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Tasseography – Areas of the cup & basic symbols

In the last article we looked at how to make the right sort of tea for Tasseography and the reason for using traditional teacups rather than mugs. At first it may seem strange to many people that the addition of a handle to the traditional Eastern tea bowls was the innovation that made the art possible. However, this is what quite literally marked the starting point for the reading. Before this there was no easy marker to indicate the position of the enquirer so any reading was much more like using a crystal ball and required a more developed intuition than many beginners usually possess.

But, with a clear starting point, reading the leaves became much easier. Enabling it to be a highly effective form of intuitive psychic development, in addition to being an accessible system of divination. Having drunk most of the tea, a little is left in the bottom of the cup, usually 3-4 mm (1/8 of an inch), the cup is then swirled anticlockwise three times and quickly placed upside down on the saucer for a slow count of three. After which the cup is returned to the right way up and the patterns formed by the leaves read, or passed to the person who is doing the reading.

Using the handle to represent the inquirer the symbols formed by the leaves are read in a clockwise direction. Essentially the cup is split into four areas or quarters around it, and three layers within it. Imagine the Rune “Gifu” (‘X’) superimposed over the cup with the handle pointing at you. The area defined by the bottom half of the Rune, which encompasses the handle, represents the quirent and the influences immediately surrounding them including home and family. The area on the left side of the handle are influences and events leaving or departing from the quirent, and those in the quarter opposite the handle are things and people at a distance from the person, outsiders, also a strong potential future. The right side of the cup represents influences and people coming into the person’s life, the closer they are to the handle the sooner they will present themselves.

The inside of the cup is also divided into three zones; Upper, middle and lower. Symbols occurring in the lower third relate considered to be negative, or to do with the ‘dark side of the subconscious’. The middle zone is more ambiguous, with the symbols contextualised by those nearby. There is frequently a sense of flux in these and, in my experience, they are the most likely to shift as you read them, or at a point during the reading as a whole which can add further dimensions to it. The top layer is the most positive of the three, even symbols with negative connotations, if they are found here, are lessened to a degree.

Some Tasseography practitioners use the division of the inside of the cup into thirds as a timing technique. The top third being the near future, the middle to happenings in a few months time, and the third at the bottom of the cup as the far future. In Hungary the lady who read the tea leaves in the café near the zoo used to say that the happiest part of cup was up by the rim, worry, sadness and weeping at the bottom of the cup, and everyday events in the middle region. As you gain experience either practicing with sympathetic family and friends, and/or fellow Pagans you may find these models useful. However, they are guidelines rather than absolute rules, and you may soon develop a system of your own.

Other Tasseomantic lore to be aware of includes rings, horseshoes, and the number seven being lucky symbols. Always take note of where symbols point or slip slightly towards other each other or towards the handle/inquirer, as they stress important things linked to, happening, or about to influence, the person having the reading. Other well-known synchronistic symbols include:

A single leaf floating in a full cup of tea indicates money coming into the life of the person who’s cup of tea it is
A single leaf stuck on the lip of the cup portends a romantic person entering the life of the quirent
If all the leaves gather at the end of the cup in a pile opposite the handle trouble- not of the inquirer’s making is coming into their life
If all the leaves gather directly by the handle, troubles resulting from the enquirers own actions will find them.
Letters of the alphabet can be connected to people who will be important to the quirent in the future.
In a carry-over from Astrology and Chiromancy symbols such as the square and triangle have the same meanings. A negative symbol, such as an arrow aimed at the enquirer, if it is in a square means that they are protected from the worst effects. Triangles are positive and usually relate to health or money.

In the next article we will go into more depth on reading the symbols, trance induction as part of the reading, and the types of reading that can be given. With the information given so far you have enough to start practicing your own readings as mentioned earlier in the article. You can let me know how you do, and any queries you may have in the Pagan forum.

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