Tasseomancy is a divinatory form of fortune-telling by reading tea leaves. It is also known as tasseography. Tasseomancy originated in the Middle Ages stemming from ceroscopy and molybdomancy. In the 17th century, the West Dutch Indies merchants introduced tea from the Orient. Tea drinking became a popular custom which gave rise to the divination of tea leaves that remained in the bottom of the cup.
Tasseomancy is largely dependent on psychic intuition. Tea is poured into a cup without the use of a strainer. The one seeking psychic help, the inquirer, consumes all of the tea in the cup. If any moisture remains it is shaken out onto a napkin.
The leaves remain in the bottom of the cup which the diviner observes to see what patterns are formed. A letter, heart shape, or a ring might be observed. There are some standard symbolisms which are observed when interpreting the patterns: snake (enmity or falsehood), spade (good fortune through industry), mountain (journey or hindrance), house (change, success).
Another method is to leave a little moisture in the cup. This allows the leaves or dregs to be swished around. The cup is the upturned into the saucer. The reader picks up the cup and begins examining the formation of the dregs. As in the above described method, the dregs can form patterns such as letters, numbers, geometric designs, straight or wavy lines or shapes which resemble animals, birds or objects. Again, various symbols have particular meanings: straight lines indicate careful planning and peace of mind, while a cup shape indicates love and harmony. Time frames are also indicated by estimating the proximity of the leaves to the rim. Dregs closer to the rim and handle represent the immediate future, while those at the cup’s bottom indicate the far future. Some diviners say they can only predict twenty-four hours into the future.
Due to technical modernization tea bags have arrived, but readers have circumvented this by cutting the bags and dropping the leaves into the cup. In some instances coffee grounds are used, but the practice is less common.
Italians, in the 18th century, claimed they invented the coffee-ground form of the divination. Also, they believed the prophecies came from demons so the diviners recited incantation during their practices such as: «Aqua boraxit venias carajos,» «Fixitur et patricam explinabit tornare,» and «Hax verticalines pax Fantas marobum, max destinatus, veida porol.» It was believed that if such incantations were done incorrectly, the reading would be inaccurate.
Tasseomancy is currently conducted in England, Ireland, and Europe. In the United States it is primarily practiced in larger cities in «Gypsy tearooms» and in restaurants and other establishments which furnish back room fortune-telling services. Some occultists practice it too. A.G.H.