Brewing a cup of tea is a very simple but personal practice. When we brew a cup of tea we are practicing self care. A cup of tea can nourish us, relax our nerves and warm us up from the inside. There is something very comforting about drinking a warm beverage made with aromatic herbs. Oftentimes, the first thing many people will do is offer their guests a cuppa tea. It is a simple gesture that conveys comfort, safety and friendship.
In many cultures tea is a common everyday beverage, and in some places the ritual of preparing and brewing a cup of tea is an art form. It is a simple ritual that can be easily incorporated into one’s life to take a moment for mindful meditation and self care.
Tasseography also known as tasseomancy or tassology is the art of interpreting symbols found in tea leaves, coffee grounds and even wine for their divinatory meanings. Each reading is very unique and personal as the cup contains the vibrations of the individual at that very moment. No cup is ever the same! It is very reminiscent of scrying in the sense that you are finding forms in abstract shapes and patterns, and interpreting their meaning.
Tea leaf reading has a very intimate and old world feel to it. It brings images to mind of delicate porcelain, steam rising, and beautiful herbs swirling around releasing their goodness into the beverage. There are surprisingly few tassologists out there, which adds to the specialness of such an experience.
When I approached Rissa for a tea leaf reading I didn’t know a whole lot about reading tea leaves, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was absolutely amazed to find out that someone could find such detail on the inside of a tea cup! The variety and specificity of the symbols that were interpreted left me speechless! I am still uncovering layers of detail and meaning as the reading unfolds in the world around me.
I wanted to do this article to learn more about the practice, and to share it with a wider audience because it is such a beautiful and insightful experience. So brew a cup of tea, and get comfortable while we take a closer look at the art of tasseology.
Tasseography by Rissa
Rissa offers online tea leaf readings and can be found on Instagram @tasseographybyrissa. You can book a reading and find out more information on tasseography HERE. There is a full instructional video on the website that tells you exactly how to prepare and photograph your cup. Rissa provides a detailed drawing of the shapes in your cup as well as a written description of the signs and their meaning. I was truly amazed to see how all of theses seemingly unrelated symbols actually painted a detailed picture of my life both past, present and future!
I was able to ask Rissa some questions about her practice, which really gave me a better understanding of tasseology. Rissa is very kind and thoughtful. It made the reading feel like I was speaking with an old friend; someone that already new me. Thank you so much for the lovely reading! It is something I will carry with me for a long time!
Tea Leaf Reading
Rissa describes her interpretation of the meaning of the symbols as a fluid combination of both memorized and intuited meanings. There are so many symbols in our daily life that we form associations with, and these associations are built over a lifetime! Here is our interview:
It sounds like you are building your symbolic vocabulary as you practice. It reminds me of correspondences in magical practice. The more diverse our symbolic vocabulary the more nuance we have to draw from in our rituals.
Rissa: I started by literally telling stories from the symbols I would see in the cup. I actually made them up. I have a background in writing and art, so storytelling is natural for me. Over time, however. I found that parts of my stories overlapped and I kept notes in a journal. I did begin to create my own pantheon of symbols and meanings. But it wasn’t going to cover everything and I have studied and use traditional symbologies from various cultures/folklore. It’s also not unusual for something deeply personal to a seeker to show up. An example: Once I was doing a reading and there was a burrito, clear as day. There’s no “universal interpretation” for burritos. Turns out, it was meaningful to her because just before the reading, her husband asked if they could get burritos for dinner –it was their favorite meal. This was one of those times I had to trust myself and say exactly what I saw.
I often ask readers of all sorts what their perspective is on what is informing their divinatory modality. Is it synchronicity, spirit or something else? Or is it akin to scrying and accessing your own intuitive powers?
Rissa: Reading tea cups is very intuitive for me. But it has taught me a good deal of self-trust. There are times when symbols make no sense to me, yet I’m SURE of what I see. I have learned to say whatever is revealed in the cup, as sometimes, it will only show its reason to the actual seeker. I have been practicing a long time. It feels very natural to “see symbols” in tea and in life. A couple of times, when I used to do in-person readings, I have had seekers emotionally break down and claim there was something I said that only their person-on-the-other-side could have known, and usually it’s very specific. In those cases, I’m honestly not sure where the message is from. I don’t consider myself a medium, but maybe sometimes, a message passes through me. Usually, it’s all intuitive.
When preparing my own cup for the reading I am a hesitant to move it around too much and add too much of my own personal influence. Does the way a person swirls their cup around before flipping it have some influence on the results?
Rissa: YES! And you want to get your energy in the cup. That’s what makes the pictures. 🙂
For example, can you tell when someone is an aggressive swirled or a gentle one?
Rissa: Not always. Aggressive/gentle cup swirls can look a lot alike. I’ve seen loads of them happen in person before the pandemic. That said, it’s more about how the seeker fills the edges of the cup with their swirl and turn.
Are there symbols in every cup?
