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 ~ journey; can mean a rise position
    • Anchor ~ rest, stability, constancy; safety, a burden
    • Angel ~ good news, guardian, someone looking out for you
    • Ants ~ many impending difficulties
    • Apple ~ prosperity, achievement, immortality
    • Arrow ~ follow the point
    • Axe ~ possible danger or difficulty to you or someone close to you
    • Baby ~ small worries; new beginnings
    • Bag ~ a trap; (open) escape
    • Ball ~ variable fortunes; desire to travel
    • Bear ~ authority figure
    • Bell ~ unexpected news; symbol of the feminine
    • Birds ~ news, gossip, chatter
    • Boat ~ visit from a friend, protection
    • Book ~ (open) good news/answer to a question; (closed) a need to investigate something
    • Bottle ~ possible disease/medicine/cure/potion
    • Bouquet ~ award, gift, accolades
    • 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, new beginnings
    • Cigar ~ new friends
    • Circle ~ success, completion, eternity; with a dot inside, a baby
    • Clock ~ impending event
    • Clouds ~ trouble; something clouded that needs to be uncovered
    • Clover ~ Luck
    • Coffin ~ an ending of something, a need to move on
    • Coin ~ money coming, prosperity
    • Comb ~ an enemy
    • Cornucopia ~ plenty
    • Cross ~ suffering, sacrifice, a burden
    • Crossroads ~ a decision
    • Cup ~ reward, love; a female
    • Dagger ~ danger from self or others, beware of recklessness
    • Daisy ~ a new love, youth
    • Dish ~ trouble at home
    • Dog ~ good friend, loyalty; if at bottom, friend needs help
    • Dolphin ~ joy, fun, friendship
    • Door ~ opportunity – note open or closed
    • Dove ~ coming peace
    • Drum ~ a change, call to action
    • Duck ~ money coming
    • Egg ~ good omen; (whole): assured career success; (broken): a career setback
    • Elephant ~ wisdom and strength
    • Envelope ~ good news, official news or document
    • Eye ~ caution, foresight
    • Face ~ a person, a change
    • 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 ~ passion, achievement – especially artistic; danger of haste
    • Fish ~ good fortune, prosperity, money
    • Flag ~ impending danger
    • Flower ~ secret admirer
    • Fly ~ domestic annoyance
    • Foot ~ walk away from the past, making progress
    • Fork ~ false flattery
    • Forked line ~ a coming decision
    • Fountain ~ great happiness
    • Fox ~ cunning or dishonesty
    • Fruit ~ fruitful hopes, prosperity
    • Garden ~ a party or gathering, many people
    • 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/relationship
    • Ladder ~ promotion, a rise in life, success in business
    • Lamp ~ (top) a feast; (side) secrets revealed; (bottom) a feast or a party postponed
    • Leaf ~ good fortune, new life, new family member
    • Letter ~ news, official document or contract
    • Lines ~ (straight) progress; (wavy) uncertain path
    • Lion ~ influential friends, pride
    • Lock ~ an obstacle
    • Loop ~ avoid impulsive action
    • Mask ~ excitement; insecurity; a secret that must be kept
    • Moon ~ subconscious, dreams, creativity, feminine energy
    • Mountain ~ great goals; hurdles and difficulties that must be addressed
    • 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
    • Person ~ male or female, literal, look to other symbols; visitor, new person, surrounding messages involve a person
    • 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) broken engagement
    • Rose ~ popularity, love
    • Saw ~ interference
    • Scale ~ legal issues; (balanced) a just result; (unbalanced) unjust
    • Scissors ~ quarrels, possibly separation
    • Scythe ~ cutting away the unnecessary; reaping of rewards
    • Shark ~ bankruptcy
    • Sheep ~ good fortune
    • Shell ~ good news
    • Ship ~ worthwhile journey
    • Shoe ~ increased energy and productivity, change for the better
    • Snake ~ an enemy nearby, scheming, but also cleverness
    • Spider ~ reward for work
    • Spoon ~ generosity
    • Star ~ health and happiness, hope, ambitions
    • Stork ~ new beginnings
    • Sun ~ happiness, success, power, high honor
    • Sword ~ arguments
    • Table ~ social gathering
    • Teapot ~ friends
    • Tent ~ travel
    • Thimble ~ changes at home
    • Tower ~ perspective, isolation, lofty goals
    • Tree ~ growth, health, family
    • 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) disappointments
    • Whip ~ arguments
    • 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