At the beginning of 2022, we listened to a podcast talking about how many different types of divination practices there are in the world and it really got us thinking about our own practices. We’re all pretty comfy and cozy with our tarot and oracle decks at The Circle, some of us use a pendulum…. But there’s so much more! Carromancy, tasseomancy, molybdomancy, bibliomancy, oomancy, and on and on. Now don’t get me wrong, nobody’s abandoning their tarot decks here, but it piqued our curiosity and started us on a journey of learning different forms of divination. Julia really got hooked on charm casting and was immediately smitten. Mia tried it and didn’t connect with the charms, but found a similar style of divination in reading tea leaves. In both charms and tasseomancy you’re looking at the placement of different shapes whether charms on a casting cloth or clumps of tea scattered in a mug, you’re seeking patterns, taking where these shapes fall into consideration, and finding answers within a practice that is based on your intuition. Do you ever look for shapes in the clouds? If so, reading tea leaves could be a great practice for you to try!
Tasseomancy is also known as tasseography, or tassology. These terms come from the French word tasse (cup), which is derived from the Arabic word tassa along with the Greek graph (writing), mancy (divination), and logy (study of). This practice isn’t limited to tea and has been practiced often with coffee grounds and even wine sediment! But today we’re talking specifically about tea.
Now, it’s hard to pinpoint the precise origins of tasseomancy (or tasseography) as it appears that every culture has practiced a variation of it. A lot of writings have it closely linked to Romani traditions, Middle Eastern cultures, and Scottish “spae wives”. As tea was discovered in Asia many people believe that this is where the practice of reading the leaves originates and as tea made its way around the world people quickly started seeking answers in each cup. Just follow that trade route and watch this practice spread in popularity. Tasseomancy was said to be passed down orally for generations, this oral tradition allows for many variations and differences between cultures and practices. This is not a closed practice and there appears to be no wrong way here as we can see that everyone adds their own unique style and preference to this style of divination.
The Victorian era is when tasseomancy really peaked in popularity. People were deeply fascinated by the occult and sought ways to find solutions to daily concerns and even communicate with the dead. For a long time, tea was considered an aristocratic drink, but the Victorian era saw a drop in prices which made it available to the general population. Previously folks were deciphering symbols in molten wax and metal, so the availability of tea leaves gave people a much safer divinatory option. Tea time became part of many people’s daily rituals and some chose to heighten this point in their day by deciphering symbols in their tea leaves. Women in the Victorian era began gathering in tea parlors to “throw cups”, or read the leaves, for themselves and their friends or peers.
Are you ready to start reading some tea leaves?? Below is just one person’s way of reading, make any adjustments until it feels perfect to you.
In order to read tea leaves, you'll need a few supplies:
-A shallow, light-colored teacup and saucer
-Loose-leaf tea (finer leaves are best here, a lot of folks practice with black tea but we love rooibos)
-A notebook and pen (for taking notes on the shapes and symbols you see)
Take some time to get grounded and clear your space. Gather your supplies and brew your tea! Make sure to use fresh, loose-leaf tea for the best results. You can brew straight in the cup or in a teapot, just remember that you don’t want to use a strainer. As you're brewing, take a moment to think about what question you want to be answered or what present issue you'd like guidance on. Once your tea is ready, drink it until only a few drops remain in the bottom of the mug. And yeah, you’re probably gonna eat some tea here, just do your best to strain through your lips and teeth:) Swirl the mug three times, then turn it upside down onto the saucer or plate. Allow the liquid to drain completely, lift your mug and begin examining the shapes left behind by the tea leaves. Take a moment to take in the placement of the leaves. Are there a lot of leaves in one area of the cup? Are they more toward the top or bottom?? Are there any shapes that immediately jump out at you?
Interpreting Tea Leaf Shapes and Symbols
There are endless possibilities when it comes to interpretation but here’s a nice place to start: Read the leaves starting at the handle, symbols closest to the handle are often considered the closest in time and energy to you (or the querent). The larger the symbol the more urgent the message. I like to read from the top of the mug down considering symbols closer to the top as potentially happening sooner or more urgently than symbols towards the bottom of the teacup.
There are so many guides to the symbols online but they can feel pretty overwhelming! They’re a great place to start when you’re just beginning, but don’t be afraid to create your own personal interpretations as well. Reading the leaves is a little like interpreting the tarot, we all connect to the symbols on a personal and unique level. Don’t be afraid to let your intuition guide you into creating your own meanings. The symbols
and the meanings you attach to them are so personal and can offer a lot of insight. Remember to jot down any shapes or symbols you see in your notebook so that you can refer back to them later. I found the book Tea Cup Reading and The Art of Fortune Telling by Tea leaves an incredible resource! This is my go-to when I want a little help deciphering the shapes in my cup, and it even has sample drawings for you to practice with. This book is a reproduction of the writings by an unknown Scottish seer and is the oldest known book on the topic.
Ready to start your journey into tasseomancy? Gather your supplies, brew a cup, and start interpreting those shapes and symbols! Tea time has always been a ritual babes, reading the leaves just brings a little more of you into it.