Table of Contents
Tasseomancy, also known as Tasseography, is the art of reading tea leaves. While the term also includes the use of wine sediments and coffee grounds, these other materials have since separated into their own type of divinatory art. While it is certainly common to find any of the three used, as beginners you will be working primarily with, and learning about, the uses of the tea.
The significance of the ubiquitous, cross cultural and historical pervasiveness of tea, coffee and sediment reading may be related to the primal human desire for understanding the self. Just as muggle psychological analysis grew prodigiously during the Victorian era, tasseography became popularized as a parlor game in both magical culture and muggle alike. But the practice distinguishes itself from amorphic fortune telling, mystical, occult or other magical activities. Specifically, tasseography is not an application of magic, but rather a tool for tapping into the subconscious by applying meditation to pattern recognition and symbolism.
Unlike many of the magical methods you will learn at school, Divination often differs in that it does not use active magics. What this means is that there is a far more subtle process being engaged. Tools such as tea-leaf reading are designed to relax and open your mind, so that you are able to see the images in the leaves that you need. Being halfway (in difficulty level) between the Tarot and the Crystal Ball, the leaves will often offer nothing at all of use if one is not mentally attuned to their own intuitive processes. This is, once again, illustrating the importance of meditation. In fact, the very act of drinking the tea is meditation in itself. Have you ever felt more calm, or relaxed, or even sleepy after drinking tea? This is a form of meditation, and part of the natural properties of the herbs you are using. Remember, these tea leaves are just as much herb as any herb in your herbology garden. Many of these tea leaves come from plants that can be used, and are used regularly, in potions. If we then think of our tea as a sort of potion, rather than a tea, we can begin to see where the 'magic' comes in to play. Subtle, and going unnoticed until you find the answers you seek.
Tasseography can be a powerful meditative tool providing insights into the reader's subconscious, and connecting one to their own internal magics whilst opening them up to the potential ambient magics around them. From a modern standpoint procedures such as drinking from the opposite hand (as opposed to your dominant hand), may coordinate left and right brain activity to stimulate creative problem solving (I.E.: changing routine can change your perspective and help you see things in a new light). Common sense indicates that slowing down to focus and organize one's own thoughts is an effective problem solving methodology. The process of tasseography stimulates the imagination to create individualized interpretations and solutions. Tea leaf reading is a fun, healthful and creative way to listen to yourself and open yourself up to the ambient energies of life, allowing you to both perceive the answers you already know and find those you do not. Not every question you ask is one you have no answer for. Sometimes, the answers you are looking for are there already, and you simply have to be willing to look at and accept them. Tasseomancy is one of the better ways to help yourself find these answers by both opening you up and then directing your focus through the meditative and calming practice of drinking tea.
The first inklings of Western tasseography can be traced to medieval European fortune tellers who developed their readings from splatters of wax, lead, and other molten substances. This evolved into tea-leaf reading in the seventeenth century, a short time after Dutch merchants introduced tea to Europe via trade routes to China. Although popularly attributed the the Romaj, or 'gypsy' folk, the true origins of the practice come to use from Asia, the Middle-East and Ancient Greece.
Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England have produced a number of practitioners and authors on the subject, and English potteries have crafted many elaborate tea cup sets specially designed and decorated to aid in fortune-telling. Cultures of the Middle East that practice divination in this fashion usually use left-over coffee grounds from Turkish coffee, Lebanese coffee, or Greek coffee turned over onto a plate, though it is worth mentioning once again that the practice of using coffee grounds for readings has developed into its own separate practice in the field since the mid 1900's.
Theory; How it works
At it's core, Tasseography is the art of relaxing one's mind and energies to the point where 'opening' and connecting (whether it be to your own intuitive powers, or something greater) is an unconscious move. Every part of the tea 'ceremony' takes place and utilizes ancient methods to induce this open state. Just as the ceremonial tea experts of Japan have found a whole art from in the ritualized brewing, serving and drinking of teas, we too have found a similar art for a similar reason.
The 'magic' in this practice happens based on a few things. Firstly, the act of brewing the tea, the frangrance of the tea and the drinking of the tea, are all very important parts of the process. It is during this pre-reading time frame that the reader asks questions and the seeker meditates on the reason they are there (while drinking up the tea, of course!)
This process of meditation, opening and relaxation allow the energies to mingle inside of the cup so that once it is ready to be read, it can be more successful. The best readings done seem to be those where in the reader and seeker were both at ease, merely enjoying in their evening tea!
