By Ciera Miller
My mother has drank tea for as long as I can remember and probably before that, so tea has always had a natural presence in my life. My earliest memories of it are when I’d wake up my mom for work and she’d ask me to throw in a cup of tea, which meant putting a mug of water in the microwave for two minutes and pretending I didn’t hear the beep when it alerted the house that the water was ready. So when tea appeared in the Harry Potter series, it was a piece of home for me, something familiar and mundane… Until Professor Trelawney read Harry’s tea leaves and divined the grim, a bad omen that predicted Harry would die (even though, spoiler alert, he did not). It was then that I began to wonder if tea was as mundane as I thought, or if it was of some mystical origin that was being called to light in the Harry Potter series. So I did some research.
The reading of tea leaves is a real thing, and it’s called tasseomancy. Tasseomancy comes from the Arabic root tassa, meaning cup, and the Greek mancy, meaning divine, so “tasseomancy” means divine cup. We can all agree that teacups are divine because of the holy liquid they hold and allow us to drink. But here, it means contacting and interpreting the divine, the liminal presence that only mediums have access to. The name intrigued me, made me want to read my own tea leaves and find out my own fortune (hopefully it did not hold the grim). Though, how do you read the divine in the cup?
First, you have to make the tea, and it can’t be the throwing of a tea bag into a cup of warmed water because then you won’t have any dregs at the bottom (sorry Mom, no microwave). You have to go back to before the accidental invention of tea bags in New York, 1908, and steep the tea leaves in your mug. You can do this by emptying the contents of the tea bags into your teacup or you can buy raw tea leaves, and then pour boiling water from a kettle into them. Any kind of tea leaf will do, but not any kind of mug. A light colored one is recommended for better clarity of the tea leaves, to make them easier to read at the end. After you’ve chosen your cup, it is time to add water, not too hot and not too cold, but just warm enough to calm yourself down. And then you begin to drink, with your less dominant hand.
But you must be focused while you drink, without a wandering mind or rushing thoughts. Breathe deeply, count slowly to ten, exhale, inhale. Concentrate on the wonderful warmth cupped in your hands and the question you’d like answered. Of course, your brain can’t always stop thinking so maybe if there’s some thoughts that refuse to leave your mind, you can choose to focus on them when reading the tea leaves. Maybe they’ll have some answers to questions you didn’t realize you had. Don’t worry about that now though—just focus on the tea energy in your hands and how the warm liquid feels, flowing throughout your body.
Although you’ll want to drink every last drop of this ambrosia, you have to save a small amount of tea in the bottom of the cup. Still using your less dominant hand, swirl the leftover tea counterclockwise three times, and then flip it onto the saucer, where again, you’ll turn the cup counterclockwise three times. The tea leaves should be stuck to the mug in a ton of different ways, and hopefully you have our creative, thinking cap on to identify what exactly the dregs are telling you.
You have to start the reading from the handle of the mug and continue clockwise to make sense of the different pictures and patterns. Anything that seems important and where it’s placed in relation to the cup is important because places like the rim, the middle, and the bottom of the cup indicate the immediacy of the fortune-telling of the leaves, the connection between individuals, and the intensity of a situation.
And you shouldn’t think so hard—your first association with the pictures and patterns will most likely suffice. It’s from these that you’ll figure out what your future might hold. The different symbols you might find in the dregs of your cup mean different things, like water meaning itself, or travel, or unity, or a circle meaning change or rationality or both. There are a million different meanings of each that you’ll have to interpret for yourself in your own daily life.
So that’s how you read your fortune in your cup of tea like Professor Trelawney, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still intrigued by the mysticism of it. In my own tea divination, I found something like a spiral that promises creativity and an upward arrow for positivity (thankfully, no grim). Does my future actually hold creativity and positivity? Hopefully. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.
Sources: Reading Tea Leaves: An Ancient Art Form, The Mysterious Art of Tasseography, Your Essential Guide to Tasseography, the Practice of Reading Tea Leaves, Tasseography Tasseomancy — The Mona Lisa Method of Tea Leaf Reading, Cold weather, warming tase – Dmitry Fablov,Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling