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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

: 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).