Tasseography, otherwise known as tasseomancy or tassology, is the art of tea leaf reading. "Tasse" or "tass" is an Arab root, meaning small cup or goblet.
Tea leaf reading is an ancient practice of interpreting patterns made by tea leaves in the cup. In addition to the reading of tea leaves, the tradition of tasseography includes the reading of coffee grounds and wine sediments.
Although tasseography is commonly associated with Romani fortunetellers, the tradition of tea leaf reading arises independently from Asia, the Middle East and Ancient Greece. Modern tasseography has also been associated with the Scottish, Irish and cultures throughout Eastern Europe.
The significance of the ubiquitous, cross cultural and historical pervasiveness of tea, coffee and sediment reading may be related to the primal human desire for understanding the self. Just as psychological analysis grew prodigiously during the Victorian era, tasseography became popularized as a parlor game. But the practice distinguishes itself from amorphic fortune telling, mystical, occult or other magical activities. Specifically, tasseography is not an application of magic, but rather a tool for tapping into the subconscious by applying meditation to pattern recognition and symbolism.
Tasseography can be a powerful meditative tool providing insights into the reader's subconscious. The signifance of symbolism in psychological study finds theoretical foundation from Plato through Karl Jung. From a modern sociobiological standpoint, procedures such as drinking from the opposite hand, may coordinate left and right brain activity to stimulate creative problem solving. Common sense indicates that slowing down to focus and organize one's own thoughts is an effective problem solving methodology.
The process of tasseography stimulates the imagination to create individualized interpretations and solutions. Tea leaf reading is a fun, healthful and creative way to listen to yourself.
How to Read Tea Leaves
Follow this simple 6 step procedure to read tea leaves for yourself or a friend. Tea leaf reading is easy, fun and possibly a little bit enlightening!
Step 1: Make a cup of tea.
Choose a white or light colored teacup. Almost any leaf tea will do nicely. My personal preference is Earl Grey. If avoiding caffeine, you might even choose an herbal variety. The herbal options are delicious: jasmine, peppermint, chamomile... the list goes on and on.
If you do not mind the tiny floating bits, you can open a tea bag and sprinkle the tea into a cup of hot water. A middle eastern option is to sprinkle coffee grounds into a cup of coffee.
Step 2: Steep your tea and quiet your mind.
Steeping time is a personal preference. Green and black teas are usually ready in a minute or two, while herbal teas may take longer.
This is a time to quiet your mind and relax. What you are about to exercise is your mental creativity. Pattern recognition and symbol recollection will require focus and concentration. Distracting conversation, music or activity will detract from your experience. As in beginning meditation, attempt to empty your mind of all thoughts.
Step 3: Sip tea while you find your focus.
Once your tea is cool enough, begin sipping. Leaves may be floating, so do the best you can to avoid consuming too many. If you are right-handed, lift your cup with your left. If left-handed, drink with your right. If ambidextrous, reach for your cup, stop, and then use the other hand.
Now that you are quiet and relaxed, identify the issue foremost in your mind. In meditation practice, one attempts to empty the mind -- blocking out all thoughts. As you attempt to think of nothing in particular, is there a stubborn thought that keeps returning to your attention? If so, that is the subject of this reading. Focus on that thought. If nothing in particular comes to mind, then this will be a general tea leaf reading. Focus on your breath and the taste of the tea.
Leave a small amount of tea at the bottom of your cup.
Step 4: Swirl three times and dump.
Hold your nearly empty teacup in your hand and give it three good swirls. The tea leaves will disperse around the interior of cup. Gently dump out the remaining liquid by turning your teacup over into a saucer.
Wait at least three breaths before turning your cup back over. You are ready to begin reading your tea leaves!
Step 5: Identify symbols and jot them down.
Tea leaf reading is a highly personal and subjective process. Because abstract pattern recognition keys into our subconscious, self analysis produces the most relevant reading. One person may see an egg, while another sees a beetle in the same spot. Tea leaf reading is very much like a Rorschach (Ink Blot) Test. We are most likely to recognize symbols having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand. Therefore, you are the most qualified person to read your own tea leaves.
If your cup has a handle, begin there and read clockwise. If your cup has no handle, begin reading from 12 o'clock. Make a notation of the first symbol you see. Mentally divide the cup into three sections: rim, middle and base. The rim area is above the tea level when you first poured your tea. The base is the level of tea left before you dumped out the remainder. The middle section is the area between the rim and bottom. Note where the symbol is located and if it is next to another symbol. Note whether you see bubbles, twigs or droplets in your cup. Work with quiet concentration and take your time.
