Friday, December 8, 2006

Tasseography: Divination on tea leaves

Tasseography (or tasseomancy) is the art and practice of divination by the reading of tea leaves. Known in Scotland as “reading the cups,” it is a popular method of prognostication among many Gypsy fortunetellers and modern Witches alike.

Tasseography is quite ancient in its origin. First practiced in China, it was eventually introduced to Europe and other parts of the world by nomadic Gypsies, who, in exchange for money, food, or favors, could read the fortune and future in the tea leaves of any woman or man who sought their counsel.

During the 19th century, teacup readings were all the rage throughout England and the United States, which, during that period, was experiencing an influx of Gypsy immigrants. To interpret the future through tea leaves, you will need any type of loose tea and a white (or light-colored) teacup with a wide brim and no pattern on the inside. Any ordinary cup can be used; however, many diviners have a special cup that is used only for tea leaf readings.

Traditionally, a spoonful of tea leaves is placed in the cup, and, before the hot water is added, the person whose fortune is to be told stirs the dried tea with a finger or a spoon while concentrating on a specific question that he or she would like answered. Boiling water is then poured into the cup. After it has cooled, the querent drinks all but one spoonful of the tea.

He or she then takes the cup in his or her left hand and thrice swirls the leaves in a clockwise direction before quickly turning the cup upside down onto a white napkin resting on top of the saucer. After counting to seven (or sometimes nine, depending on the diviner’s personal preferences), the cup is returned to its right side up position. The various patterns formed by the wet tea leaves clinging to the bottom and sides of the cup are then interpreted. Some diviners feel that a reading is not complete unless the tea leaves on the napkin are interpreted as well.

Traditionally, a teacup is read clockwise. According to Eva Shaw’s Divining the Future, “the handle represents the day of the teacup reading and the cup is divided into a years time, with the side directly across the handle indicating six months into the future.”

Most readers feel that the closer the tea leaves are to the brim of the cup, the greater their significance. Tea leaves on the bottom of the cup are believed by some to “spell tragedy,” and by others to indicate events of the distant future. In many cases, the clockwise or counterclockwise facing of a tea leaf pattern indicates a particular event about to happen or about to draw to a close, respectively. Examine the tea leaves carefully for any symbols, pictures, letters and/or numbers that are made, for each one possesses a divinatory meaning. For instance, if the leaves take on the shape of a heart, this indicates future happiness. If two hearts are seen, this is said to be a sure sign that wedding bells will be ringing for you (or someone close to you) in the near future.

News of a marriage proposal or a wedding will be forthcoming should the symbol of a church, a wedding ring, or a bride and groom be seen.

A dagger is generally perceived to be a warning of impending danger, while a coffin is said to be an omen of death. A moon represents a change soon to take place in one’s life, and a ring a change for the better. (However, some tea leaf readers interpret a circular symbol to mean failure!) Animal symbols are commonly seen in teacup readings. A snake is said to warn against treachery and betrayal. A bird portends good news or perhaps a journey soon to be embarked upon. A dog represents a faithful friend, and a cat a friend who is false.

Dots or dollar signs represent money soon to be received, and a broom traditionally portends a change of residence. A star is always a fortunate sign, and a horseshoe indicates good luck. A triangle or the symbol of a pyramid is one of the best omens to receive. Whenever one appears in a reading, it generally foretells great success.

According to Welsh Folklore by J. C. Davies, a good sign is portended if the tea leaves are scattered evenly around the sides of the cup, but an extremely bad one if “the bottom of the cup appears very black with leaves.”

The meanings that lie behind the designs and shapes created by the tea leaves can be highly symbolic in their nature, or they can be exactly as they appear. Symbols may hold different meanings for different people; therefore, as with all other methods of divination, the success of a reading rests heavily upon how finely tuned the intuitive powers are of the person conducting the reading.

If you are new to the art and practice of tasseography, do not despair if your first few attempts at reading the tea leaves are unsuccessful. Many readers see only vague shapes in the beginning. But, as the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.”

This applies to all skills, including magickal and metaphysical ones as well.

A list of tea leaf symbols and their meanings can be found in the books Divining the Future by Eva Shaw (Facts on File, 1995) and Tea Leaf Reading Symbols by Harriet Mercedes McCrite (McCrite, 1991).

Tea ea Spells and Superstitions In addition to its role in divination, the tea plant (Camellia spp.) has long been linked to folk magick and superstition. Burned by Chinese sorcerers to attain wealth, the leaves of the tea plant are often added to money-attracting potions and sachets.

