One of my ambitions this year is to learn tea-leaf reading. I don't just mean read a book on the subject then try it out once or twice, it is a skill I would really like to master.
My grandma had a special tea-leaf reading cup that sat in the china cabinet. I was fascinated by the strange symbols on it, but never learnt how to use it for fortune telling. Mind you, neither did my grandma as far as I can recall. It had long parted from its instruction book and no-one could remember how to interpret the pictures in relation to dregs of tea deposited at the bottom of the cup.
At Yule, a friend gave me a book called The Art of Tea Leaf Readingby Jane Struthers, which I eagerly read. This describes a method of reading tea-leaves with just an ordinary teacup and loose leaf tea, which I suspect is how tea leaves are usually read.
I was keen to have a go, but although I had a nice teacup and easily bought a packet of loose Earl Grey at my local supermarket, I then discovered I also needed a new teapot. That was less easy to find.
The book said that leaves are best read from the first cup poured, and I soon found that my huge family-size pot retained so many of the leaves that I didn't get enough in my cup to be any use.
I quickly discovered that individual-sized pots are hard to find in ordinary high street shops. I could have ordered one online, but I was too impatient to wait for it to be delivered. So, I ended up buying a sweet little teapot in a charity shop for £1.50, which was great because I love getting a bargain. It looked unused, so maybe someone had been given it as an unwanted present.
Then came my first attempt at reading the leaves.
As the book suggested, I put the kettle on, warmed the pot, put in a spoonful of loose tea, added freshly-boiled water, waited for it to brew, then poured my cup and drunk it while in quiet contemplation of a question to ask.
When I had finished, I swirled the dregs three times widdershins (anti-clockwise) while forming my question in my thoughts, then upended the cup into the saucer to drain off the excess liquid. Turning the cup back upright, I peered inside hoping to see shapes that were recognisable as symbols in the directory of meanings at the end of the book.
For example, a gate might mean some sort of obstacle that needs to be overcome, a bell might mean a wedding in a question about romance or an important message in relation to careers, a bee might represent a hectic journey with a full itinerary in a question about travel or that you should take care not to get stung in matters of money.
Did I see anything like that? No.
I stared at the mess of soggy leaves in my cup for quite a while, turning it round and round to see if it looked more promising from a different angle, but it really did just look like used tea. Oh well, maybe better luck next time.
I tried each day for a week. Then, when I was just about to give up, I saw something. On asking about money, I just about thought I could make out two dogs sniffing each other's bottoms, and I eagerly looked this up in the book.
The symbol of the dog, it said, represents loyalty and devotion. There was nothing about interpreting this in relation to any activity, however. Perhaps it was suggesting that to get a pay rise at work I needed to do a bit of brown-nosing? I suppose, in the month that job appraisals are looming, it doesn't do any harm to be extra nice to the boss. But I have no intention of doing anything to his bottom!
I'm going to continue to learn about tea-leaf reading, including having a go at using my grandma's old fortune-telling cup. Although she passed away many years ago, the cup still sits in the china cabinet that now belongs to my mother. I'm sure mum won't mind me using it.
Tea Set for One - Polka Dot
The Art of Tea Leaf Reading