Symbols shown in the image: butterfly, woman, diamond, arrow pointing to beetle, star, bird, H, cross.
Step 6: Create your tea leaf reading.
Translating symbols into meaning is just as personal and subjective as their identification. Individual language, cultural exposure, experience, knowledge and mental state contribute to interpretation of symbols. For example, the letter "K" might first bring to mind your friend Kevin rather than your sister Kirstin. Next to each symbol you wrote down, jot down the meaning that comes to mind first.
Again, abstract pattern recognition keys into our subconscious, so self analysis produces the most relevant reading. You are the most qualified person to read your own tea leaves. That being said, this site provides an extensive symbol lexicon to assist you in identifying and recalling symbols.
The first symbol you saw represents your dominant character or someone near or influental. Symbols in the rim section apply to this moment in time. The middle section represents the near future -- usually no longer than a fortnight. Both the rim and middle section represent influences in your outcome. The base of your cup represents the ultimate answer or conclusion.
ACORN - a very strong and fortunate symbol indicating happiness and contentment; at the top = financial success; at the bottom = good health.
AIRCRAFT - journey or travel
ALLIGATOR or CROCODILE - beware of false friendship lurking in your professional life.
ANCHOR - at top = stability, constancy in love or business; at bottom or broken = instability, inconstancy; can also symbolize an unpleasant situation or burden you should sail away from.
ANGEL - good news; protection.
ANT - hard work or busy phase will end productively.
APPLE - life; creative or artistic achievement; abundance.
ARCH - positive opening or opportunity (look to nearby symbols for added meaning).
ARM - pointing up = new directions; down = you need to motivate yourself; horizontal = help others or receive help from others.
ARROW - up = good direction, yes; down = wrong direction, no; horizontal = no change. Note where pointing.
AXE - you have the power to overcome difficulties.
BABY - new life; possible pregnancy; small worries.
BOUQUET - romantic interest; validation for your work or talents.
BAG - a trap; if open = escape.
BALL - desire to travel.
BALLOON - - busy social life; inability to settle down if near handle.
BARREL - abundance in laughter.
BASKET - harvest, abundance; material gain; possibly a new baby.
BAT (the animal) - a productive busy phase.
BAT or CLUB - situation calling for alert caution.
BEACON or LIGHTHOUSE - situation calling for your leadership and/or inspiration.
BEAR - a grouchy and difficult person; strength, courage and endurance; if teddy bear = children or childhood.
BED - sleep on it before establishing a close love or business relationship
BEE - fruitful hard work.
BEETLE - renewal; progress; need for foresight.
BELL - unexpected good news in love or business; call to attention
BICYCLE - individuality; choose your own path.
BIRD - good news or message; standing bird = delay; flying bird = good news; good news coming soon; flock of birds = profound or exciting news; goose= successful financial venture; peacock = pride and display; eagle = power and transcendence; crow/raven = ill omen, warning, time to relax; parrot = beware of idle gossip; chicken/hen = happy homelife and childhood comfort; dove = peace and love; owl = wisdom, knowledge and learning; rooster = a boastful person or wake up and seize the moment; swan = romance or someone graceful and beautiful; vulture = lay low and beware of enemies; swallow = love and new beginnings.
BOAT - worthwhile journey; your ship is coming in.
BONES - situation calling for innerstrength and spiritual fortitude.
BOWL - invitations, money or generosity
BOOK - if open = an answer to a question; if closed a question to be investigated.
BOTTLE - explosive atmosphere requiring caution; do not overindulge.
BOW - fortunate symbol meaning gift or celebration of achievement.
BOX - you are about to receive a gift.
BREAD (loaf) - nourishment; care for your health.
BRIDGE - a life-changing event or person. Look for nearby symbols.
BROOM - new home; new era in your life.
BRUSH - need for improvements and/or beautification.
BUBBLES - floating on surface of tea or coffee means money coming.
BUGS - distractions; fractured concentration; need for relaxed focus
BUSH an obstacle to new opportunities; branches signify choices.
BUTTERFLY - overdue happiness.
CAKE - a wish fulfilled; celebration.
CAMEL you will overcome burden and pressure to reach oasis.
CANDLE - there will be light upon an uncertain path; help from friends.
CAR - if clear = travel; if broken = mechanical trouble.
CARPETS - true friends and happy social engagements.
CASTLE - expand your horizons; open up a little.
CAT - deceit; an untrustworthy friend.
