If ever you’ve enjoyed a cup of loose leaf tea, you might’ve noticed the seemingly random designs left behind by the tea leaves.
Most of us rinse them out without giving them another thought, but these fortune-telling tea cups make divination easy, with the symbols already painted on the inside.
Divination with Fortune-Telling Tea Cups in a Nutshell
Tea leaf reading is also known as Tasseography and has been practiced for hundreds of years. It was believed that the various shapes formed by tea leaves remaining in the cup contained omens and mysterious messages from the beyond.
For the novice, deciphering the cryptic patterns appeared to be a daunting task, at best.
In the early 1900’s, the fortune-telling tea cup arrived on the scene, created by various porcelain manufacturers in England and the U.S.
Following a simplified method of Tasseography by imprinting a paint-by-the-numbers design inside the cups, they made divination a cinch for budding tea leaf readers.
Retaining the elegance of the original teacup while painting arcane symbols on the inside, they created a system where you could see where the tea leaves formed and then interpret the message easily, rather than racking your brain to discover obscure shapes which were difficult to decode. Any loose leaf tea will do the trick, even herbal teas like Linden tea can be used.
From A Mystical Fad to a Fortune-Telling Industry
Spiritism and Mysticism were all the rage during the early 20th century and the fortune-telling tea cup became a hit for those fascinated with divination.
Enthusiasts held parties in private parlors and fortune-telling cafes attracted throngs of people keen to learn all about the secrets that the future held for them.
The porcelain manufacturers sold their magical tea cups via magazines and books, along with items such as Ouija boards and crystal balls.
The designs varied slightly depending on the companies creating them, with four main patterns that were used, including symbols from astrology, numerology and playing cards.
Some tea cups also displayed the occult symbols on the outside of the cup and on the saucers, while others had mysterious sayings and messages.
Sold with instruction pamphlets – some advising to swirl the remaining tea three times and turn the cup over – they varied depending on the maker. These tea cups are hard to find now, with collectors hanging on to them or selling them at exorbitant prices.
Some Basic Symbols and Meanings
If you’re curious to try tea leaf reading, there are lists of symbols and their meanings out there, but you also might also want to use your own intuition to see what the leaves are telling you.
- Arrow: Point down – bad news; Point up – good news.
- Circle: Success or completion; with dots – a baby.
- Cross: Death, a funeral, suffering, sacrifice.
- Eye: Look sharp and be cautious; you be the psychic.
- Flower: Compliments, tokens of love and esteem.
- Heart: Love, pleasure, romance, a thrilling meeting.
- Horseshoe: Good luck, a winning bet, good fortune.
- Question Mark: Be cautious or the future unsettled.
- Triangle: Something unexpected will happen.
A Variety of Fortune-telling Tea Cups
If you’re willing to seek out these rare tea cups for yourself or if you’re just curious to find out more about the different designs and the companies who made them, here’s a short list to pique your interest:
The Aynsley Nelros Cup of Fortune
A reputable English company making quality bone china, founded in 1775, created the “Nelros Cup of Fortune” in the early 1900’s, complete with a fancy instruction booklet.
These tea cups had a simple design with red and black symbols along the rim and a star pattern on the bottom with astrological and planetary emblems.
The Paragon Fortune Telling Teacup
From the 1930’s and created by another English manufacturer of quality china, these cups were either pink or blue and were produced in the 1930’s. The interior rim had the saying, “Many curious things I see when telling fortunes in your tea.”
The design included charming symbols throughout the interior.
The Alfred Meakin Cup of Knowledge
Dating back to 1924, this well-known company created tea cups depicting playing cards, which denotes a nod to Cartomancy, even though they could still be read using Tasseography. Sold with instructions, some of these cups had the meanings printed on the saucers.
Canonsburg Pottery Chinese Cup of Knowledge
Similar to the Aynsley Cup of Fortune, this cup was inspired by Asian design and includes symbols related to Halloween.
A Yin and Yang symbol is painted on the saucer with various animals around the rim. The interior has a variety of pictures displayed that portray a variety of situations and items.
Tea lovers with a mystical side will love the idea of owning one of these fortune-telling tea cups and there are many other designs available, such as the Santa Muerte collection, the Petersyn Witch Fortune Telling Cup or the Romany Fortune Teacup.
Otherwise, when you next make a pot of tea, take time to check out the leaves and see what they have to tell you.