There are, actually, a wide variety of choices for which tools to use in the art of Tasseomancy. Generally, as long as one has a tea pot to brew the tea in (Note: do not use straining device for tea ), and a tea cup and saucer to use for the reading, that is all that is needed. However, due to the wide-spread popularity of the practice and the many years in which this has been done, there are some options to consider.
Cups, Pots & Saucers
Although many people prefer a simple white cup for tea leaf reading, as used in your classes at school, there are also traditions concerning the positional placement of the leaves in the cup, and some find it easier to work with marked cups.and continuing to the present, English and American potteries have produced specially decorated cup and saucer sets for the use of tea-leaf readers. Many of these designs are patented and come with instructions explaining their mode of use. Some of the most common were those that were given away with purchases of bulk tea.
The type of dishes used for this practice depend on personal tastes and how you, as a reader, prefer to conduct your reading. The type of cup (tea cup, coffee mug, even wine glass) will affect your reading only in the sense that the lines are different on each dynamic shape of the cup. So, when new to the art it is best to go with a standard white china teacup, as this most closely matches the diagrams in your textbooks. Once you know the art well, however, it is possible to accurately use any cup at all. That said, some segments of leaf readers prefer to use the previously mentioned special forecasting cups painted or inlaid to particular effect for their readings. These special cups come in a few different forms, and offer benefits. One type of cup, for example, has a series of varied symbols painted inside of it, and the reader uses the location of the leaves in the cup to determine which symbols are read, rather than reading the symbols formed in the leaves themselves.
Another type of cup may be painted with lines describing time periods or segments related to elements or the zodiac, which help the reader to distinguish not only the symbols in the leaves, but also what elements of life and the cosmos are being related. These can be more direct for quick readings, but are also more limited than the free-form reading. These specialized cups also add more layers of complexity to the learning process, which is why you will find only the general sort of every-day-use teacups in your introductory lessons on the craft.
Three most common types of special fortune tellers' cups Type Definition Zodiac cups These sets contain zodiacal and planetary symbols. Typically the interior of the cup contains the planetary symbols, while the saucer has the astrological sign symbols, but there are many variations and exceptions to this common pattern. The placement of these symbols allows the reader to combine astrology with tasseography. Playing card cups These cups carry within their interiors tiny images of a deck of scattered cards, either 52 cards plus a joker, as in a poker deck, or 32 cards, as in a euchre deck. Some sets also have a few cards imprinted on the saucers, or the saucers may contain brief written card interpretations. The playing cards permit the reader to creatively relate cartomancy to tasseography. Symbol cups These sets are decorated with between a dozen and fifty of the most common visual cues that can be found in tea leaves, often numbered for easy reference and supplied with an explanatory booklet. The symbols are generally displayed inside the cups, but there are also sets in which they decorate the outside or appear in the cups and on the saucers.
Caring for your tools is fairly simple. For the pot, spoon, cup and saucer simply wash them each in warm water with a soft soap, as you might do for any fine china dish. Note: It is vitally important that you do this without magic, as using magic on these tools will imbue them with energy that may alter your future readings; using magic to clean your tools defeats the purpose of cleansing them at all! For your teas, simply make sure all the containers are sealed up and put away in a safe, secure, dry location.
The tea pot, cup, spook and saucer can call be stored on a shelf, as you might store any other dishware. For added protection, in case you are travelling or staying in a place that has an over-abundance of energy, store your dishware in a secured, padded wooden box made of dark woods. Your teas should always be kept in individual canisters, sachets or baggies, preferably organized or stored in a secured cedar wood box. The tea should be kept dry and at room temperature at all times.
Herbal teas can be a wonderful thing. We know from our study in Herbology that herbs have many uses. In Potions, we can use them to have specific effects (such as making us sleep without dreams, or counter acting poisons). Drinking teas made with these same herbs can have plenty of positive effects, and the natural properties of some tea leaves make them equally as useful to the art of Divination as they are to our health.
When preparing to do a tea leaf reading, the selection of your tea is just as important as anything else you will do. Since different herbs have different effects, it is paramount that we select a tea that is in line with what we want to accomplish. There are many types of tea out there, some are suited to divination, and some that are not. In the following sections we will discuss what makes a tea good or bad for readings, what teas are best, and how to pick your tea - remember someone is going to have to drink the tea so when doing a reading for someone else, always make sure to show them the teas you have to offer, so that they can choose what they want to drink. It's only polite, after all, and the idea is to impart the other person's energy into the cup as they drink, so it isn't a case of simply gulping back the tea!
