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A question that will very naturally occur to persons of an enquiring

turn of mind in regard to the figures and symbols seen in the tea-cup

is: Why should one symbol necessarily signify one thing and not

something quite different?

The answer, of course, is that the meanings given to the symbols are

purely arbitrary, and that there is no scientific reason why one should

signify one thing and not another. Th
re is no real reason why the

ace of clubs, for instance, should not be considered the 'House Card'

instead of the nine of hearts, or why the double four in dominoes should

signify an invitation instead of a wedding, like the double three.

It is obviously necessary, however, in attempting to read the future by

means of any kind of symbols, whether pips, dots, numbers or anything

else, to fix beforehand upon some definite meaning to be attributed to

each separate symbol and to hold fast to this meaning in all events.

In the case of tea-leaves, where the symbols are not mere 'conventional

signs' or numbers but actual figures like the pictures seen in the fire

or those envisaged in dreams, there is no doubt that the signification

of most of them is the result of empyrical experience. Generations of

spae-wives have found that the recurrence of a certain figure in the

cup has corresponded with the occurrence of a certain event in the

future lives of the various persons who have consulted them: and this

empyrical knowledge has been handed down from seer to seer until a

sufficient deposit of tradition has been formed from which it has been

found possible to compile a detailed list of the most important symbols

and to attach to each a traditional meaning. These significations have

been collected by the writer--in a desultory manner--over a long period

of years chiefly from spae-wives in both Highland and Lowland Scotland,

but also in Cornwall, on Dartmoor, in Middle England, in Gloucestershire

and Northumberland. Occasionally it has been found that a different

meaning is attributed to a symbol by one seer from that given it by

another. In such cases an alternative signification might, of course,

have been given here, but as the essence of all such significations

is that they shall be stable and unvarying, the writer has fixed upon

whichever meaning has been most widely attributed to the symbol or

appears to have the best authority for its adoption, so that the element

of doubt may be excluded.

Although included in their alphabetical order in the list which follows,

there are certain figures and symbols which are of so common occurrence

and bear such definite interpretation that it is advisable to refer to

them here in detail. Certain symbols are invariably signs of approaching

good-fortune: certain others of threatened ill-luck. Among the former

may be mentioned triangles, stars, trefoil or clover-leaves, anchors,

trees, garlands and flowers, bridges or arches, and crowns. Among the

latter, coffins, clouds, crosses, serpents, rats and mice and some

wild beasts, hour-glasses, umbrellas, church-steeples, swords and guns,

ravens, owls, and monkeys are all ominous symbols.