Of course all divination is similar in that the practitioner must be able to clear their mind, focus, and pick up the clues afforded by their divinatory medium of choice. Tea leaf reading is no different than cartomancy from that standpoint. What tasseography does bring to the table that many other traditional modes of divination do not is the active participation of the person for whom one is reading.
In cartomancy, the person consulting the cards is called the querent; in tasseography that person is referred to as the petitioner. According to several sources including Raymond Buckland, Marc de Pascale and Albert S. Lyons, the petitioner should be asked to tune out any extraneous thoughts and distractions once they sit down to a tea leaf reading. They cannot simply sit and watch the action unfold; they must be willing, active and preferably sober participants in the process.
It is a good idea to keep one cup set aside for tea leaf reading. Old fashioned cups with wide but not necessarily deep bowls are preferable and, of course, something that delights the touch like china brings a lot to the table in terms of atmospheric sensation. White cups or cups with interior bowls that are white are preferred because the shapes of the dark tea leaves will stand out more prominently. It probably goes without saying that the cup should be washed between petitioners.
Loose leaf tea – the type is largely immaterial and rarely mentioned in the literature – should be placed in a tea pot to which boiling water is added at the beginning of a session. While the tea is steeping, ask your petitioner to hold the cup between their hands to warm it. They should clear their mind and concentrate on one area of their life that they are most curious about. Suggest things like career, relationship, family, travel, finances, etc. to help them focus. Shotgun questions about several different issues will only muddy the waters and can potentially make the reading impossible to accomplish.
When your petitioner is ready, pour them a cupful of tea and encourage them to drink while continuing to concentrate on their issue. They should drink until just a bit of liquid is left at the bottom of the cup with which to distribute the tea leaves. Now have the petitioner hold the cup in their left hand and swirl it around three times before giving it over to you. At this point you need to, quickly and authoritatively, dump the rest of the liquid from the cup. Return the cup to an upright position as fast as you can and then set it between yourself and the petitioner. You are ready to begin your reading.
Some general rules that seem to hold true across the literature include that, if a cup’s contents are not producing readable patterns after the first try, the above ritual should be repeated. It can also be repeated a third time if necessary but if the third try yields nothing but big, indiscernible junks of leaves the reading should be abandoned. The tea is saying, quite literally, that the future is unreadable at this time.
Another point is that a symbol has its meaning modified by its position in the cup, its clarity and its proximity to other shapes. As an example, a crisply outlined anchor all alone near the top of the cup conveys its “true” and positive meaning: success in business, in social life and/or successful travel. If the anchor is obscured or blocked by other tea leave it may indicate financial trouble, a friendship gone or going bad or a need to avoid travel. If the anchor is surrounded by little dots, this is a good financial sign. At the bottom of the cup, the anchor may still have its “true meaning but the petitioner should “proceed with caution.”
Finally, pay attention to any shapes, letters, numbers, etc. that your petition mentions seeing in the leaves. This can be the sign of a “dialed in” petitioner who has indeed set trivial matters aside for the moment and is getting a message from the medium you are working with; in this case, tea leaves.
Next week we will dive into looking at the meanings of shapes in tasseography, beginning with letters and numbers. Vendredi heureux ~
Header: Example of a cup with tea leaves ready for reading