"Clara." Cupology. How to be Entertaining. (Cincinnati, Ohio: Frank H. Vehr, 1904)

This exceedingly rare book is the earliest printed text I have been able to find about tea leaf divination. Unlike the more widely known books published in the 1920's, this book was written by an American, the pseudonymous "Clara". My guess is that Clara was a successful Cincinnati psychic who was not able to find a commercial publisher and who then decided to self-publish. The lady, alas, needed an editor. This book is not very well written and is chaotically organized. One sentence in Chapter II ("This is a retrospective day for your soul...") stops in mid-air and goes exactly nowhere. The last half of the book is a hodge-podge of terrible poetry, feeble jokes, and miscellaneous data. You cannot help but wonder about the source of some of Clara's "facts", including her interesting pronouncement that "Shakespeare had eyes of gray".

There are other problems with this book. Like most professional psychics, Clara cannot help bragging about her successful readings, which she describes in meticulous detail. However, she tactfully forgets to mention all her failures--apparently she never, but never, had an unsuccessful reading. She also wants us to know that she once predicted a destructive fire in the Vatican, which then took place--well, how impressive. It sounds like she was born with an innate psychic ability that made her divinations much easier for her.

Which means, unfortunately, that she does not really give us detailed instructions about how we can do it ourselves. What we get is a kind of "stream of consciousness" discourse on what she sees in her clients' cups. This can be informative, but isn't exactly practical. All we can do is catch one of her ideas here and there, such as leaves near the rim of the cup mean something to come in the near future.

Nevertheless, Cupology is a highly intriguing book. It is obvious that Clara has had long and successful experience in reading tea leaves for others, having apparently learned her technique from "a dear, high-souled lady". This in itself is interesting, since it means that she was not influenced by the kind of occult writings writings which were popular at the time. What we have here is simply one woman, and possibly her teacher, who figured out their divination practices on their own. As far as I'm concerned, this makes their information much more valuable than all the mountains of occult nonsense which have been published since the 19th century.

Clara gives her clients some pretty sensible and practical advice, too. She is very much aware of the spiritual side of existence, which she continually stresses. At once point she says: "Let no one say they are doomed," so she must have realized that people are in control of their own destinies. She also states: "Trust still in the good, and such will come to you," which is also very sound advice. And she makes no mention about charging a fee for her services, which is all for the best. Indeed, the focus of the book is simply on "entertainment". Good 1904 American that she is, Clara occasionally sees Uncle Sam in her tea leaves, a vision which has yet to happen to me.

Clara also, predictably, gives us a list of definitions of "what the tea leaves mean", and as usual with all writers on divination, we are supposed to accept her definitions as the only ones which count. The merciful thing here is that her list of definitions is brief and bland (flowers mean "Joy, Pleasure", etc.) It is interesting to compare her definitions to the definitions given by Cicely Kent and the Highland Seer. There are occasional correlations between all three of them (they all see, for example, positive energy in apples, circles, and fish), but there are major differences as well (horses and elephants). Who's right? Who's wrong? All I can say is that you need to figure out what the symbols mean to you on your own.

At any rate, the book is well worth studying to see how a successful folk diviner practiced her art a hundred years ago.

Read Cupology here.