Friday, November 11, 2011

Vendredi: In the Cup

When I was young I remember visiting my Mom’s parents on a fairly regular basis.  We lived near them for about six years while I was in elementary school and I loved to go there for Sunday dinners and holidays.  All of the furniture was old, doilies decorated surfaces and the house always smelled of good cooking.  Best of all was the spare bedroom, where Gran kept her books.  She had one I was particularly fond of.  It was old by my standards –written in the 1920s – and had a pen-and-ink drawing of a very flapperesque gypsy holding a tea cup on the cover.  The title was “The Gypsy Guide to Reading Tea Leaves”. 

Whatever happened to that thin little tome is unknown to me.  Sadly I did not inherit it, nor did I absorb the arcane information it contained, but to this day I have a fascination with the occult art of reading tea leaves.  That said, and having acquired some good references on this form of divination, I thought that we might learn a little bit about it together.  Since most books on tea leaf reading are nothing more complicated than lists of what the shapes formed by the spent leaves may be hinting at, it is a subject almost tailor-made for a blog.

According to Albert S. Lyons in his book Predicting the Future, tasseography is a fairly recent form of divination.  There is little if any evidence that it was practiced in the Far East and it is not mentioned in the European record until well after tea began to be widely available in the 17th century.  For the most part, the reading of tea leaves was thought to be a “gypsy secret” and, in the latter part of the 19th century, this was capitalized on by sellers of tea.  Tea houses would often employ a “Gypsy tea leaf reader” to draw in the trade; more often then not, the “gypsy” in question had not a drop of Roma blood in her veins.

More recently, tea leaf reading is treated more as a psychological exercise than as a way to foretell the future.  The reader strives to give the person they are reading for some insight into themselves.  Often the goal is to help the person understand their own influence in their life; to answer the age old question “why do these things keep happening to me?”

Next week we’ll evaluate the tools of the trade, so to say, and then we can start looking at the meanings of those mysterious shapes at the bottom of your tea cup.  Have your tea to hand and bring an open mind.  Until then, Vendredi heureux ~

Header: Russian Tea by Irving R. Wiles c 1909


Timmy! said...

You made me chuckle with this one, Pauline:

“why do these things keep happening to me?”

Pauline said...

How many times has someone asked you that, though, and all you've wanted to say was "maybe it has something to do with you"? From what I can tell, tea leaf reading seems to have morphed into a nice way to say exactly that, and then offer some suggestions about areas to "work on" so to say.