Choosing Your Tea
The best tea for Tasseomancy is, of course, loose leaf tea. Green, black, white or oolong teas tend to do best so, as you can see, there are plenty of choices to make, depending on taste. We do not use tea leaves from bags because the leaves tend to be too broken down in processing to easily read. If you're desperate, you could open a tea bag and use the contents (loose, not contained in the bag) to use for your reading... but you'll be much better off using a true loose leaf tea because the images are clearer and easier to read.
Just as tea bags have too fine a leaf to read, you will also want to avoid using tea with extra large leaves or non-tea-leaf additives, like sugar cubes and bits of fruits. Gunpowder Green Tea, for example, has leaves that are far too large to get an accurate reading, since none of the leaves will stick in ways that make identifiable shapes. With teas that have leaves that are too big, instead of images you will only end up with large leaves plastering themselves around the cup.
The leaves don't need to be uniform in size. Teas like Keemun have a variety of shapes and sizes, and these teas with non-uniform sizes of leaves tend to do best for readings, as the different sizes of leaves inside the tea mix will over lap and create more clear and dynamic images and arrangements.
If you do choose to use a tea with additives such as dried fruit, cinnamon pieces and other such things it won't make it impossible to read your leaves; however it should be noted that the added bits need to be similar in size and shape rage to the rest of the tea. If you use a tea with large chunks of orange, and smaller leaf sizes, you will encounter some problems. As a beginning it is best to use a straight, natural loose leaf tea, such as a standard lavender, chamomile or oolong tea.
Whichever tea you pick make sure it's one that's safe to drink since, after all, you or the person you are reading for will need to drink it down!
Preparing Your Tea
How to Read the Leaves: Step-by-Step Guide
A Simple Symbol Dictionary
At the top means success and gain
At the bottom means good health.
if broken means danger of accident
can also mean a rise in position
at top rest; stability, constancy
at bottom; clouded, inconstancy
if at top; overcoming of difficulties
if at bottom; difficulties may stick around awhile and/or be difficult to overcome
birth of something new
birth of a new family member (distant, near, pet)
life-path ( note size and speed of boat )
) visit from a friend
you will find your answer by something written
if open it's easily seen and possibly good news
if closed you need to investigate more deeply, or the answers may be hard to find
Endings paired with a new beginning
help from others
a false friend
Cat Headed Beings (such as the sphinx)
chain of linked events
if occupied; a guest may be expected
if empty; may indicate someone who was, or should, be there but who is not (or will not be).
If unbroken; success, completion
If broken; disruption to normal cycles and patterns of life
'circle of life'
alchemy of time and consciousness
Relativity of time
counting up or down to an event
'on the clock'
change in financial status
faith, belief, spirituality
danger from self or others
power being abused
Egyptian god Anubis
the Grimm (if large, dark and in the 'near future' segment of the cup)
opening ( to something new )
) closing ( old issues and relations )
) spiritual (portal as opposed to standard door shape)
a man named Bill
get your 'ducks in a row'
creation of new beginnings
trunk up indicates overcoming obstacles
trunk down indicates problems and poor luck
could be positive or negative
open ( awakening )
) closed (something not seen)
hand held ( pleats; how many? Use numerology )
) rotary ( the mechanical kind of fan, usually has 4 propellers )
) 4 (numerology)
usually represents the state of the spirit; higher on the cup means closer to enlightenment, lower means opposite.
Depending on which finger (if identifiable) Thumb: The control of the thumb occupies a huge part of our brain; therefore the thumb is extremely important to our personality. It relates to self-control and will power. For instance, if we consult Palmistry, a woman with a long thumb – in comparison with the rest of her hand – will control her environment and take charge of her life, but if her thumb is short, her environment will control her and she will often feel overwhelmed. Each of the two thumb phalanges has a specific role to play: the phalange closest to the palm represents our logical thinking, while the nail phalange denotes our willpower. Variations in size and shape of each phalange indicate how the person uses will and logic to make decisions and control her environment. Index Finger: Next we have the index finger or Jupiter finger . Jupiter stands for guidance and ambition. This is the finger that shows the direction our life is taking and our sense of purpose. In Palmistry, for example, a short Jupiter finger may reveal a lack of purpose or a feeling of inadequacy in social settings, while a very long one could show that we identify too much with the role we play in society. Middle Finger: The middle finger, or Saturn finger , is the serious and wise one of the five fingers. This is the finger that forces us to ask tough questions, such as “Since we are all going to die, what’s the sense of living?” It compels us to be structured and disciplined. (Palmistry) With a short Saturn finger (i.e. shorter than the palm width), we may lack discernment, be thoughtless and say the wrong thing. With an extremely long finger, we may lack spontaneity and warmth and be too rigid. Ring Finger: The ring finger, or Sun finger , allows us to shine and share. It is the finger of passion, courage and charisma. When it is short, we lack passion and may feel shy or insecure. When the Sun finger is particularly long, we will do anything to attract attention and may use our charisma to manipulate others. Pinky: The little one of the five fingers is called Mercury . It stands for communication as well as sexual expression. People with a very small Mercury finger – compared with the size of other fingers – is very often naïve and may display a lack of interest in their surroundings. The bearer of a Mercury finger that is proportionately very long could be an excellent communicator, but may also be inclined to lie or cheat.
Depending on direction finger is facing (if identifiable): Check out the Advanced Compendium chapter on symbology, specifically the section on 'cardinal directions'.
at top achievement
at bottom danger of haste
highly charged romance
Vesica Pisces ( Astrology )
) Amphibious Gods
return of the soul to higher frequency
denotes nationality; importance based on nationality or ethnicity
circumstances of birth, or current country of residence
unity of peoples in a location
being overheard ( fly on the wall )
Note: It is not a fork if it has three (3) tines - that is a trident . The fork must have four (4) tines.
It is a fork if it has three (3) tines - that is a . The fork must have four (4) tines. speak with false tongue ( lies )
) false flattery
Someone is not being honest.
decision; choice between two or more options
Uncertain, outcome based on choices made between the options offered
planting something new (an idea, a new project, a garden..)
be careful of enemies
adapt to unfavoured situations
hard work needed
getting a point across
of 'god' ( creation )
) if open means friendship
if closed means an argument
head; Psychological state, intellect
Horus ( Egyptian God )
if galloping means good news
if just the head means a new love
Omega or Leo ( Astrology )
time running out
need to decide quickly
Time as illusion
create your own future
planetary meltdown; ice age
consciousness frozen in Time
Progression halted by cooling of desires or outside influences
Can present as: Pearls, Diamonds, Star Tetrahedron
Prosperity given by outside sources
harmony at home
wishes coming true
if untethered ( no string ); flying free
); flying free dreams coming to fruition
good life flow
broken relationship ( friends, family, lover, other )
) hidden enemy
a rise or fall in life ( depending on position in cup )
) social advancement
if sideways or horizontal; stagnated progress, halting halfway up/down, arrested momentum
turned on means enlightenment
at the top means a feast
at the side means secrets revealed
at the bottom means postponement
return to nature (return to basics)
if straight means progress
if wavy means uncertain path
Omega/Leo ( Astrology )
obstacles if closed
new information unfolding if open
If appearing with a Key nearby: May symbolize the creation of something new, a new change.
loops of time and creation
avoid impulsive actions
Cyclical chain reactions in life
someone is concealing themselves
Defense through hiding the self
may relate to the masks we wear when in public
obstacles to be overcome
a specific area to which you may travel has mountains in it
at top means journey or moving home
near bottom means rapid growth
if reversed means frustration
May also predict immanent danger from poisoning
if broken means danger of losing someone loved
tree of life
8 ( Numerology )
) Infinity (the number 8 on it's side is the symbol for infinity)
not seeking a truth
Wisdom (act on your wisest thoughts)
Travel to a place were they grow (Florida, California, Tropics)
Open ( you will glean insightful information )
) Closed ( something is hidden from you )
) Raining (water; creation, cleansing)
May simply be a warning to take an umbrella with you.
a twin ( or twins if relating to a birth )
) a journey
people talking but saying nothing
Bowing to Temptation
at top means profit
at bottom means lose
Need for caution
The Future is often Unknown
need for bravery
time and illusion
watch the details
reap what you sow
Endings which lead to new beginnings
coming full circle
near the top means marriage or the offer of marriage
at bottom means long engagement
if broken means engagement broken off
flower of life
may be accompanied by a fragrance in the room
if balanced means just result
if unbalanced means unjust result
Part of an established unit
sea of creation
condition of shoe is important
Steps needing to be taken
if the snake is attacking; an enemy
Web ( weaving together, woven, intermingled, intertwined )
health and happiness
Isis ( Artemis, other goddesses related to femininity and purity )
) female energies
outside the box
changes at home
criticism ( usually beneficial )
) Slow movement ( either you are moving slow, or should move slower )
) Turtle Island (Earth)
( tree ) of life
) of life creation
book of life
your life path
3 in a relationship
wealth and happiness
a friend needs help
Wagon wheels (wheels within wheels; cycles, patterns repeated)
Prosperity (Good things are about to overflow onto you)
If complete means good fortune
If broken means disappointment
Messages ( incoming or out-going )
) Winged beings (Birds, butterflies, etc.,)
Desire for Control
Domination (Being dominated, subjugated, put in a place of limited control)