CHAIN - if well-formed = fortunate undertaking or serious commitment; if broken = trouble, disruption.
CHAIR - a guest or new addition to the family.
CASTLE - expand your horizons
CHILD - new idea; family.
CIGAR - a new friend or business relationship.
CIRCLE - unbroken = success, completion; broken (like letter 'c')= a temporary offer will come, tentative offers without fruition.
CLOCK - warning against procrastination.
CLOUDS - small and fluffy = happy optimism; thick and dark = gloom; sadness.
CLOVER (four leaf) - good luck that you have worked hard to attain.
COFFEE POT OR TEA POT - a special visitor is coming, probably not romantic.
COIN - a lump sum of money is coming your way.
COMB - improve your self appearance.
COMET - brink of pivotal change or dramatic event in your life.
COW - abundance; prosperity; physical or creative fertility.
CRAB - admonition to be more direct or someone born under the zodiac sign Cancer.
CROSS - if like a 'T' = hard won success and happiness; if like a solid 'X' = warning (look for meaning with nearby symbols); if like a broken 'X' = obstacles and losses are ahead.
CROWN - honor and recognition for your talents.
CUP - be patient, this is not a time to assert yourself.
CUSHIONS OR PILLOWS - comfort; admonition against laziness and procrastination.
DAGGER - caution against sharp words or revealing personal information
DAISY - new love.
DASHES or DOTS - many short trips which may cause wasted time.
DEER - a shy, timid person; you should be more assertive to overcome shyness.
DIAMOND - gift or other surprise windfall coming you way.
DICE destiny and change, go with the flow.
DISH interpret as a circle unless containing food; contains food = domestic comfort.
DOG - good friend; if at bottom friend needs help; if barking, untrustworthy friend; or, someone born in Chinese Zodiac dog year.
DONKEY - stubborness and stamina.
DOOR - be aware of opportunities.
DRAGON - scheming or flashy person; or, someone born in Chinese Zodiac dragon year.
DROPS - tears or sadness.
DRUM - a change; a call to action.
DUCK - devoted mate; money.
EAR - you will benefit from something you hear.
EGG - if whole = new life, successful new beginning; if cracked/broken = failed plans or financial problems which can be overcome by action.
ELEPHANT - be patient, you will be supported with kindness.
ENVELOPE - you will receive a long awaited letter or important paperwork.
EXCLAMATION MARK - pay attention; beware of impulsive actions.
EYE - a protective symbol; insight into a long standing problem.
FACE - look for nearby initials for identity of face; if near the rim or handle it is a warning against too much introspection; if facing another symbol indicates importance of that symbol.
FAN - a flirtation.
FEATHER - need for concentration.
FENCE - temporary and self-imposed limitations.
FINGER - emphasizes whatever symbol it is pointing; up = caution; down = stop.
FIRE - passion; hot emotion; sexual desire.
FISH - sharing of knowledge; a teacher; a person born under the Zodiac sign of Pisces (especially if there are two fish).
FLAG - danger, look to nearby symbols for added meaning.
FLEUR DE LYS or LILY - femininity; a loving woman.
FLOWER - praise and compliments are coming your way.
FLY - an annoying person.
FOOT - movement in love, career or location.
FORK - get advice from trusted friends before deciding.
FORKED LINE - a decision to be made.
FOUNTAIN - overflowing happiness.
FOX - a cunning person may be trying to trick you.
FRUIT - prosperity, fertility.
FROG - fertility; abundance; a disguised handsome/beautiful lover.
GATE - be aware of opportunities around you.
GLASS - celebrations, parties, social events.
GLOBE - long distance travel.
GOAT - your persistence will pay off, but take some time to recreate; or, a person born under the sign of Capricorn.
GRAPES - abundance and epicurean enjoyment.
GRASSHOPPER - summer delights.
GUN - danger; a bully.
HAMMER - an attempted persuasion.
HAND - if open = karma or destiny; if closed means an argument; look for added meaning where the hand is pointing.
HARE - unlike the shorter eared rabbit, the long eared hare represents something important brewing in your destiny in love or travel.
HARP - love; romance.
HAT - you will experience a change in roles; or business success.
HEART - love, friendship, romance.
HILLS - small challenges which will leave you improved.
HORSE - if galloping means good news; if just the head means a lover
HORSESHOE - good luck; very positive especially for travel.
HOURGLASS - a warning to be punctual.
HOUSE - comfort and home.
ICEBERG - danger.
