This is a truly unusual oracle kit that blends the relative ease of a card-deck format with the ancient art of tasseomancy or tea-reading. Tea-leaf reading is a branch of geomancy, which is divination with natural earth (geo-) objects like stones, shells, and sticks. The trick is to identify the patterns these things create and find meaning in them. Tea-leaf readers are called “tasseographers.” This is an old-fashioned and quaint divination method that has remained surprisingly popular for centuries.

The fine art of tea leaf reading spread with tea imports in the 16th and 17th centuries. With hundreds of symbols and meanings, it’s a difficult form of divination to learn. The book shares photos of the inside of a client’s cup, and little pointers showing where the reader identified symbols. Some were more obvious than others. Hepburn learned how to read tea-leaves from her aunt, and spent years collating her own symbol meaning dictionary. This oracle deck features a collection of the most powerful and common images.

The cards are round and so share the shape of a teacup. The symbol’s name is at the top, an illustration is in the center, and a short summary of the meanings is at the bottom. The book offers techniques for reading the Coming Year and the Coming Week. There’s also the Astral House Pyramid spread that illuminates a specific topic of interest to the client.

The kit includes 200 round cards in the kit, a 2 ½” high stack of 3 ¼” diameter disks. Gulp – that’s a lot of cards! Eighteen cards are for spread positions. The remaining 186 cards are Tea Leaf cards. These are mixed and picked out of a large voile bag that’s included in the kit. The symbol meanings are listed in the book in alphabetical order.

This oracle is a great deal of fun, but it’s not that easy! Teal leaf card meanings must be thoughtfully blended and it takes some patience and practice to master this skill. The illustrations are delightful, very loosely rendered with a minimalistic oriental impression. A new user may want to shuffle the cards in sections. I found them easiest to mix and draw from a large bowl. 

As the title indicates, this oracle offers a fortune-telling style of reading. Not all of the symbols are happy and some give specific warnings. Readings may be complicated by a client’s projected expectations. A card group may turn out to be very accurate but not the way the querent expected it to be. Notes should be written during a reading to the querent can refer back to them, especially for long-term readings. Some card groupings make sense right away; only time will tell what the others augured.

This kit offers a cleverly-designed substitute tool for tea-leaf readings with a superbly supportive text. People who wish to learn this ancient art might benefit from working with this tool in addition to other books on the subject. This is an awesome gift for Chinese New Year. From a tarot teacher’s perspective, this is a wonderful tool for helping students learn how to blend card meanings. It would also be fun to share this divination method at tea parties or at tea-tasting events. Any true tea-lover will swoon for this kit, because it gives all the joy of a real tea-leaf without the lengthy process of mastering the art. Good job!

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Rae Hepburn, art by Shawna Alexander
U. S. Games Systems, Inc. 2011
storage box with 200 cards, large voile bag and 98-page instruction book, $29.95.

Originally printed in the ATA Quarterly Journal, Winter 2011 issue

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