Review of Tea-cup
The Art of Fortune-
Both these books will provide you with
excellent introductions to the practice. They are
well-written and mercifully free of mumbo-jumbo. The one
weakness in both is that the two authors go to
considerable lengths to tell you "what the tea leaves
mean". Apparently you're not supposed to figure out on
your own what a particular symbol means--you have to
look it up in the book. While it is interesting to see
that there are a lot of similar definitions in both
books (Kent probably had the Seer's book in hand when
she wrote her own book), both authors suffer under the
delusion that they are giving the one and only true
definition of each particular symbol. Well, it doesn't
quite work like that. One thing I have learned over the
years is that divinatory symbols always mean different
things to different people. If you want to read tea
leaves successfully, forget about memorizing
definitions--you're better off discovering for yourself
what manifests in your life whenever you see a
particular symbol in your cup.
In the 1920's two books were published on tea leaf divination: the Highland Seer's Tea-cup Reading (1921) and Cicely Kent's Telling Fortunes by Tea Leaves (1922). Both were "how-to" books about the charming folk practice of reading tea leaves. The idea that you can catch a glimpse of the future or pick up on hidden energies from the dregs of a teacup will, of course, be scoffed at by the learned and sophisticated. Fat lot they know. If something works, says William James, you use it. And once you get the hang of it, reading tea leaves happens to work. Indeed, in my humble opinion, all those old biddies who relied upon nothing but their ordinary tea leaves to divine the future probably had a better grasp on reality, made better decisions, and lived lives more in harmony with natural forces than your average moron occultist who thinks he's discovered something valuable in all those mysterious hidden esoteric magical Egyptian/Tibetan/Atlantis secrets.
I think the Seer's book is definitely the better book. First, she clearly has had extensive experience reading the leaves for herself--you get the feeling that this woman has done it for years (and I'm assuming that our anonymous author is a woman). So she most definitely practices what she preaches, a quality not always found in other "experts". The Seer also seems to be much more familiar with authentic folk traditions than does Kent. Her experience of Scottish "spae-wives" sounds genuine. Finally, she is very much aware of the dangers involved in taking money for divination. She states:
Now it is an axiom, which centuries of experience have shown to be as sound as those of Euclid himself, that the moment the taint of money enters into the business of reading the Future the accuracy and credit of the Fortune told disappears. The Fortune-teller no longer possesses the singleness of mind or purpose necessary to a clear reading of the symbols he or she consults.
Thank you, Seer, for
these words (and so far she is the only 20th century
writer on divination I have discovered who makes this
point). She is absolutely correct: divination and
money simply do not mix. The all-but-universal belief
that it is perfectly legitimate to take money for a
psychic reading is as wrong and as stupid as it gets.
Fortunately anyone can learn how to divine on their
own with the help of books like these.
A final note--there is one Greek word in the text: κοταβος. This refers an ancient Greek divinatory practice called "kottabos", which was a way to divine the future by examining spilled wine. I have not been able to find much more information about the practice, but my guess is that worked much better than dialing a psychic hotline number.
Read Tea-Cup Reading here.
provided he or she is equipped with
the requisite knowledge and
some skill and intuition,
the persons most fitted to tell correctly
their own fortune are themselves
--A Highland Seer, Tea-cup Reading