Reading Tea Leaves

Remember when you were a little kid, and you used to lie on the grass and imagine shapes in the clouds? A bunny - a wolf - a castle. A long time ago, this was considered a method of fortelling the future, and mighty rulers would employ councils of learned men to interpret the shapes for them.

Reading Tea Leaves is in fact almost identical to this practice, but instead of imagining shapes in the clouds, one stares at little clumps of wet tea leaves, and imagines (or "interprets") the shapes in the tea cup.

Reading Tea Leaves is an amusing activity for parties and get togethers with friends. Don't take it too seriously, and understand that interpretation of the shapes is very much of the eye of the beholder. It requires imagination and creativity, just like finding the shapes in clouds.

Note: There is a list of "meanings" for the shapes located below. The origin of these intrepretations is not known, and somewhat archaic. If the shape means something different to you, you should go with your own interpretation.


  1. Use white or pale tea cups, no pattern, (styrofoam will do), and a saucer.

  2. Brew a pot or cup of tea using LOOSE tea leaves in the water. While tea is steeping/cooling, you may concentrate on a specific question or problem.

  3. Drink the tea - leaving a bit of liquid and most of the leaves in the cup.

  4. Take cup in your left hand and swirl it around clockwise three times, so that leaves climb the sides of the cup too.

  5. Turn the cup over on the saucer to remove the liquid, then interpret the shapes in your cup!



  • Letters refer to names of friends, relatives, etc.

  • Numbers indicate spans of time - months or years.

  • Images closer to the rim, closer to present time. Cup bottom is future.

  • Clear symbols are events more likely to occur.

  • Interpret letters, numbers and clearest symbols first.

  • Shapes: Triangles = good luck * Squares = caution * Circles = success

  • Acorn ~ (top) financial success and gain (bottom) good health.
  • Airplane ~ impending journey; if broken, danger of an accident; can mean a rise position
  • Anchor ~ rest, stability, constancy; (clouded) inconstancy, an unpleasant situation/burden
  • Angel ~ good news
  • Ants ~ many impending difficulties
  • Apple ~ prosperity, achievement
  • Arrow ~ bad news in love
  • Axe ~ possible danger or difficulty to you or someone close to you
  • Baby ~ small worries
  • Bag ~ a trap; (open) escape
  • Ball ~ variable fortunes; desire to travel
  • Bear ~ bad luck
  • Bell ~ unexpected news; good if near the top
  • Birds ~ good luck, good news
  • Boat ~ visit from a friend, protection
  • Book ~ (open) good news/answer to a question; (closed) a need to investigate somhing
  • Bottle ~ possible disease/medicine/cure/potion
  • Bowl ~ wealth and happiness
  • Bull ~ arguing with friends
  • Bush ~ new friends or opportunities; something growing in life
  • Butterfly ~ fickleness; much expected happiness
  • Cabbage ~ jealousy
  • Candle ~ a light for the future, help from others
  • Cap ~ trouble, take care
  • Cat ~ independence, a need for independence
  • Chain ~ engagement, a wedding
  • Chair ~ a guest
  • Child ~ a new idea
  • Cigar ~ new friends
  • Circle ~ success, completion, eternity; with a dot inside, a baby
  • Clock ~ better health; impending event
  • Clouds ~ trouble
  • Coin ~ money coming, prosperity
  • Comb ~ an enemy
  • Cornucopia ~ plenty
  • Cross ~ suffering, sacrifice, reward for suffering
  • Cup ~ reward, love; a female
  • Dagger ~ danger from self or others, beware of recklessness
  • Daisy ~ a new love
  • Dish ~ trouble at home
  • Dog ~ good friend; if at bottom, friend needs help
  • Door ~ odd event
  • Dove ~ coming peace
  • Drum ~ a change
  • Duck ~ money coming
  • Egg ~ good omen; (whole): assured career success; (broken): a career setback
  • Elephant ~ wisdom and strength
  • Envelope ~ good news
  • Eye ~ caution, foresight
  • Face ~ a change, may be a setback; a change in friendships
  • Fan ~ flirtation
  • Feather ~ lack of concentration
  • Fence ~ limitations, minor setbacks, not permanent
  • Finger ~ emphasizes whatever sign it points at; (raised) a warning; (lowered) a ed for direction
  • Fire ~ achievement, especially artistic; danger of haste
  • Fish ~ good fortune
  • Flag ~ impending danger
  • Flower ~ secret admirer
  • Fly ~ domestic annoyance
  • Foot ~ walk away from the past
  • Fork ~ false flattery
  • Forked line ~ a coming decision
  • Fountain ~ great happiness
  • Fruit ~ fruitful hopes, prosperity
  • Garden ~ a party
  • Gate ~ opportunity, future success
  • Glass ~ integrity
  • Globe ~ travel
  • Glow ~ a challenge
  • Goat ~ be aware of enemies
  • Grapes ~ happiness
  • Gun ~ quarrels, anger; arguments with family, danger ahead
  • Hammer ~ hard work needed
  • Hand ~ (open) friendship; (closed) disagreement; a friend’s assistance
  • Harp ~ love, harmony, romance
  • Hat ~ improvement, new job, upcoming raise or honor
  • Hawk ~ jealousy
  • Heart ~ love, pleasure, trust
  • Horn ~ abundance
  • Horse ~ if galloping, good news; if head only, a lover
  • Horseshoe ~ good luck
  • Hourglass ~ need to decide something
  • House ~ comfort, home, security
  • Iceberg ~ danger; lack of human warmth
  • Insect ~ problems are minor and easily ovecome
  • Jewels ~ gifts
  • Kangaroo ~ a trip
  • Kettle ~ any illness is minor; a sign of peace in the home
  • Kite ~ wishes that will come true
  • Knife ~ broken friendship
  • Ladder ~ promotion, a rise in life, success in business
  • Lamp ~ (top) a feast; (side) secrets revealed; (bottom) a feast or a party postped
  • Leaf ~ good fortune, new life
  • Letter ~ news
  • Lines ~ (straight) progress; (wavy) uncertain path
  • Lion ~ influential friends
  • Lock ~ obstacles
  • Loop ~ avoid impulsive action
  • Man ~ (near handle) a visitor, male or female; (clear and distinct) a dark perso (vague) a light colored person
  • Mask ~ excitement; insecurity; a secret that must be kept
  • Mountain ~ great goals; hurdles and difficulties
  • Mouse ~ theft of heart, object or idea
  • Mushroom ~ (top) journey or move to rural area; (bottom) rapid growth; (reversed) frustration or disturbance
  • Nail ~ injustice, unfairness
  • Necklace ~ (complete) admirers; (broken) danger ahead in love
  • Needle ~ recognition, admiration
  • Net ~ a trap
  • Oak Tree ~ health, long life
  • Oar ~ success in store after a period of trials
  • Octopus ~ danger
  • Ostrich ~ sticking your head in the sand
  • Owl ~ change of luck ahead
  • Oyster ~ love, an impending engagement
  • Palm Tree ~ success, honor; a tropical vacation/trip
  • Parasol ~ new lover
  • Parrot ~ a journey, notoriety or gossip
  • Pig ~ prosperity, possibly greed
  • Purse ~ (open) financial gain; (closed) financial loss
  • Question Mark ~ questionable circumstances; need for caution
  • Rabbit ~ need for bravery
  • Rake ~ pay attention to details
  • Rat ~ a dishonest person
  • Raven ~ bad news
  • Ring ~ (top) marriage or offer of marriage; (bottom) long engagement; (broken) bken engagement
  • Rose ~ popularity
  • Saw ~ interference
  • Scale ~ legal issues; (balanced) a just result; (unbalanced) unjust
  • Scissors ~ quarrels, possibly separation
  • Shark ~ bankruptcy
  • Sheep ~ good fortune
  • Shell ~ good news
  • Shelter ~ danger of loss or ill health
  • Ship ~ worthwhile journey
  • Shoe ~ increased energy and productivity, change for the better
  • Snake ~ an enemy nearby, but also wisdom
  • Spider ~ reward for work
  • Spoon ~ generosity
  • Star ~ health and happiness, hope
  • Sun ~ happiness, success, power
  • Sword ~ arguments
  • Table ~ social gathering
  • Teapot ~ friends
  • Tent ~ travel
  • Thimble ~ changes at home
  • Tower ~ disappointment
  • Tree ~ improvements, health
  • Triangle ~ something unexpected
  • Turtle/Tortoise ~ criticism, usually beneficial
  • Umbrella ~ protection; annoyances
  • Vase ~ friend in need
  • Violin ~ egotism
  • Volcano ~ harmful emotions, impending emotional upheaval
  • Wagon ~ hard times ahead
  • Wasp ~ romantic problems
  • Waterfall ~ abundance, prosperity
  • Wheel ~ advancement through great effort; (complete) good fortune; (broken) disaointments
  • Wings ~ messages
  • Witch ~ a strange occurrence
  • Wolf ~ jealousy
  • Yoke ~ need for change, domination
  • Zebra ~ a move from one physical or emotional state to another, adventure