Taseomancy: divination through tea grounds


Divination through dregs and forms of different substances poured out could already be seen in the Greek world with wax and in molybdomancy, through lead, both of which were combined with the use of water to cool and form interpretable figures. But undoubtedly the best known method, and yet not as widely used as one might expect, is reading the tea grounds, or failing that, coffee grounds. Taseomancy takes its name from the French tasse (cup) and -mancy, divination in Greek. In English it exists under the name mugomancy (mug - cup). Use this etymological definition to understand that the importance of the divinatory system is more the method itself (the use of the cup) than the content itself, since it can be done with tea, coffee (cafemancy or kafemanteia, in Greek), and over time with other liquids such as chocolate or wine.

It is believed that its origin is in ancient China, and that the Europeans brought it from there, surprised by the custom. However, in the Middle East and North Africa a similar divination was also developed, using tea and also coffee, which would spread along the southern coast of Europe. Taseomancy was used incessantly since the Middle Ages, but it gained greater popularity, especially from the 18th century, and it was then that attempts were made to establish norms about the visible figures and the interpretations to give them, since until then, each guess gave the meaning he considered. This is still the case today, since there are multiple branches for the interpretation of the grounds, and the efforts to fix the meanings of each image have been in vain, with the exception of the symbols considered more "universal", which share their symbolism even in different geographic areas and cultures. Some of these will be listed at the end of the article. If there are different ways to interpret, there are also different ways to get the figures for it. As already stated at the beginning, the cup is one of the most important elements: it is preferable that it be white or light in color, to distinguish the grounds, and with a wide base. The handle is not mandatory, but if you have it, it will be an indicator of the individual.

A matching plate can be used with the cup. The tea must be leaf, and it must be prepared and served without a filter: only then will there be legible grounds. The same goes for other drinks that may have grain or grounds, only excusable in cases where the original content is clean. However, there are certain traditional "prohibitions" on the use of light colored tea bags or beverages, which are clearly related to the generational and traditional gap, and the difficulties involved in interpretation. There are many modern books in which personality and astrology issues are used to define the ideal type of cup for each person, even going so far as to sell zodiac kits or kits linked to gems or tarot cards. They also sell plates with the zodiac wheel or specific symbols to interpret with the cup on it, or even with a whole zodiac or planetary diagram drawn inside the cup, to perform the interpretation depending on where the grounds have accumulated: from In this way, it is considered that it can be predicted when or in relation to whom what the dregs transmit is going to happen. The same happens when this method is combined with cartomancy, runes or dowsing plans that help in the interpretation.

Furthermore, some cups are "divisible" by their decoration into 13 sections, which would symbolize the seeker - the one matching the cup - and the months of the year, which can also be interpreted as how many months in what is described will occur. Likewise, there are cups completely covered by boxes, numbers, words, drawings and basic symbols, with their corresponding glossary, to directly assess where the tea leaves or coffee grounds accumulate.

However, all fortune tellers agree that the truly ideal thing is that it be a comfortable cup for the seeker, even if this is the seeker's personal cup, and that the seeker can drink little by little and in a relaxed manner, while thinking or talking about the matter about which you want to know the future. There are divergences about the hand with which to hold the cup: there are those who think that it should be held with the acting hand, since it is the one that develops the future, and others that with the less skilled hand, because it is purer (in the manner of palmistry or cartomancy), and others, that it is preferable with both. In order for the grounds to be generated, it is tradition that the tea or drink must be stirred, generally three times or turns, either at the beginning or at the end. There should be no liquid left, so often the remaining liquid is carefully drunk, rushing, or poured somewhere. One of those possible places is the plate, and in this system, the cup is completely turned upside down, tapping the base so that no more dregs than the essentials do not stick to it. After only dregs remain, the inspection begins. There are multiple methods of dividing the cup, with disputed origins between East Asia, Turkey, Arabia, North Africa, Southern Europe, and Britain.

One of them is to divide the interior of the house in two. The part closest to the individual (lower) is the past-present, and the farthest (upper) is the future. Also the cup walls and rims are important. The more on the verge of finding the dregs, the closer it is to fulfilling what the dregs transmit. This is because the circular cup evokes the cycle of life, and by going up or down it we can "read" time. However, there are those who consider that the spiral, starting from the handle of the cup, represents the passage of time, from the handle (past-present), to the center and end of the spiral (the important message, the future consulted).

Within the spiral systems, there is one destined to know what is important to the consultant. The importance would be distributed as follows: the edges would be the most important, because they are where you drink, while as you get closer to the interior, everything would be less important. This does not mean that the dregs that remain centered do not mean anything, but that they have less importance than what the consultant gives them.