INSECT - distractions; fractured concentration; need for relaxed focus
IVY - this is not a good time to be too independent; trust friends to help you.
JEWELS - material success; you will receive a valuable gift.
KANGAROO - travel; a journey.
KETTLE - a special visitor is coming, probably not romantic.
KITE - your wish will be granted.
KNIFE - caution against sharp words or revealing personal information.
LADDER - promotion; an improvement in your business life.
LAMP - at the top means a feast; at the side means secrets revealed; at the bottom means postponement.
LEAF - the turning over of a new leaf; inevitable changes with the passage of time.
LETTER - you will receive a long awaited letter or important paperwork.
LIGHTENING - startling events; sudden insights.
LINES - journey on a road; if straight = progress; if wavy = uncertain path; if many = many short trips.
LION - male lion represents a powerful contact or important man; the lioness represents a strong family; or, may represent a person born under the zodiac sign of Leo.
LOCK - there are obstacles in your way.
LOOP - if well-formed = fortunate undertaking or serious commitment; if broken = trouble, disruption.
MAN - a visitor of either gender; if near handle = someone close to you.
MASK - a secret to be kept.
MOUNTAIN - a difficult, but possible, goal.
MOUSE - be cautious of credit deals.
MUSHROOM - rapid growth, success or fertility.
NAIL - an unfair assault.
NECKLACE - complete = personal relationship stability; broken = instability in a personal relationship.
NEEDLE - painful repair.
OAK - long life characterized by good health.
OCTOPUS - warning.
OYSTER - passion and desire.
PALM TREE - wealth; beach vacation.
PARASOL - protection from harm or loss.
PIG - a greedy or jealous person.
PISTOL - warning of danger.
PURSE - money.
QUESTION MARK - reconsider your plans; be aware of an important question you should ask yourself.
RABBIT - fertility in family or business; someone born in the Chinese Zodiac year of the rabbit.
RAINBOW - your wish will come true; similar to an arch, it links represents the path between today and your destiny.
RAKE - you are at a crossroad and your destiny is determined by hard work.
RECTANGLE OR SQUARE - you will face a challenge or difficulty (look to nearby symbols, especially symbols within the shape, for added meaning.
RING - represents marriage but usually interpreted as a circle; unbroken = success, completion; broken (like letter 'c')= a temporary offer will come, tentative offers without fruition.
ROSE - new romance; deepening of love.
RUG - go with your instincts in distinguishing from a rectangle or square; represents joyful social events and true friendship.
SAW - something should be removed.
SCALE - a legal matter; if balanced = justice will prevail; if unbalanced = unjust result; a person born under the zodiac sign of Libra.
SCISSORS - it may be time to remove yourself from a situation or relationship.
SHEEP - a calm and peaceful person; an admonition to control impulses.
SHELL - you will find a simple treasure.
SHIP - worthwhile journey; your ship is coming in.
SHOE - you are on the correct path; be wary of advice to change.
SNAKE - someone who does not deserve your trust.
SPIDER - a small reward or win.
SPIDER WEB - potent symbol of fate; beware of traps.
SPOON - you will be comforted by someone's generosity.
STAR - success, recognition and praise.
STAIR - your position will improve.
SUN - a new beginning.
SWORD - caution against sharp words or revealing personal information.
TABLE - a happy social interlude.
TENT - travel may help you foster your spiritual health.
THIMBLE - focus on fostering your home life.
TORNADO OR WHIRLWIND - prepare for turbulent weather.
TORTOISE OR TURTLE - lasting success through slow, determined and patient efforts.
TOWER - risk of disappointment.
TREE - alone = family, roots, heritage; leafless = family conflict; many leaves = family contentment; group of trees = family unity; evergreen = enduring relationships; palm = wealth or beach vacation.
TRIANGLE - you are involved in a three way relationship; if wedge shaped = one person is getting in the way of your relationship with the other person.
UMBRELLA - protection from harm or loss.
URN - be aware of the distinction between material and spiritual success.
VASE - a secret being kept from you; be aware of the distinction between material and spiritual success.
VIOLIN - allow your feelings to surface.
VOLCANO - there is an obstruction in your life that must be dealt with.
WAGON - childhood; simple pleasures.
WASP - danger of small harm.
WATERFALL - wealth and prosperity.
WHEEL - events outside your control will change the direction of your life.
WINGS - do not box yourself in or limit yourself unnecessarily.
WOLF - you will be challenged or betrayed by someone.
YOKE - domination or control you should not allow.
ZEBRA - be more flexible and adventurous in your travel plans.