leaves to natural or
artificial objects, each of which possesses a separate significance, but
must also balance the bad and good, the lucky and unlucky symbols, and
strike an average. For instance, a large bouquet of flowers, which is a
fortunate sign, would outweigh in importance one or two minute crosses,
which in this case would merely signify some small delay in the
realisation of success; whereas one large cross in a prominent position
would be a warning of disaster that would be little, if at all,
mitigated by the presence of small isolated flowers, however lucky
individually these may be. This is on the same principle as that by
which astrologers judge a horoscope, when, after computing the aspects
of the planets towards each other, the Sun and Moon, the Ascendant,
Mid-heaven, and the significator of the Native, they balance the good
aspects against the bad, the strong against the weak, the Benefics
against the Malefics, and so strike an average. In a similar way the
lucky and unlucky, signs in a tea-cup must be balanced one against the
other and an average struck: and in this connection it may be pointed
out that symbols which stand out clearly and distinctly by themselves
are of more importance than those with difficulty to be discerned amid
cloudlike masses of shapeless leaves. When these clouds obscure or
surround a lucky sign they weaken its force, and vice versa. In tea-cup
reading, however, the fortune told must be regarded chiefly as of a
horary character, not, as with an astrological horoscope, that of a
whole life; and where it is merely indulged in as a light amusement to
while away a few minutes after a meal such nicety of judgment is not
called for. The seer will just glance at the cup, note the sign for
a letter from someone, or that for a journey to the seaside or the
proximity of a gift, or an offer of marriage, and pass on to another

It should be observed that some cups when examined will present no
features of interest, or will be so clouded and muddled that no clear
meaning is to be read in them. In such a case the seer should waste no
time over them. Either the consultant has not concentrated his or her
attention upon the business in hand when turning the cup, or his destiny
is so obscured by the indecision of his mind or the vagueness of his
ideas that it is unable to manifest itself by symbols. Persons who
consult the tea-leaves too frequently often find this muddled state of
things to supervene. Probably once a week will be often enough to look
into the future, although there is something to be said for the Highland
custom of examining the leaves of the morning cup of tea in order to
obtain some insight into the events the day may be expected to bring
forth. To 'look in the cup' three or four times a day, as some
silly folk do, is simply to ask for contradictory manifestations and
consequent bewilderment, and is symptomatic of the idle, empty, bemused
minds that prompt to such ill-advised conduct.

Of course the tea-cup may be employed solely for the purpose of asking
what is known to astrologers as 'a horary question', such, for instance,
as 'Shall I hear from my lover in France, and when?' In this case the
attention of the consultant when turning the cup must be concentrated
solely on this single point, and the seer will regard the shapes taken
by the tea-leaves solely in this connection in order to give a definite
and satisfactory answer. An example of this class of horary question is
included among the illustrations (Fig. 10).



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