Rissa: NO! Sometimes people block symbols from entering the cup and there’s just a hard rim all the way around. This is a barrier and it says to me “Rissa, you are not welcome here.” Some cups are “washed” –meaning the seeker will swirl it in such a way that literally all the tea washes away and they hand me an empty cup. Again, this person does not want any messages. They could be non-believers or have something to hide. Not surprisingly, I see the washed cups in cases where couples come in and there is infidelity–the thing is, it always shows up in the non-cheating partner’s cup too. I just have to decide how much I want to tell them. Those moments are difficult.
What you do is truly a gift. When I look into the cup all I see is tea lol. Have you ever encountered an unreadable cup? What does this mean for the client?
Sometimes cups are very obvious in their messages. I’ve seen names spelled out, words. One seeker’s cup spelled out the name “Jill,” it was an ex the seeker was still in love with after years apart. Another said “move,” and it was just what that seeker needed to do. You don’t need any special skills when the cups are so darn easy. But sometimes cups come to me with lots of rimming or scatter. These are harder to read, as the messages are small and hidden inside the seeker’s own protective layers and confusion. I have to study these longer and sometimes, they never come clear. In those cases, it’s almost obvious how little the seeker knows themself or what they want. The tea leaves can’t even form, there’s so much self-doubt.
Also, certain materials read differently. For example, coffee and cacao both look different in a cup than tea leaves. I have to approach them with a different eye since the grounds adhere to the cup in ways leaves do not. I’ve never read wine sediment (most wines in the USA are filters), but I’d love to try.
In many cultures we see elaborate rituals around the preparation of tea. The act of brewing and drinking a cup of tea can be a very magical experience. Do you have any personal tea rituals?
Rissa: Aside from my addiction to green tea, not really! Sharing tea with a friend or loved one is very special to me, and I like to use tea in food as well, such as matcha biscottis or earl grey in a marinade for roasted veggies. (I’m a part time food editor at a small magazine; cooking and baking are a favorite pastime.)
Have you always been a tea drinker?
Rissa: Yes! I had a fling with coffee in my 20s, but it didn’t last, not even all the way through college. I grew up drinking rose hip tea, mint tea, chamomile and black tea with orange. My mother has always been a tea drinker and I picked it up from her. We had a huge herb garden at my childhood home and I have fond memories of using herbs for tea and food with my mom.
Do you mix work and pleasure when it comes to the teas you enjoy or do you have designated “work” teas. I notice you have a great video that discusses some of the best teas to read with.
Before the pandemic when I did public tea leaf readings I would offer 6 different teas to seekers. Some were my favorites to read – like darjeeling. But often I would create seasonal blends with tea, herbs, dried fruit, or flowers. All my cups are white or cream on the inside, so for tasseography, I like a dark tea to create contrast.
I love the anecdote about the Scribble game you played with your father. It sounds like you are gifted at scrying in general. Do you practice any other divinatory modalities?
Rissa: While I do have various decks of tarot and oracles cards, they don’t always speak to me. Not the way tea does. Perhaps because I am cued into reading symbols, I find them in other places in life such as the ashes after a fire, in the patterns of water when skimming stones, even in a handful of thrown pebbles or crystals. Seeing patterns is a way of listening, of finding deep quiet and truly opening up. It’s reading their meaning that requires self-trust and even a little bit of study.
I also see you do guided tours in Maryland (not sure which city). I think this is a really cool thing to mention too. Most people think Salem when it comes to New England witchcraft. My readers and I would love to learn Maryland’s witchy claim to fame. I’m not at all familiar with Maryland’s witch history. Is there a well known event or figure to look out for?
Rissa: Being a history tour guide in Ellicott City Maryland has been a wonderful way to share stories about many aspects of culture, history, art, and mysticism! I love this work (though it’s not happening much with the pandemic). The company I work for offers many different programs, and I wrote several and they were launched in 2019: Full Moon Lore, A History of Maryland Witches, Tea and Tarot with a History of Divination, and Creepy Little Christmas, which was about the monsters of Yule. Of these, the witch program was the most popular and sold out constantly. I even got interviewed on the Baltimore NPR radio station about Maryland’s witch history. While everyone knows about Salem and the atrocities that occurred there in 1692-3, every part of the US and world has a history with witches. In Maryland, 13 people were accused of witchcraft; one was legally executed. Others died at the hands of their communities. Oddly, though, Maryland’s most famous witch is fictional. Most people associate Elly Kedward, better known to movie-goers and gamers as The Blair Witch, with a western Maryland town called Burkittsville. The legend, which was invented by the film makers, states that Elly practiced blood magic and used children from the town for her rituals in the 1700s. Unfortunately for the real witches of Maryland’s history, this is a total fiction. The filmmakers have many times over confessed they made it up, but the urban legend persists.
Intro to Tea Leaf Reading Class March 16th, 2021 7-9pm eastern time. More info HERE!