General Principles to be Observed in Reading Tea Leaves
The interior of the tea-cup when it is ready to be consulted will exhibit the leaves scattered apparently in a fortuitous and accidental manner, but really in accordance with the muscular action of the left arm as controlled by the mind at whose bidding it has worked. These scattered tea leaves will form lines and circles of dots or small leaves and dust combined with stems, and groups of leaves in larger or smaller patches: apparently in meaningless confusion.
Careful notice should now be taken of all the shapes and figures formed inside the cup. These should be viewed front different positions, so that their meaning becomes clear. It is not very easy at first to see what the shapes really are, but after looking at them carefully they become plainer. The different shapes and figures of tea leaves in the cup must be taken together in a general reading. Bad indications will be balanced by good ones; some good ones will be strengthened by others, and so on.
It is now the business of the seer—whether the consultant or some adept to whom he has handed the cup to be read—to find some fairly close resemblance between the groups formed by the tea leaves and various natural or artificial objects. This part of the performance resembles the looking for 'pictures in the fire' as practiced by children in nurseries and school-rooms and occasionally by people of a larger growth. Actual representations of such things as trees, animals, birds, anchors, crowns, coffins, flowers, and so forth may by the exercise of the powers of observation and imagination be discerned, as well as squares, triangles, and crosses. Each of these possesses, as a symbol, some fortunate or unfortunate signification. Such signs may be either large or small, and their relative importance must be judged according to their size. Supposing the symbol observed should be that indicating the receipt of a legacy, for instance: if small it would mean that the inheritance would be but trifling, if large that it would be substantial, while if tea leaves grouped to form a resemblance to a coronet accompany the sign for a legacy, a title would probably descend upon the consultant at the same time. The meaning of all the symbols of this nature likely to be formed by the fortuitous arrangement of tea leaves in a tea-cup is fully set forth in the concluding chapter; and it is unnecessary therefore to enlarge upon this branch of the subject.
There are points of a more general character that must be considered before it is possible to form an accurate judgment of the fortune displayed. For instance, isolated tea leaves or groups of a few tea leaves or stems frequently form letters of the alphabet or numbers. These letters and numbers possess meanings which must be sought in conjunction with other signs. If near a letter L is seen a small square or oblong tea leaf, or if a number of very small dots form such a square or oblong, it indicates that a letter or parcel will be received from somebody whose surname (not Christian name) begins with an L. If the combined symbol appears near the handle and near the rim of the cup, the letter is close at hand; if in the bottom there will be delay in its receipt. If the sign of a letter is accompanied by the appearance of a bird flying towards the 'house' it means a telegraphic dispatch: if flying away from the house the consultant will have to send the telegram. Birds flying always indicate news of some sort.
Again, the dust in the tea and the smaller tea leaves and stems frequently form lines of dots. These are significant of a journey, and their extent and direction shows its length and the point of the compass towards which it will extend: the handle for this purpose being considered as due south. If the consultant is at home and lines lead from the handle right round the cup and back to the handle, it shows that he will return; if they end before getting back to the handle, and especially if a resemblance to a house appears where the journey line ends, it betokens removal to some other place. If the consultant be away from home, lines leading to the handle show a return home, and if free from crosses or other symbols of delay that the return will be speedy: otherwise it will be postponed. The occurrence of a numeral may indicate the number of days, or if in connection with a number of small dots grouped around the sign of a letter, a present or a legacy, the amount of the remittance in the former, the number of presents to be expected, or the amount of the legacy coming. Dots surrounding a symbol always indicate money coming in some form or other, according to the nature of the symbol.
It will be seen that to read a fortune in the tea-cup with any real approach to accuracy and a serious attempt to derive a genuine forecast from the cup the seer must not be in a hurry. He or she must not only study the general appearance of the horoscope displayed before him, and decide upon the resemblance of the groups of tea leaves to natural or artificial objects, each of which possesses a separate significance, but must also balance the bad and good, the lucky and unlucky symbols, and strike an average. For instance, a large bouquet of flowers, which is a fortunate sign, would outweigh in importance one or two minute crosses, which in this case would merely signify some small delay in the realization of success; whereas one large cross in a prominent position would be a warning of disaster that would be little, if at all, mitigated by the presence of small isolated flowers, however lucky individually these may be. This is on the same principle as that by which astrologers judge a horoscope, when, after computing the aspects of the planets towards each other, the Sun and Moon, the Ascendant, Mid-heaven, and the significator of the Native, they balance the good aspects against the bad, the strong against the weak, the Benefics against the Malefics, and so strike an average. In a similar way the lucky and unlucky, signs in a tea-cup must be balanced one against the other and an average struck: and in this connection it may be pointed out that symbols which stand out clearly and distinctly by themselves are of more importance than those with difficulty to be discerned amid cloudlike masses of shapeless tea leaves. When these clouds obscure or surround a lucky sign they weaken its force, and vice versa. In tea-cup reading, however, the fortune told must be regarded chiefly as of a horary character, not, as with an astrological horoscope, that of a whole life; and where it is merely indulged in as a light amusement to while away a few minutes after a meal such nicety of judgment is not called for. The seer will just glance at the cup, note the sign for a letter from someone, or that for a journey to the seaside or the proximity of a gift, or an offer of marriage, and pass on to another cup.
It should be observed that some cups when examined will present no features of interest, or will be so clouded and muddled that no clear meaning is to be read in them. In such a case the seer should waste no time over them. Either the consultant has not concentrated his or her attention upon the business in hand when turning the cup, or his destiny is so obscured by the indecision of his mind or the vagueness of his ideas that it is unable to manifest itself by symbols. Persons who consult the tea-leaves too frequently often find this muddled state of things to supervene. Probably once a week will be often enough to look into the future, although there is something to be said for the Highland custom of examining the tea leaves of the morning cup of tea in order to obtain some insight into the events the day may be expected to bring forth. To 'look in the cup' three or four times a day, as some silly folk do, is simply to ask for contradictory manifestations and consequent bewilderment, and is symptomatic of the idle, empty, bemused minds that prompt to such ill-advised conduct.
Of course the tea leaves meaning may be employed solely for the purpose of asking what is known to astrologers as 'a horary question', such, for instance, as 'Shall I hear from my lover in France, and when?' In this case the attention of the consultant when turning the cup must be concentrated solely on this single point, and the seer will regard the shapes taken by the tea-leaves solely in this connection in order to give a definite and satisfactory answer. An example of this class of horary question is included among the illustrations (Fig. 10).