Also known as tasseomancy, this form of divination seeks to kill the future based on patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine sediment.
Reading tea leaves to divine the future is a practice that arose independently in ancient Greece, Asia and the Middle East. In the Middle East, the coffee cup was flipped upside down over a plate, allowing the grounds to be read. In the British Isles, tea was the drink of choice. The English created beautiful works of art – tea sets painted with designs to aid in fortune-telling, carefully illustrated books, and more.
Reading Tea Leaves
To try tasseography for yourself, you must first make tea. Loose tea leaves must be used; do not use tea bags. Likewise, it is considered bad form to cut open a tea bag and use the resulting leaves. Those leaves will be too finely chopped to be an aid in divination.
Once the tea is ready, pour yourself a cup. Do not use a strainer. Now sit back and enjoy your cup of tea. If you don’t care for tea, you may simply pour it away. Make sure that a small amount of tea is left in the bottom, along with any tea leaves. Swirl the cup and get ready to read.
The cup is read starting near the handle of the cup along the top rim. This represents the present. The remaining clues spiral down into the depths of the cup, getting further into the future as they go. While some readers examine only the symbols formed in the tea leaves against a white background, others also read the white spaces.
Generally, symbol dictionaries are not used to read tea leaves. These symbol dictionaries work well for dream divination and other systems; however, tea leaves use different symbology.
Tea leaves are usually read in a simple white cup. However, these are not easy to read. From the early 19th century, English potters developed specially decorated tea sets for this purpose. There are three basic forms. Zodiac cups include symbols of the planets and zodiac, allowing astrology to be combined with tasseography. Playing card cups include scattered images of cards – either a traditional 52 card deck plus a joker, or a 32 card deck. Finally, symbol cups include a number of common clues found in tea leaf readings. These symbols are often numbered, and come with a reference booklet for easy reading.
To read coffee grounds, the sediment at the bottom of the cup is used. It may be swirled before being flipped upside down, although some traditions swirl the sediment until it covers the inside of the cup. In the Middle East, the cup is simply turned towards the one whose fortune will be revealed. It is considered bad form to read your own cup.