Psychic Traditions: Tasseography

In the middle ages, divination, fortune telling, and even the collecting herbs became dangerous activities as the churches sought to persecute witches.

Yet, women then were no less interested than now in doing a little fortune-telling about their love lives, their finances and their fates. Quietly, secret knowledge was passed from woman to woman about the secrets revealed through reading tea leaves. This was a form of divination that could be practiced at home, with no special equipment and without causing suspicion. Today the tradition of reading tea leaves is much the same as it was ages ago–minus the element of danger.

Ordinary tea cups were used — the lighter the better so as to more easily read the leaves. Loose tea, chamomile, peppermint and other herbs were used.

Two women would sit quietly, each thinking about a situation she hoped to understand. Each would swirl the cup gently from right to left, until it felt clear that it was time to stop. Then, they’d sip the tea until the cup was nearly empty. Once again, they’d swirl the liquid right to left a few times. Finally, they’d exchange cups and read for each other, using the shapes found in the bottom of the cup to make an interpretation.

Another version turns the nearly empty cup over into the saucer to read the leaves from the saucer. This was more obviously divination, so if the women were afraid of being observed, the leaves were instead read discreetly from the cup.

Whether you choose to read the leaves from the cup or the saucer, once only the leaves remain, simple shapes can be observed. If the shapes are reversed when facing the reader, the interpretation is reversed. For example, if the reader sees the image of pig (success) and it’s upside down from her perspective, the interpretation is failure. The reader uses her intuition to make the reading. If there is more than one shape, the shapes have to be interpreted together. For example if a boat and a moon are seen, the interpretation might be for a journey whose results may be based on an illusion.

Use your immediate associations–the first thing that pops into your head– with the symbol to get the perfect reading for yourself. . If you think – oh, it looks like an otter. And your first association is wet and slimy, go with it. Don’t change your reading by saying, but oh, they’re so cute, so it must be good. Trust your own gut feelings, they’re trying to tell you something.

Interpretation of symbols:

Anchor – attachment, security

Apple – gift from the gods, success

axe – trouble to be worked through

Bell – a call, a summons

Birds – joy, happiness, glad tidings

Boat – travel, shelter

Butterfly – flighty, changeable

Candle – light, vision, prayer

Chain – partnership

Circles = completion, fortune

Clouds – cares, worries on the horizon

Coin – wealth, earnings

Cross – sacrifice

Cup – benefits, sharing, or a reward

Dog – faithful companionship, friendship

Egg – something new is coming to fruition

Eye – be alert, pay attention

Fence – boundaries, restrictions

Fish – prosperity, good luck

Flag – signal, a warning

Fly – petty temporary irritation

Gate – the way forward, opportunity

Gun – disagreement, danger, anger

Hat – new situation

Heart – love, pleasure, passion

Horn – plenty, abundance

Horseshoe – good luck

Hourglass – decision and action necessary

Kite – fulfillment of dreams or wishes

Knife – feeling of betrayal in friendship

Ladder – moving up in life

Leaf – new beginning, good luck

Lock – difficulties that must be dealt with

Loop – figure out a clear strategy before acting

Moon – dreams, illusions

Mountain – challenging life goals

Nail – caution necessary

Pig – wealth, success

Pistol – dangerous situation

Question mark – uncertain situation

Rabbit – need for courage

Scissors – conflicts, little cuts, separation

Seashell – good lucky, happy tidings

Spider – hard work, earnings

Squares – sharp edges, take care, take your time

Star – gifts, luck, hope

Sword – conflict, strife

Tent – travel, adventure

Tower – trouble, strife

Tree – growth, grace

Triangles – change for the better

Volcano – seething emotion

Wasp – trouble, especially in love

Wings – Mercury, messenger, messages

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