Another system considers that the edges of the cup, from the handle toward the seeker, symbolize the past, while from the handle outward, they symbolize the present. The rest of the cup, with the exception of the center and the radius of the handle, which imply the current life and answers to the query, will refer to the near future, which leads to the center.

Depending on how dry or wet the dregs are, the future will be happy or sad (wet in association with tears). The union or dispersion of the grounds will define the concentration of the facts. The figures can be seen positively (the shape of the dregs) or negatively (the remaining gaps). Although this second form was not widely accepted at the beginning, this changed with the generalization of symbolic thought and the influence of psychology, that is, the evaluation of the first subconscious interpretation, so that if the first image is seen in negative , should be considered valid. You can see a complete image or several, depending on the groupings. In this second way the interpretation tends to be more complete, since it speaks of past, present and future.

Following the approach of the negative, Melton (1996) considered that the visualization and interpretation of the figures should be left to the first impression they cause. This is one of the ways of fortune telling. The other follows a sort of dictionaries of recurring figures and their corresponding meanings, which, however, is not usually highly appreciated by those who practice this type of divination, since they consider that the personal experience of the seeker is not taken into account: a dog can symbolize loyalty and love, but also danger, and not only because of the circumstances of the question asked, but knowing the background of that person (if, for example, they have always had dogs or associate them with a friend or family member, or if they have them fear, has ever been attacked, etc.) This type of data makes the interpretation more individual and personal, in the same way as the drink, and gives special value to the intuitions of the consultant, not leaving everything in the hands of the fortune teller. The same reluctance of the dictionary is applicable to the dream interpretation, although this has been significantly affected and revalued by Jung (1916). Perhaps for this reason the bibliography on the interpretation of dreams is much more common, and much less that of taseomancy.

However, there are some shapes and symbols that have general meanings associated with them: A star will always be success or good fortune, as will a sun (also identified by its astrological symbol, a circle with a central point), a heart, a horseshoe, a cloverleaf or an equilateral triangle. The circles must be interpreted based on the vision or interest of the consultant, since it can be, for example, a ring, which indicates some kind of commitment, or the moon, understood as circles or arcs, which will give different messages depending on its phase. : increasing will be positive, full, the achievement of a goal, decreasing, negative, and new, an end and a beginning.

The wheels or spirals imply movements, change, occupations, just like water, bridges, stairs or doors; quite the opposite of cross lines, anchors or knots. Strings, dashes and waves will be interpreted as a continuation of events. Straight lines, continuous or broken, symbolize travel and its development. The arrows indicate directions, good (up, right) or bad (down, left).

Other objects will vary depending on the person guessing, the region, and the tradition they follow, but usually several common meanings can be gleaned. Candles or fires indicate encouraging ideas and situations. The houses and squares, stability and tranquility. A castle, palace or cathedral, prosperity. An egg indicates the birth of something, and a key, the proximity to obtain it. A crown implies ascension, success. Scissors, arrows, knives, and swords imply disputes. A hat or an umbrella symbolize temporary protection, while a shield or a fence refer to something greater, and consequently to a greater danger to face.

If there are symbols that triumph in the variety of interpretations of the tea or coffee grounds, they are the animals. Following the example of the dog previously exposed, its figure is usually related to friendship and loyalty, but it can also indicate hidden enemies. Birds are bearers of news, and the message will depend on the type of bird (ex. crow - bad news; dove - good news). The same will happen with sharks versus whales. Lions are indicative of influential people, like elephants and dragons. Horses and camels herald prosperous journeys. Snakes and foxes will always be bad omens, while chickens or donkeys, perhaps because of their domestic profile, will always be good. More complicated cases will be cats and spiders, given the variety of visions people have about them: sometimes they symbolize home and protection, as well as money, while others are distant, dangerous and treacherous animals.

As can be seen, many of these interpretations follow the symbolism of popular folklore and relationships inside-outside, far-near, fixed-movable, good-bad, etc. A human hand can symbolize either an offer of help or a threat, depending on what has been asked. There is, however, no single way of interpreting symbols with complex meanings, so it is up to the participants in the refreshment to decide what they want to see at the bottom of their cups.

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada - pietrocarracedo@gmail.com


-Guiley, R. E., The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca Checkmark books, 2008

-Mizumoto Posey, S. Café Nation: Coffee Folklore, Magick and Divination. Sta Monica Press, 2000.-

-Towers, J., Cómo leer las hojas de té. Kepler- Urano, 2020

Related posts:
>Candles and their esoteric use
>Geomancy y Cleromancy 

Licencia de Creative Commons
Este obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional.