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There's a fortune in your teacup! Tea leaf reading began as a Victorian age parlor pastime of fortunetelling and was going strong until the decade of the 1940's. Tea leaf readers could be found by word of mouth and many small sandwich parlors, then known as 'tea rooms' either had a reader in their employ or one sitting until services were needed.

Nowadays it's harder to find a tea leaf reader. The advent of World War II and rationing of food products such as sugar, tea and coffee caused a drop in acquiring these rarities as well as the need/want for a reader of such a luxury. Most cities today have readers of palms, crystals and tarot cards but tea leaves - well, don't hold your breath.

This is a form of divination easily learned. First of all you must have the right kind of cup. Don't use a coffee mug as the sides are straight up and down. The side must open up to a wide brim. Looking down into the bottom you see the small flat bottom area about 1/3 or less as wide as the brim. Make sure your cups are plain on the inside - no angles or color patterns.

Great teacups can be found in antique stores, flea markets and garage sales. They also make good d├ęcor in a small hutch. Let the person whose fortune will be read choose a teacup from your collection and from that you can also tell a bit about them as they pick out certain meaningful colors and patterns.

Next - the tea. Tea bags can be used in a pinch but the tea is quite fine compared to larger leaves giving a better reading. Trying to buy loose leaf tea at the grocery store is futile as the tea bag generation dominates the market. Bulk loose leaf teas are easy to find in health food stores, Oriental and Middle Eastern grocery stores, usually labeled as bulk or loose leaf. Chinese black, green tea or raspberry leaf are the best choices.

Use one level teaspoon of tea to a cup of boiling water. Hot water will get the leaves pliable and supple for easy reading. Don't stir milk, sugar or other sweeteners into the tea. This will give a clumpy awkward look to the leaves and the reading will not be as successful.

Have the person you are reading sit comfortably and drink the tea. Remind them to leave one teaspoon of liquid in the cup. Have the readee swish it around while holding it in the left hand. The tea should be swished in this manner for three revolutions around, then turn the cup upside down onto the saucer. They will then tap the bottom of the cup three times.

Now you are ready to begin fortunetelling. Pick up the cup and study the patterns into which the leaves have fallen. Don't rush. Some patterns will be easily read and others will take more thought to decide what they mean. Meanings are listed below and to find more meanings, refer to a dream book or find dream interpretation sites online. The symbols for dreams are the same as those for tea leaf reading. Symbols that fall within 1/4 inch of each other are read as being in combination and affecting each other's meaning.

Hold the cup so the handle is pointed at your chest. As close as you can get to the handle on the left side of it signifies The Present. The cup is divided so that if it was the face of a clock (left where 9 o'clock would be) is three months. The part of the cup straight across from the handle (where 12 o'clock would be) is 6 months. On your right (where 3 o'clock would be is 9 months. As close to the handle as you can get on the right side is 12 months. Staring into the bottom flat area of the cup - more than 12 months from now.

As the leaves are read, a story emerges. Stay relaxed and let the meanings flow. Intuition plays a large part in this. Say what you feel even if there isn't evidence in the cup. Exercise your ESP.

You already know many meanings. Think of a camel. The camel is a beast of burden. If you see a camel in the teacup, you are reading about a burden of some kind. Is there a hammer symbol close to it? Working with a hammer is work, isn't it? So you could read there will be a burden on the readee at work. If these symbols fall within the three-month area of the cup, you can say the burden at work will happen in three months time. Many symbols and their meaning are quite obvious and others you can look up. Dream books may have different meanings but you'll fall into interpretations that work for you.

A few symbols and their meanings:
Egg: fortune, fertility
Fish: increase in your wealth.
Dots: coins, money
Rat: treachery, dishonesty
Moon: things are changing
Monkey: silliness that needs to stop
Teapot: friendship with a person of the same sex
Skeleton: secret
Kite: goals
Carrot: opportunity awaits
Goat: stubbornness
Bed: peace
Rabbit: somebody that doesn't take life too seriously
Clock: don't let time run out. Something needs to be taken advantage of right away.
Heart: Love and caring
Angel: protection from negative influence.
Arrow: searching for direction in life.

The public library has many books devoted to divination, fortunetelling and dreams. These will help you find more interpretations for symbols in your readings.