Various parts of the tea plant are also used in spells for increasing one’s courage and strength, and some modern Witches have been known to use infusions of tea as a base for mixing drinks designed to provoke lust.

A magickal method to keep evil spirits from invading a house or barn calls for tea leaves to be sprinkled upon the ground in front of the building’s main entrance. This old Pagan custom is said to be still practiced in some parts of the English Midlands.

Numerous superstitions surround the brewing of tea. For instance, the accidental spilling of tea while it is being made is said to indicate good luck for the mother of the house. However, brewing tea in any teapot other than your own invites bad luck, while forgetting to put in the tea indicates that misfortune is on the horizon.

To accidentally make the tea too strong means that you will make a new friend. But to accidentally make it too weak means that you will end up losing one. In England, where the drinking of tea is a national pastime, it is still believed that the arrival of a stranger is portended whenever someone accidentally leaves the lid off his or her teapot.

Take care to always put your sugar into your tea before adding the milk or cream, otherwise you will find yourself quarreling with your husband or wife before the day is done.

However, in some parts of England it was once believed that if a young girl added milk or cream to her tea before putting in the sugar, she would never wed.

It is extremely unlucky for two people to pour out of the same teapot, according to an old superstition, which can be found alive and well in many parts of the world. And never pour tea with another person unless you wish to become a magnet for bad luck.

Bubbles or a circle of foam on the surface of a cup filled with tea is said to be a sign that money will soon be received.

Some folks believe that money is indicated only if the bubbles or foam appear in the center of the cup. If they appear near the sides, this is a sign that you will soon be kissed!

If a piece of tea stem (known as a “stranger”) should float to the top of your cup of tea, this is said to be a sign that a visitor will arrive. If the stem is hard, this indicates that the visitor will be a man. If it is tender, the visitor will be a woman.

To determine which day of the week your visitor will come to call, place the stem on the back of your left hand and then slap it with the palm of your other hand. Each time you do this, recite one of the days of the week (starting with the current day). The day of the week that is recited when the stem either sticks to the palm of your right hand or falls off indicates which day it will be.

A similar divination method, which was popular in Victorian-era England, was carried out to determine the fidelity of one’s lover. A wet tea stalk or long tea leaf would be placed in the palm of the right hand, and then both hands would be clapped together once. If the tea stalk or leaf remained stuck to the palm of the right hand after being clapped, this indicated a faithful lover. However, if it adhered to the other palm, this indicated one who was fickle.

To avoid bad luck, always be sure to stir your tea in a clockwise direction, and never stir the leaves in a teapot prior to pouring. To stir your tea with a fork, a knife, or anything other than a spoon is to invite bad luck. And never stir another person’s tea, for to do so will stir up strife.

In addition to the numerous good and bad luck omens associated with tea, there are many tea-based superstitions concerning human fertility.

For example, if a man and a woman pour a cup of tea from the same teapot, they will end up having a child together. If a young lady permits a man to pour her more than one cup of tea, she will be unable to resist his sexual charms. A woman who pours tea in another woman’s house will soon find herself pregnant (or, according to another superstition, the recipient of very bad luck). Some folks believe that if two women should take hold of the same teapot at once, this will cause one of them to give birth to red-haired twins before the year reaches its end! And if more than one person pours you a cup of tea, this is also believed to result in the birth of twins (though not necessarily red-haired).

Regardless whether your tea leaves are used in the casting of a spell, the divining of the future, or simply the brewing of a cup of hot tea, you should never throw them away after you are finished using them. To do so is said to bring bad luck, according to some superstitious folks. Disposing of your used tea leaves by casting them into a fire not only prevents bad luck, but keeps poverty away.

Spell For Using Mugwort Tea by Lee Prosser

Mugwort is used to conjure visions, pursue dream quests, open the partaker up to the inner planes for astral travel, and to see into the future.

Prepare mugwort for tea, and then address the goddesses Bast and Durga in the following manner as the tea brews:

Bless this tea in the names
of Bast and Durga
that the goddesses grant
it vision and strength
for my mind.

Prior to drinking the tea, address the goddesses Bast and Durga in the following manner:

Beloved Bast, Beloved Durga,
Beloved Durga, Beloved Bast,
Bless my mugwort tea
with that which I need to
restore myself

so that I may once again be made whole.

Thank you Bast, thank you Durga,
So mote it be,
So will it be,
So it is done.

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